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.
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.
Talk Description: Air pollution control efforts have succeeded in reducing sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, but decades of acid rain have leached calcium and magnesium from Northeastern forest soils. These changes have increased the mobility of dissolved organic matter, and possibly altered soil organic matter dynamics, altering the long-term trajectory for forest ecosystems. What… Read more »