Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How People Influence Connectivity Among Ecosystems

Date:
June 1, 2008
Source:
Ecological Society of America
Summary:
Ecosystems are constantly exchanging materials through the movement of air in the atmosphere, the flow of water in rivers and the migration of animals across the landscape. People have also established themselves as another major driver of connectivity among ecosystems. A new article looks at how human influences interact with natural processes to influence connectivity at the continental scale.

Ecosystems are constantly exchanging materials through the movement of air in the atmosphere, the flow of water in rivers and the migration of animals across the landscape. People, however, have also established themselves as another major driver of connectivity among ecosystems.

In the June 2008 Special Issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, titled "Continental-scale ecology in an increasingly connected world," ecologists discuss how human influences interact with natural processes to influence connectivity at the continental scale. The authors conclude that networks of large-scale experiments are needed to predict long-term ecological change.

"We know that the world has always been connected via a common atmosphere and the movement of water," says Debra Peters, an author in the issue and a scientist with the United States Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS). "The world is also becoming highly interconnected through the movement of people and the transport of goods locally to globally. Among ecologists, there is an increasing realization that these connections can have profound influences on the long-term dynamics of ecological systems."

The transport of many types of materials, including gases, minerals and even organisms, can affect natural systems. This movement results in "greenlash," which occurs when environmental changes localized to a small geographic area have far-reaching effects in other areas. For example, a drought in the 1930's caused small-scale farmers to abandon their farms across the U.S. Midwest. The absence of crops intensified local soil erosion, leading to powerful dust storms. Large amounts of wind-swept dust traveled across the continent, causing the infamous Dust Bowl and affecting air quality, public health and patterns of human settlement throughout the country.

Because of increasing globalization, people often inadvertently introduce non-native plants, animals and diseases into new locations. Invasive species and pathogens, such as fire ants from South America and the SARS virus from China, can create large, expensive problems: the U.S. currently spends over $120 billion per year on measures to prevent and eradicate invasive species. Understanding ecosystem connectivity across a range of scales -- from local to regional to continental -- will help scientists predict where invasive species are likely to go next.

The authors agree that field ecology studies should focus on long-term sampling networks that encompass a range of geographical scales. Integrating data from existing and developing networks, such as the National Science Foundation's Long Term Ecological Research network (LTER) and NSF's National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), will lead to a level of power for ecological comparison unparalleled by any one experiment.

"To draw conclusions about the consequences of increasing connectivity, we need to provide information about processes that span a vast scale of space and time," says David Schimel, an author in the issue and the chief executive officer of the NEON project. "Our observations will characterize ecological processes from the genomic to the continental and document changes from seconds to decades."

Additionally, the authors suggest that long-term studies should include data from social and behavioral science to allow incorporation of human movement patterns into their scientific models. Ecologists hope that understanding the patterns of connectivity within and among ecosystems will lead to more accurate predictions of future ecological change.

The Special Issue of Frontiers was supported by funding from the National Science Foundation, USDA-ARS, and the Consortium for Regional Ecological Observatories. The issue is free and will be available to the public June 1 at http://www.frontiersinecology.org/.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ecological Society of America. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ecological Society of America. "How People Influence Connectivity Among Ecosystems." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 June 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080601092215.htm>.
Ecological Society of America. (2008, June 1). How People Influence Connectivity Among Ecosystems. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080601092215.htm
Ecological Society of America. "How People Influence Connectivity Among Ecosystems." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080601092215.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) Mount Paektu volcano in North Korea is showing signs of life and there's not much known about it. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

      Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile: iPhone Android Web
      Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins