Science-driven strategies for more effective endangered species recovery

The US Endangered Species Act can protect more species, more effectively, through expanded partnerships and science-driven implementation ecologists say in the Winter 2016 edition of Issues in Ecology

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, 6 January 2016
Contact: Liza Lester, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, LLester@esa.org

 

An endangered California condor soars through the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge in California, where captive-bred birds are released into the wild. Condor conservation benefits from unusually rigorous population monitoring compared to most recovery programs for endangered species. Credit, USFWS.

An endangered California condor soars through the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge in California, where captive-bred birds are released into the wild. Condor conservation benefits from unusually rigorous population monitoring compared to most recovery programs for endangered species. In the Winter 2016 edition of Issues in Ecology, Dan Evans and colleagues press for the extension of monitoring to other, less famous endangered species. Credit, USFWS.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA), which quietly passed its 42nd birthday last week, has shielded hundreds of species in the United States from extinction and dramatically achieved full recovery for a celebrated few. Flexibility of implementation is one of the ESA’s great strengths, allowing for adaptation in response to new knowledge and changing social and environmental conditions.

In a report released by the Ecological Society of America today, 18 conservation researchers and practitioners propose six broad strategies to raise the effectiveness of the ESA for endangered species recovery, based on a thorough review of the scientific literature on the status and performance of the law.

“The ESA is one of our country’s strongest environmental laws, but it has only partly fulfilled its conservation promise,” said Daniel Evans, who led the report while serving as a policy fellow at the United States Forest Service. “Innovation will be key to implementing the ESA in the coming decades because the threats to at-risk species are pervasive and persistent. Many listed species are conservation-reliant, requiring ongoing management for the foreseeable future, and climate change will continue to shuffle the mix of species in ecosystems, increasing both extinction risk and management uncertainty.”

The ESA grants the administering agencies, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), discretion to interpret the requirements of the law, including the meaning of “endangered.” The agencies determine the management actions needed for species protection and recovery and prioritize conservation efforts. Funding for conservation actions under the ESA has not kept pace with the growth of the US economy, increased environmental pressures due to development and encroachment of invasive species, and the subsequence expansion of the number of species at risk.

“Throughout the ESA’s 42-year history, government funding has been insufficient to recover most listed species and funding has been highly skewed among groups of species. For example, as we discuss in the paper, from 1998 to 2012 over 80 percent of all government spending went to only 5 percent of all listed species,” said Evans.

The number of officially endangered species has grown from the original 78 species listed by the ESA’s forerunner, the Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, to 1,590 listed as endangered or threatened in January 2016. Only 32 species have recovered sufficiently to be removed from the list. It is likely that some species may remain indefinitely “conservation-reliant” after recovering to sustainable numbers.  Reliant species require consistent interventions to maintain historic habitat, connect small genetic populations isolated by development, or control predators, competing invasive species, or parasites. These species are more complicated to graduate from the list than success stories such as the bald eagle, which went from 417 nesting pairs in 1963 to more than 11,000 in 2007.

In “Species recovery in the United States: increasing the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act,” the 20th report in the Ecological Society’s series Issues in Ecology, Evans and colleagues recommend that the administering federal agencies, state natural resource management agencies, Native American tribes, and their conservation partners:

  • Establish and consistently apply a system for prioritizing recovery funding to maximize strategic outcomes for listed species
  • Strengthen partnerships for species recovery
  • Promote more monitoring and consistently implement and refine approaches for adaptive management
  • Refine methods to develop recovery criteria based on the best available science
  • Use climate-smart conservation strategies
  • Evaluate and develop ecosystem-based approaches that can increase the efficiency of managing for recovery

“By adopting these strategies, conservation managers, policymakers, scientists, and the public can use the ESA more effectively and efficiently to save species at risk,” said Evans.


Species recovery in the United States: increasing the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act. Daniel M. Evans, Judy P. Che-Castaldo, Deborah Crouse, Frank W. Davis, Rebecca Epanchin-Niell, Curtis H. Flather, R. Kipp Frohlich, Dale D. Goble, Ya-Wei Li, Timothy D. Male, Lawrence L. Master, Matthew P. Moskwik, Maile C. Neel, Barry R. Noon, Camille Parmesan, Mark W. Schwartz, J. Michael Scott, and Byron K. Williams. Issues in Ecology #20, Winter 2016. [pdf]

Funding for this project was provided by Cooperative Agreement 12-CA-11221633-096 between the USDA Forest Service and the Ecological Society of America. Other funding and services were provided by Resources for the Future.


