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.

LTER Road Trip: Hemlock Hospice

The hemlock is a native tree species that was once common from northern Alabama to Nova Scotia. Stretching tall with thick needles, the hemlock creates an entire ecosystem beneath its large branches. In the Smoky Mountains, its shade used to cool streams just enough to allow the eastern brook trout to thrive. Unfortunately, these hemlocks are in dramatic decline.

Using Drones to Understand the Timing of Fall and Spring

Overhead view of Harvard Forest LTER site.

As this winter continues to bring freezing temperatures and intense “bomb cyclone” snow storms to the eastern U.S., many are wondering: “When, exactly, will spring arrive?” Researchers with the Harvard Forest LTER were wondering the same thing as they conducted a study using drones to track timing of phenological events in a mixed forest ecosystem… Read more »

A Glimpse into the Future: How Land Use Decisions Will Impact Forest Function

How can researchers project the ways in which land-use changes will affect ecosystem services when they don’t yet know what course development will take? Integrated scenario analysis models several possible trajectories to examine the interactive effects that land-use change could have on ecosystem structure and function.

Chronic Nitrogen Deposition Restructures Soil Fungal Communities

New analyses demonstrate that long-term nitrogen enrichment substantially changes the community composition of soil fungi in a temperate hardwood forest. The mix of fungal taxa that emerges appears to be better able to tolerate high nitrogen but less able to break down the lignin in organic matter, which contributes to an overall accumulation of soil carbon.

Chronic Nitrogen Enrichment Slows Fungal Action

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.

Science Policy Forum: Liberating Data (and Samples)

samples stored at the hubbard brook archive for potential reuse

A phalanx of open-science advocates (including Harvard Forest LTER’s Aaron Elison) recently published a Science Policy Forum full of broad principles and specific proposals on how the scientific community might cultivate a more open, transparent, and collaborative approach to data archiving and sharing. And they didn’t give anybody a pass on physical samples either. Credit:… Read more »

Harvard Study Shows Sprawl Threatens Water Quality, Climate Protection, and Land Conservation Gains in Massachusetts

Important findings reveal promise and peril of land-use decisions Petersham, MA – A groundbreaking study by Harvard University’s Harvard Forest Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program and the Smithsonian Institution reveals that, if left unchecked, recent trends in the loss of forests to development will undermine significant land conservation gains in Massachusetts, jeopardize water quality,… Read more »

Study: Forest clearcuts show sustained losses of carbon, surprising trends in water

PETERSHAM, Mass.—A new study out of the Harvard Forest, released today in the journal Global Change Biology, is the first detailed account of how carbon, water, and energy balances shift in the three years following the clearcut of a deciduous forest. The study, conducted by Clark University Professor Christopher Williams and colleagues in a 20-acre… Read more »