I paused at the top of Coweeta Hydrologic Lab’s transect #327, peering down, down, down at the slope beneath me. Katie Bower, a research technician at Coweeta, and two summer interns had already started down the narrow pathway, accustomed to its slippery leaf layer and sharp contours. Taking a deep breath, I followed slowly behind.
I flip open my copy of The Franklin Press while sipping coffee at a field station, and there, in a bi-monthly column, is an article by Coweeta Hydrologic Lab staff, answering the scientific questions of local citizens. The column is just one part of the Coweeta Listening Project (CLP), an initiative of the Coweeta LTER.
Salamanders are very sensitive to changes in both precipitation and temperature, and scientists at the Coweeta Hydrologic Lab have discovered that they represent a hotbed of evolutionary activity. That’s right – evolution is happening before our eyes, in real time.
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.
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.
The National Science Foundation Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network presents an overview of the rich and varied research taking place at its 28 sites. In 2018, the topic of this annual half-day symposium is ocean ecosystems and their connections to marine species and human well-being.
At first glance, the grasshopper sparrow may not look like much. Native to the tallgrass prairies of the American Great Plains, it’s a small brown and black-speckled bird with a wingspan of 8 inches. But this little bird is gaining recognition for its unusual behavior: it has an amazing ability to cover long distances over… Read more »
Although coral reefs have been the subject of ecological studies for nearly a century, the role that environmental conditions play in coral development is still a partial mystery. LTER researchers at Mo’orea Coral Reef have been exploring coral-environmental interactions in an effort to better understand coral growth. The team recently investigated how two key abiotic… Read more »
When we think of forest ecosystems, we usually picture dense thickets of trees, the vibrant buzz of insects and birds, and lush undergrowth carpeting the floor. We often fail to recognize the complexity hidden beneath the surface—a vast and ancient network of fungi, called mycorrhizae interwoven with every plant root. These 450 million year-old symbiotic… Read more »
The majority of grasslands around the world have been destroyed or converted for human use, either for agricultural or urban development. In North America, for example, only four percent of the once vast tallgrass prairies are left. Understanding grassland community dynamics could be a critical part of conserving those that remain. Plant-pollinator relationships are… Read more »