Coweeta LTER

Shocking fish for sampling at CWT LTER

Key Research Findings:

Simple models predict that biodiversity of forests should be much lower than that actually observed.
Predicting the impact of climatic changes on biota and ecological processes hinges on accurate projections of regional climate change.
Understanding how global change will affect patterns of nitrogen (N) loss from forests is an area of special importance for researchers.


The Coweeta LTER program investigates the consequences to the southern Appalachian socio-ecological system of the interaction between changing climate and land use expected to change profoundly in the next five decades. Our research extends long-term measurements, field experiments and interdisciplinary modeling from small watershed studies to regional-scale analyses to account for increases in resource demand and competition from adjacent and more distant areas. Our focus is on the provisioning service of water quantity, the regulating service of water quality, and the supporting service of maintaining biodiversity.

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The Coweeta LTER research program was established in 1980 and is the centerpiece of a long-term cooperation between the University of Georgia and the USDA Forest Service Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory. The site is located in the eastern deciduous forest of the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province of the southern Appalachian Mountains. From its inception, the Coweeta LTER research program has centered on the effects of disturbance and environmental gradients to biogeochemical cycling and the underlying watershed ecosystem processes that regulate and respond to those cycles. Cooperation with the USDA Forest Service is vital. The goal of the Research Work Unit is to evaluate, explain, and predict how water, soil, and forest resources respond to management practices, natural disturbances, and the atmospheric environment to improve application at a landscape scale.

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Research Topics:

The complex interaction between projected changes in climate and land use across the 60,000 km2 Coweeta LTER study area led us to adopt a nested hierarchical framework to examine provisioning, regulating and preserving ecosystem processes and services. However, the research design gives recognition to how processes and services in southern Appalachia depend contextually on forces associated with the Piedmont Megapolitan Region (236,000 km2) in which it is imbedded. This larger region contains Atlanta and other major southeastern urban centers surrounding southern Appalachia.

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