Terrestrial Ecosystem Science - Science Focus Area

US DOE, Office of Science, Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER)
Start Date: 
Oct 2010
End Date: 

Understanding responses of ecosystem carbon (C) cycles to climatic and atmospheric change is the aim of the Terrestrial Ecosystem Science Scientific Focus Area (TES SFA). Improved predictive understanding of terrestrial ecosystems is the long-term motivation guiding our research. Overarching science questions are: (1) How will atmospheric and climate change affect the structure and functioning of terrestrial ecosystems at scales from local to global and from decadal to centuries? (2) How will fossil fuel emissions and terrestrial ecosystem processes, mechanisms, interactions and feedbacks control the magnitude and rate of change of atmospheric CO2 and other greenhouse gases? (3) What are the climate change-induced shifts in terrestrial hydrologic and ecosystem processes that inform assessment of climate change impacts on ecosystem services and society? The proposed science includes large manipulations, C-Cycle observations, database compilation, and process studies integrated and iterated with modeling activities. The centerpiece of our climate change manipulations is the SPRUCE experiment testing multiple levels of warming at ambient and elevated CO2 on the C feedbacks from a black spruce–Sphagnum ecosystem. Other TES SFA efforts aim to improve mechanistic representation of processes within terrestrial biosphere models by furthering our understanding of fundamental ecosystem functions, and their response to environmental change. The TES SFA aims to integrate experimental and observational studies with model building, parameter estimation, and evaluation to yield reliable model projections. This integrated model-experiment approach fosters an enhanced, interactive, and mutually beneficial engagement between models and experiments to further our predictive understanding of the terrestrial biosphere.

Figure caption: Diagram of the TES SFA research philosophy and flow illustrating an iterative exchange between model projections, question or hypothesis development and the execution of observations and experiments to better understand impacts of multi-factor environmental changes on ecosystems.