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 boat whizzed past the mangrove trees in Everglades National Park, creating a blur of blue water and green leaves. Rafael Travieso, our captain and lead technician for Florida Coastal Everglades (FCE) LTER, expertly guided us through Shark Slough to a partially hidden wooden dock. Slowing down, we glided forward until the tip of the boat barely tapped the wooden structure, which created a platform for a solar panel and what looks like a barrel.
Viviana Mazzei studies organisms that cannot be seen with the naked eye. When I toured the Florida Coastal Everglades LTER research sites in Everglades National Park, my eyes were drawn to the mangrove trees, the dolphins, the birds. But when Mazzei, a Ph.D. student at Florida International University, wades through these ecosystems, she is on the look-out for something much smaller: diatoms, a type of single-cell algae, that thrive in this aquatic environment.
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.
During their week out at the University of Georgia Marine Institute on Sapelo Island, teachers divide their time between assisting with research in outdoor settings alongside GCE scientists and graduate students and discussing the implementation of the information and experiences into their own teaching settings.
When most people think of the Florida Everglades, they picture alligators hiding amongst labyrinths of marsh grass, the famous boardwalks of the Anhinga Trail, or the tightly clustered mangrove trees that border both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Yet, few are aware that Everglades National Park also hosts critically important ecological research sites, where scientists from the Florida Coastal Everglades (FCE) Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) station learn about the inner workings of this incredible ecosystem, as well as how it’s responding to human activities.
As the LTER Network moves forward with a new web site and an invigorated public presence, a new logo can offer a stronger sense of the Network’s purpose and scientific mission. It offers a chance to freshen our image in the minds of some of our major stakeholders and forms the basis for the design… Read more »
In May and June, the Science Update Newsletter covers: laboratory findings, by Santa Barbara Coastal LTER and other researchers, that show the sensitivity of sea urchin fertilization success to ocean acidification, published in Ecology and Evolution; public preferences of cultural ecosystem services, amassed by researchers at Coweeta LTER; from Luquillo LTER, long-term patterns of arthropod abundance… Read more »