Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Large-scale Experiments Needed To Predict Global Change

Date:
June 4, 2008
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
Ecosystems are constantly exchanging materials through the movement of air in the atmosphere and water in lakes and rivers. The effects of humans, however, are another major source of connections among ecosystems.

NSF's National Ecological Observatory Network is a continental-scale network of ecological observatories.
Credit: Nicolle Rager-Fuller, National Science Foundation

Ecosystems are constantly exchanging materials through the movement of air in the atmosphere and water in lakes and rivers. The effects of humans, however, are another major source of connections among ecosystems.

In a special issue of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment on "Continental-scale ecology in an increasingly connected world" (June 2008), ecologists discuss how human influences interact with natural processes to influence global connectivity.

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 Agricultural Research Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA-ARS).

"The world is also becoming highly interconnected through the movement of people and the transport of goods locally to globally," says Peters. "Ecologists are increasingly realizing that these links 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 1930s increased soil erosion across the farmlands of the U.S. Midwest, leading to intense 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 West Nile virus from Japan, can create large, expensive problems: the U.S. currently spends more than $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 (NSF)'s Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) network and NSF's National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), will lead to a level of ecological comparison unparalleled by any one experiment.

"Understanding the biosphere in an increasingly connected world requires a new way of looking at living systems," says Elizabeth Blood, program director for NEON. "The research, infrastructure and technology discussed in this special journal issue will expand our horizons and allow us to better view ecology on a large-scale."

"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 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."

The authors also suggest that long-term studies should include data from the social and behavioral sciences.

Ecologists hope that understanding the patterns of connectivity within and among ecosystems will lead to more accurate predictions of future ecological change, the authors write.

"Building links among research sites and networks takes a commitment of time and resources," says Henry Gholz, program director for LTER. "The articles in this issue describe an effort to build those links in the scientific community. They will enable large-scale research into the important and complex ecological issues facing society today."

Ecologists hope that understanding the patterns of connectivity within and among ecosystems will lead to more accurate predictions of future ecological change.

"For example, the addition of coastal and oceanic LTER sites has increased our knowledge of the relationships between terrestrial and marine processes," says David Garrison, NSF program director for biological oceanography. "This knowledge will help us better understand the effects of environmental change on near-shore ecosystems."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Large-scale Experiments Needed To Predict Global Change." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 June 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080602110237.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2008, June 4). Large-scale Experiments Needed To Predict Global Change. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080602110237.htm
National Science Foundation. "Large-scale Experiments Needed To Predict Global Change." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080602110237.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) Operators of recreational businesses on western reservoirs worry that ongoing drought concerns will keep boaters and other visitors from flocking to the popular summer attractions. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Not only are these newly discovered bugs' sex organs reversed, but they also mate for up to 70 hours. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ark. Man Finds 6-Carat Diamond At State Park

Ark. Man Finds 6-Carat Diamond At State Park

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) An Arkansas man has found a nearly 6.2-carat diamond, which he dubbed "The Limitless Diamond," at the Crater of Diamonds State Park. 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