Got Shrubs? Woody plants are changing ecological communities around the globe

The Knights Who Say “Ni” would be delighted by a growing trend across many of the planet’s major biomes—tree and grass species are being taken over by shrubbery. Unfortunately, this phenomenon isn’t so favorable for native vegetation that struggles to compete with an invading shrub army (the term ecologists often use is ‘woody plant encroachment’)…. Read more »

LTER Road Trip: A Shrubby Invasion

PhD researcher Joe Brown looking out over a barrier island in the Virginia Coast Reserve.

Islands on the Move I stood on a windy barrier island, hair whipping around my face as my boots crunched across beach seashells. The waves crashed into the sand, here and there stirring up food for one of the many gulls seeking rest or prey on this island. Before me stretched the Atlantic Ocean, as… Read more »

2018 ESA Annual Meeting Presentations

researcher up to her armpits in marshwater

2018 ESA Annual Meeting Presentations In the past year alone, extreme events including hurricanes, droughts, and extensive fires have impacted significant regions of the United States—affecting the health of both natural habitats and human communities. Fittingly, the theme of this year’s Ecological Society of America (ESA) annual meeting is ‘Extreme events, resilience and human well-being.’… Read more »

Hurricane Disturbances May Increase Resilience in Wet Tropical Forests

Hurricanes are typically considered destructive and disastrous, with high-speed winds exceeding 75 miles per hour and torrential downpours. These powerful storms can have major impacts on tropical forests, ripping open the forest canopy and causing organic debris to pile up on the forest floor. Despite these seemingly destructive qualities, new research suggests that ecological disturbance… Read more »

LTER Road Trip: A Steep Transect at Coweeta Hydrologic Lab

Leaf litter basket at transect #327, used to measure rates of leaf fall.

I paused at the top of Coweeta Hydrologic Lab’s transect #327, peering down, down, down at the slope beneath me. Katie Bower, a research technician at Coweeta, and two summer interns had already started down the narrow pathway, accustomed to its slippery leaf layer and sharp contours. Taking a deep breath, I followed slowly behind.

LTER Road Trip: A Hot Time in the Forest

To evaluate the effects of soil warming, scientists have measured soil gases including methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide as well as nitrogen fluxes every month since 1991, comparing the heated plots to control plots nearby. One of the most interesting results they have documented comes from the forest’s tiniest organisms – the microbes that digest downed leaves and branches (also known as the ecosystem’s detritus). At first, the microbes worked overtime in the heated plots, releasing more carbon dioxide through their respiration.

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