The Baltimore Ecosystem Study Long-Term Ecological Research project seeks to understand a major urban region as an ecological system. The project focuses on a five county metropolitan region in which watersheds can be used as the stage on which to understand the reciprocal interactions of the social, biophysical, and built environments. Using watershed function as a synthetic indicator and target for model development, the project seeks to answer three questions:
Changes in the system through time will range from the distant past into the future. Based on paleoecological and historical data the study will explore the temporal relationships and lags between social, infrastructural and biophysical processes, and use these relationships to develop simulations to project land cover, social structure, and ecological processes into the future. The Baltimore region is changing in population density and distribution, with land abandonment in the central city and consumption of land on the urban fringe. The project will conduct ecological experiments on the effect of neighborhood revitalization and on the role of exotic species on ecosystem processes. Integrating the research with interested communities and agencies is a major feature of the project.