Art and Humanities LTER Programs Build Empathy for Nature

Winged dancer leaps over a field of milkweed

Do arts and humanities programs at LTER sites further the Network’s mission? Recent research posits that art-humanities-science collaborations generate empathy – and associated emotions like inspiration, awe, and wonder – for the natural world. This empathy then drives society to engage with and care more broadly about nature.

Growing Grass: A Story of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Leaf Size

Ecologists know that nitrogen, phosphorus and leaf area play key roles in the productivity of plant communities. But how tightly are they tied together? And are those relationships sustained over different types of landscapes? A recent study of tallgrass prairie communities, building on a previous study of arctic tundra, found leaf area index (LAI) to be strongly correlated to both total foliar nitrogen and total foliar phosphorus in several plant functional types (grass, forb, woody, and sedge) and grazing treatments (cattle, bison, and ungrazed).

Demystifying Governance for Ecologists

There are certain events, such as severe storms or a crash in financial markets, that catalyze transitions in social-ecological systems, in a process that is akin to the way a hurricane or insect outbreak might catalyze an ecological transition. To understand the patterns that emerge in social-ecological systems, ecologists must understand governance, a process rooted in the key social science concepts of power and networks.

What (and when) is the point-of-no-return?

How-and when-do ecosystems change character? Are those shifts reversible? And what signs might precede them? Such questions are hard enough to answer in a single place. One might think that incorporating different kinds of ecosystems would only complicate the problem. But a group of scientists in the Long-Term Ecological Research Network is finding a remarkably consistent pattern by combining models and data across several long-term ecological experiments.

Arctic Communities See Access Challenges Ahead

Climate-change is predicted to have a larger impact on Arctic regions than on temperate ecosystems. As a result, rural communities relying on local wild resources, or subsistence harvesting, are vulnerable to climate-change-induced environmental trends affecting the availability of fish, waterfowl, and other key resources.

Divergent water regimes influence algal diversity

hippopotamus

Wetlands exist on every continent save Antarctica and manifest as a variety of habitats, from salt marshes to mangrove forests. They provide important ecosystem services, such as water purification and flood protection—often tied to their high productivity and diversity.

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.

Are We Making Selfish Microbes?

Some bacteria become less cooperative with their plant hosts under long-term nutrient additions, finds new research by Jen Lau, an ecologist at the Kellogg Biological Station (KBS) LTER, and her collaborator Katy Heath at the University of Illinois. “A decade ago, no one was thinking about the idea of rapid evolution—the kind you could see… Read more »

ESA By Topic: Presentations on Urban Ecology

Global population continues to grow: the United Nations expects an additional 2.5 billion people by 2050, all of whom will be absorbed into urban areas. When demographers add rural to urban migrants to that number, they project an additional 3.1 billion city dwellers by mid-century. As the concentration of humans in cities surges, a better… Read more »

SBC LTER researchers respond in force to the Refugio oil spill

Traveling west along the Gaviota coast on the afternoon of May 19, 2015, Santa Barbara Coastal (SBC) Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) scientists Mark Page and Jenny Dugan and graduate student Nicholas Schooler first noticed a very strong smell of oil starting about a mile east of Refugio State Beach. They decided to park along… Read more »

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