Ecosystem Ecology. We aim at understanding how terrestrial ecosystems function and interact with the climate. A holistic understanding of an ecosystem can only be achieved by addressing processes on different levels, such as the environmental controls of leaf photosynthesis, species interactions for example through competition , biomass growth, and the exchange of greenhouse gases with the atmosphere. Page Manager: ricardo [dot] guillen [at] nateko [dot] lu [dot] se. An additional challenge is that the size and structure of teams needed to advance complex system understanding requires different management, collaboration, and success models Cheruvelil and others Training and support to develop these models will require new resources and new modes of training Read and others unpublished manuscript; Hetherington and others unpublished manuscript.
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The core of ecosystem ecology provides the foundational knowledge that bounds ecosystem science as a discipline, and defines the edges of knowledge as it is currently understood. Frontiers expand the edges of the core in a ripple effect fashion, pushing outward in response to environmental change, emerging environmental problems and topics, and ongoing challenges in order to find new ways of making sense of complexity and developing a more holistic understanding of ecosystems.
Without the foundation of the core, frontier research cannot sustain its transformational power. However, at the same time, this analysis suggested that frontiers expand the edges of the core in a ripple effect fashion, pushing outward in response to environmental change, emerging environmental problems and topics, and ongoing challenges in order to find new ways of making sense of complexity and develop a more holistic understanding of ecosystems. There is convergence in what ecosystem ecologists see as the global socioenvironmental frontiers and the frontiers of many other disciplines.
This is a good sign, suggesting that across-disciplines, we are heading in the same direction, and using a systems approach. But this convergence raises questions about the appropriate roles for different disciplines in multidisciplinary frontiers and how these disciplines can maintain their core focus while moving forward and sharing knowledge, technology, and tools. Through surveys, soapbox talks, community engagement at town halls, and expert interviews it became clear that there are cutting edge ideas, and tremendous energy and excitement about new research in ecosystem ecology.
To our knowledge, no comparable past scientific community assessment in such a co-designed fashion has been carried out. Yet, interestingly, many of the overarching frontiers are enduring for example, Baron and Galvin ; Pace and Groffman ; Bechtold and others —meaning that they have shown up before in past frontiers assessments. This persistence suggests that the core of ecosystem ecology as a discipline is robust, but is consistently expanding. With the application of new tools, new data, and new approaches, it is possible to unravel the details of critically important topics in ecosystem ecology, for example, the nature and impact of state changes, thresholds and tipping points, and the details of nutrient cycles.
There is also new work, both empirical and modeling, on the drivers of change, such as climate, land use, and invasive species, and on the details of the black boxes that carry out ecosystem processes. New tools and technologies are increasingly available for example, sensors, genomics, new techniques for data analysis, and remote sensing products and are being integrated into ecosystem experiments, models, long-term data, comparative studies, and used to test theory, fundamental to new knowledge on ecosystem structure, and function.
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Our ability to measure and model fundamental processes has improved enormously but still has a long way to go. We anticipate that as sensors and instruments are developed that can measure or measure indices of biotic activity, and more robust nonlinear models are developed to link pattern and process, the next wave of transformational knowledge will result. Given the systems and multidisciplinary approaches are the hallmarks of ecosystem ecology, this suggests that our science has a critical and a leading role to play in these new spaces and places; the future of ecosystem ecology appears bright, and fully energized.
We thank all of our soapbox speakers, survey participants, and expert interviewees for contributing their insights into this effort, and SESYNC Workshop participants, especially those who commented on this manuscript, including Jill Baron, John Melack, Michael Pace, and Robert Sterner. The manuscript also benefitted from comments by two editors and two anonymous reviewers. Skip to main content Skip to sections. Advertisement Hide. Download PDF. Authors Authors and affiliations K.
Weathers P. Groffman E. Bernhardt N. Grimm K. McMahon J. Schimel M. Paolisso R. Maranger S. Baer K. Brauman E. Open Access. First Online: 29 February Introduction Ecosystem ecology has been a fundamental discipline in environmental science since it emerged in the s as an integrative field. Survey participants were also given an opportunity to propose their own definition. How would you introduce yourself? Title Responses N Percent Biogeochemist 99 Capacity Building: What are the components needed to generate frontiers?
Box 1 Soapbox Presentations. The survey participants were well distributed across the scientific society meetings, but the largest number of surveys came from the sessions at the LTER All Scientists Meeting The sessions at AGU Most Contrasts and similarities in the two largest group responses were inconclusive, but interesting Box 2. Open image in new window.
New Understandings of Ecosystem Process and Function Although ecosystem ecology is a fundamentally holistic and integrative science, understanding the fine-scale processes that drive ecosystem functions remains fundamental to the field. Evaluating Human Dimensions of Ecosystem Ecology from New Angles Humans affect the environment at all scales—no species since the first cyanobacterium has had such a dramatic effect on ecosystem structure or function.
Networks As noted above, networks of people, information, and data in service of science are on the rise. Fragmentation Across Ecosystem Ecology There has been an increasing trend by funding and mission agencies NSF and others to catalyze cross- and interdisciplinary research Box 3 , but the sense of the community is that not all agencies or groups within agencies are equally willing to identify common questions and reach across disciplinary boundaries to support research outside of disciplinary silos or across systems for example, marine to terrestrial, or aquatic vs terrestrial, hydrology, and biogeochemistry.
Academically, the ecosystem community is distributed across multiple scientific societies. This brings both richness and division to the discipline. Indeed, soapbox foci and conversations at different society meetings yielded different insights about frontiers. The heart of the frontier—the core of ecosystem ecology—is driven by questions about system level processes, function, and structure in place-based ecological context Fig.
Expert interviews underscored the many basic scientific frontiers that were identified in our analysis. What also emerged from expert interviews was a list of 10 defining characteristic criteria for frontier research, including: core relevance, linking scales, change, human dimensions, interdisciplinary collaboration, new tools and methods, application, new topics and problems, ongoing challenges and topics, and predictive capacity. We highlight briefly two of these criteria—linking scales and core relevance—because they, unlike the other criteria, did not explicitly emerge as important frontier considerations in the soapbox and survey analyses.
Linking scales: Several key informants argued that ecosystem ecology must enhance understanding of feedbacks between various temporal and spatial scales, and that investments made in new tools and interdisciplinary collaboration should be explicitly focused on linking scales. In fact, one key informant suggested that frontiers become transformational because they encourage researchers to think across scales, and through that process they expand the foundations of ecosystem ecology.
Core relevance: Most of the frontiers identified by the community reside at the core of ecosystem ecology and are driven by questions about system level process, function, and structure in a place-based ecological context Fig. The relationship between frontiers and the core of ecosystem ecology is such that the two cannot be measured as mutually exclusive.
The core provides the foundational knowledge that bounds ecosystem ecology as a discipline, and the frontiers defines the edges of knowledge as currently understood. Each dynamically feeds the other: the core helps define frontiers while frontiers simultaneously push the core beyond preexisting boundaries of knowledge. This dynamism between the core and frontiers renders them nonstatic, as each continuously transforms the other, and through this process advances the science as a whole.
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Ecological thresholds: the key to successful environmental management or an important concept with no practical application? Ecological homogenization of urban USA. If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Ecology Letters Volume 6, Issue 8. Robert D. Read the full text. Tools Request permission Export citation Add to favorites Track citation. Share Give access Share full text access.
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