The Ecological Society of America, founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org

Issues in Ecology is an official publication of ESA, using commonly-understood language to report the consensus of a panel of scientific experts on issues related to the environment. Issues in Ecology aims to build public understanding of the importance of the products and services provided by the environment to society. The text for every Issues in Ecology is reviewed for technical content by external expert reviewers. http://www.esa.org/esa/science/issues/ 

Building with nature: ecological design for next generation cities

Special Centennial Issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment explores ecological innovations for infrastructure in the face of climate change

CONTACT: Liza Lester, (202) 833-8773 ext. 211, llester@esa.org

 

Rotterdam’s futuristic Dutch Windwheel design combines eletricity generation, retail, tourism, and cultural iconography in an 174-meter (570-foot) tall ‘turbine’ (the updated wildmill has no moving parts) encircled by an inner ring of offices, shops, and living spaces and a moving outer ‘ferris wheel’ The structure also deploys solar panels, funnels rainwater, and collects human waste for biogas generation. With a foundation in Rotterdam Harbor, it is designed to withstand environmental variability, including fluctuating sea levels. Central photo credit: © Windwheel Corporation; Architects: Doepel Strijkers. Background photo credit: VF Gabriel; license: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Rotterdam’s futuristic Dutch Windwheel design combines electricity generation, retail, tourism, and cultural iconography in an 174-meter (570-foot) tall ‘turbine’ (the updated windmill has no moving parts) encircled by an inner ring of offices, shops, and living spaces and a moving outer ‘Ferris wheel.’ The structure also deploys solar panels, funnels rainwater, and collects human waste for biogas generation. With a foundation in Rotterdam Harbor, it is designed to withstand environmental variability, including fluctuating sea levels. Central photo credit: © Windwheel Corporation; Architects: Doepel Strijkers. Background photo credit: VF Gabriel; license: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

The Ecological Society of America turns 100 this year, with many reflections on the achievements of the discipline and the big questions for ecologists as we embark on a new century marked by great environmental upheaval. ESA’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment celebrates the centennial of the society with perspectives on the potential for ecological science to influence the design of the next generation cities and their infrastructure.

The November 2015 Special Issue on Innovations in the face of climate change examines innovations big and small, from massive technological installations like Rotterdam’s proposed next generation Dutch Windwheel to municipal planning and the individual construction and land use choices of city residents.

“Cities are emergent systems, with only 5 to 7 thousand years of history, mostly during the relative climatic stability of the Holocene,” said guest editor Kristina Hill, an associate professor at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. “We’ve never tried to operate a city during a rapid climate change, especially not on the scale of population we now have, with our largest cities housing upwards of 20 million people.”

New problems require new approaches that strive for harmony rather than control. Hill sees opportunities to solve problems created or accentuated by climate change by hybridizing the concrete-and-steel structures we have been designing for hundreds of years with living systems.

The articles in the November special issue tackle physical, legal, social, and technological interfaces with natural systems.

“It’s not about the preciousness of some rare thing that lives far, far away. It’s about the water and the wind and the plants in your city,” said Hill. “While we’ve observed that nature can be fragile, we’ve forgotten that nature is powerful. Our alterations of the planet’s climate are going to bite us in the rear end, in the near future it will be up to us to accommodate nature. I find that refreshing.”

Hill wants to start a cultural revolution in our relationship with natural systems, working with, rather than against, the force of tides, floods, and storms, and inviting non-human life into our living spaces. Ecosystem services have clear practical benefits. Vegetation brings cleaner air and water as cooler summer temperatures, and as well as beauty, recreational space, and habitat for our non-human neighbors into cities. Making the rhythms of natural systems visible also helps city dwellers connect with the natural world.

“Through ecology, we learn what it is to be human by learning about what is not human. Understanding human experience through other forms of life is so significant and fundamental,” said Hill. “Ecology is literally, etymologically, about the house. The problem of climate change is going to bring ecology home. We are talking to people about how they live—their houses. If we all live differently, we can change the world.”

The Dutch Sand Engine experiment in dynamic coastline management is an artificial sand beach designed to erode. Sand pulled away from the 126-ha peninsula by wave, wind, and currents spreads along the Delfland Coast of The Netherlands, naturally nourishing a shoreline that has suffered rapid erosion. The project, a collaboration of government, private industry, and academic researchers, was completed in 2011 and is expected to maintain the shoreline for the next 20 years. The peninsula is also popular with wind and kite surfers. Guest editor Kristina reviews innovations in coastal infrastructure designed to work with storm surge, sea level rise, and other natural processes in “Coastal infrastructure: a typology for the next century of adaptation to sea-level rise,” on page 468 of this issue.

