News

  • Collaborative Solutions to Nitrogen Runoff

    How do you begin to approach wicked problems, those that span socioeconomic and ecological spheres, when solutions involve multiple and varied stakeholders? Researchers at the Kellog Biological Station LTER began to tackle one of U.S. agriculture’s greatest challenges, excess nitrogen pollution, by hosting "The N Roundtable," to improve the flow of information through a farming landscape that has changed dramatically in the past few decades.

  • Ocean Hotspots for Carbon Storage

    The global carbon cycle doesn’t have many off-ramps, but the deep ocean is one of them. Researchers with the California Coastal Ecosystem LTER have found that twice as much carbon finds its way to the deep ocean at mesoscale ocean fronts as elsewhere in the ocean.

  • The Spruce and the Hare: Backing Up Leopold's Intuition

    Snowshoe hares prefer many other plants to white spruce seedlings, but when the population of hares skyrockets—as it does about once a decade—they can decimate even a bumper crop of spruce seedlings. Researchers with the Bonanza Creek LTER reconstructed over 40 years of browsing history by analyzing the age and browse scars of thousands of seedlings and saplings at 18 locations on the floodplain of Alaska’s Tanana River.

  • Urban Streams Cycle Nitrogen as Fast as Unbuilt Systems

    Urban watersheds—with their fertilized lawns, street runoff, treated and untreated wastewater—have proportionally more nitrogen flowing through them than undeveloped landscapes do. But are urban streams somehow less able to process that nitrogen? New research out of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study LTER says: no. The study, based on 385 urban watersheds and published in the journal FEMS Microbial Ecology, found that urban watersheds have similar, if not higher, nitrogen processing rates than natural areas.

  • Divergent water regime's influence on algal diversity

    Wetlands are especially vulnerable to changing water withdrawals and climate because their unique ecology relies on receiving pulses of freshwater. A team of researchers from the Florida Coastal Everglades LTER explored how hydrologic disturbance is impacting algal species diversity in two globally significant marshes.

  • Desert Data Jam Award Winners

    The Desert Data Jam is a unique competition that challenges students to make creative projects (such as songs, physical models, children’s stories, infographics, and games) that convey complex ecological data to nonscientists. In this sixth year of the Desert Data Jam, more than 400 students participated. The top five projects from each participating class were entered into the final competition held at New Mexico State University from April 25-27. Forty-four community judges, including many LTER scientists, carefully evaluated the projects, and the top 15 projects were honored.

  • Macrosystems ecology: A key subfield matures

    Ecosystems ecology, landscape ecology, macrosystems ecology. It’s easy to think of these subdisciplines as big, bigger, biggest—but there’s a good deal more to the distinction than the scale of interaction they address. A recent “Idea and Perspective” article in Ecology Letters traces the origins and foundations of the field of macrosystems ecology, and advances a new hypothesis to describe how anthropogenic influences change the scales of ecological processes.

  • Putting the “urban” in disturbance: Applying ecological frameworks to cities

    The concept of “disturbance” is a core theme of the LTER Network and central to ecological science. How does the idea of disturbance need to change when applied to the interactions of an urban metropolitan region rather than a “natural” system? Ecologists often consider the process of urbanization itself to be a form of disturbance, but that is a habit that has to change, say the authors of a recent paper in Ecosystem Health and Sustainability. People, technology, and infrastructure have to be defined as part of the system when studying cities, they say.

  • The grazing effect: How bison impact plant water use

    When one envisions a grassland community, imagery of tall grasses and bison often come to mind. Bison are an iconic species on the landscape, and they also impact the structure and function of the grassland ecosystem in important ways.  Using natural variations in the abundance of oxygen isotopes, researchers at the Konza Prairie LTER found that  grazing influenced plant water use through changes in diversity.

  • Searching for synergies: The future of long-term, large scale ecological research

    An LTER-NEON Synergies workshop, held March 29-31, explored the potential for strengthening and deepening the relationship between these two major research organizations and expanding ties to other networks such as the Critical Zone Observatory (CZO), Long Term Agricultural Research (LTAR) and Global Lake Ecological Observatory (GLEON) networks.

  • Invasive Earthworms and Their Effects on Midwestern Soils

    As ecosystem dynamics change with warming global temperatures, researchers have begun investigating the potential of further northward invasions from nonnative species like the Asian earthworm. Past studies have shown that nonnative earthworms can significantly alter ecosystem functioning, and this experiment confirms that Asian earthworms can do as much—if not more—damage as their better-researched European counterparts.

  • How Will Climate Change Affect Peak Firefly Activity?

    A typical warm summer night is complemented with the familiar glow of fireflies and the light spectacle they create darting around and lighting up the night sky. However, the timing of these light shows might be affected by environmental changes. In order to better understand the life history of the firefly, researchers from the Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) LTER investigated the phenological patterns of fireflies from 2004-2015 to determine what explains the variability observed in their mating season.

  • Decomposition in Streams: A Global Synthesis

    A major multi-site analysis of leaf litter decomposition in streams and rivers found that rising temperatures are unlikely to speed decomposition as much as predicted under metabolic theory. Although fresh water bodies cover only three percent of the Earth’s land surface, they are a key component of the global carbon and nutrient cycles and the rate of decomposition in streams affects both carbon dioxide emissions and supply of organic matter to downstream food webs.

  • Chronic Nitrogen Enrichment Slows Fungal Action

    Fungi, often spotted in cold, damp locations, are responsible for decomposing the plant litter that falls to forest floors, enriching soils. Without fungi, dead plant material would inundate ecosystems and overwhelm other organisms. What would happen, then, if anthropogenic nitrogen altered the fungi’s ability to perform this vital ecosystem function? A recent study capitalized on a 28-year nitrogen enrichment experiment at the Harvard Forest LTER site in north-central Massachusetts to find out.  As nitrogen inputs to a system increase, researchers found, fungal decomposition slowed.

  • Sustainability in the City

    Ecosystem services, such as the water cycle or flood control, support urban sustainability but are also impacted by the development of city-centers. Improving the sustainable design and management of cities, then, requires understanding how development affects such processes and services. A recent study contrasted two methods for measuring urban sustainability, ecology in cities and ecology of cities, and found that the integrative framework of ecology of cities more thoroughly addresses sustainability and its three components: the environment, economy, and society.

  • Three new LTER sites announced

    The National Science Foundation has announced two new oceanic LTER sites, both based in regions with highly productive fisheries. In addition, the newly-announced Beaufort Lagoon Ecosystems (BLE) LTER will focus on changes occurring both on land and in the ocean that affect Arctic ecosystems over time. 

  • 2017 ASLO ABSTRACTS

    From February 26-March 3, The Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO) will hold its annual meeting in Honolulu, Hawai`i. The LTER Network sites will deliver oral and poster presentations on a wide range of topics, from blue carbon in salt marshes to impacts of the Eastern Pacific "warm blob" and El Niño. In addition, LTER investigators may be especially interested in three all-day special sessions:

  • 2017 REU opportunities

    NSF funds a large number of research opportunities for undergraduate students through its Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Sites Program. The REU program allows for active research participation by undergraduate students in any of the areas of research funded by the National Science Foundation. Each student is associated with a specific research project, where he/she works closely with the faculty and other researchers. So if you are an undergraduate student interested in gaining meaningful research experience, consider applying for a summer REU opportunity.

  • Drought, fire, rising seas: discovering the nature of ecosystem change

    The 2017 NSF symposium is scheduled for the morning of March 21, 2017.

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