The Dutch Sand Engine experiment in dynamic coastline management is an artificial sand beach designed to erode. Sand pulled away from the 126-ha peninsula by wave, wind, and currents spreads along the Delfland Coast of The Netherlands, naturally nourishing a shoreline that has suffered rapid erosion. The project, a collaboration of government, private industry, and academic researchers, was completed in 2011 and is expected to maintain the shoreline for the next 20 years. The peninsula is also popular with wind and kite surfers. Guest editor Kristina Hill reviews innovations in coastal infrastructure designed to work with storm surge, sea level rise, and other natural processes in “Coastal infrastructure: a typology for the next century of adaptation to sea-level rise,” on page 468 of the November 2015 Special Issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Credit: Kristina Hill.

 

Innovations in the face of climate change. (2015) Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment Volume 13, Issue 9. (Open access).

Guest Editor: Kristina Hill, University of California, Berkeley kzhill@berkeley.edu

Clearly defining ‘restoration’ in law. Though mandates like the Clean Water Act have been powerful tools for instituting environmental protections in the United States, loose legal definitions of “restoration” mean that few mitigation projects install whole, functioning, and self-sustaining ecosystems. An Appalachian project with the narrow goal of restoring stream flow after mountaintop mining, for example, (left) delivers few of the resources of the natural ecosystem that was lost (right). Likewise, programs aimed at recovery of endangered species do not necessarily prioritize functional ecosystem recovery. Palmer and Ruhl examine the scientific and (U.S.) legal bases for ecological restoration and how the two may be more fruitfully unified in “Aligning restoration science and the law to sustain ecological infrastructure for the future,” on page 512 of this issue. Photo credit: E Bernhardt.

Clearly defining ‘restoration’ in law. Though mandates like the Clean Water Act have been powerful tools for instituting environmental protections in the United States, loose legal definitions of “restoration” mean that few mitigation projects install whole, functioning, and self-sustaining ecosystems. An Appalachian project with the narrow goal of restoring stream flow after mountaintop mining, for example, (left) delivers few of the resources of the natural ecosystem that was lost (right). Likewise, programs aimed at recovery of endangered species do not necessarily prioritize functional ecosystem recovery. Palmer and Ruhl examine the scientific and (U.S.) legal bases for ecological restoration and how the two may be more fruitfully unified in “Aligning restoration science and the law to sustain ecological infrastructure for the future,” on page 512 of this issue. Photo credit: E Bernhardt.

In this issue:

Funding: This Special Issue was partially funded by the National Science Foundation (grant # DEB-1541324).


The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org

Expanding the reach of environmental research with Citizen Science

Issues in Ecology 19: Investing in Citizen Science can improve natural resource management and environmental protection

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, 30 September 2015
Contact: Liza Lester, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, LLester@esa.org

 

Growth in the number of scientific publications that have used or studied citizen science since 1995. Data are based on a search of the Web of Science for the keyword "citizen science" and likely represent a fraction of all scientific publications using or studying citizen science because many publications fail to acknowledge when they include contributions from citizen science. Fig 1 of McKnight et al (2015) Issues in Ecology 19.

Growth in the number of scientific publications that have used or studied citizen science since 1995. Data are based on a search of the Web of Science for the keyword “citizen science” and likely represent a fraction of all scientific publications using or studying citizen science because many publications fail to acknowledge when they include contributions from citizen science. Fig 1 of McKinley et al (2015) Issues in Ecology 19.

Public participation in scientific research has surged in popularity and prominence in recent years through the connections of the world wide web, an explosion of smartphone pocket computing power, and a slow cultural change within professional science toward a more open and welcoming research environment.

Today, the White House affirmed the potential for citizen science to engage the public directly in scientific discovery and the monitoring and management of our natural resources. In a memorandum to the heads of executive departments and agencies, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy John Holdren mandated that all federal agencies build capacity for citizen science and crowdsourcing while facilitating cooperation across agencies and with outside organizations.

To help guide program managers in deciding if citizen science is right for their organizations and how best to design citizen science projects to meet their organization’s goals, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) has released a report today summarizing how “Investing in Citizen Science can improve natural resource management and environmental protection.” The report is number 19 in ESA’s series Issues in Ecology and is included as a resource in the Federal Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing Toolkit, released this morning in conjunction with Holdren’s policy memo and a Citizen Science Forum webcast live from the White House.

If you ask a dozen practitioners about citizen science, you’ll get a dozen different definitions, and a dozen reasons for why they are doing it—all of which are valid! But it can be confusing,” said Duncan McKinley, a research ecologist with the USDA Forest Service and a lead coordinator of the scientific team behind the report. “We wanted to zoom out to the big picture, the 30,000-ft view of citizen science, and capture the shared values of the field, within the specific context of ecology and the environment.”

The report touches on how citizen science can help organizations:

  • Meet core information needs for research and monitoring
  • Promote environmental stewardship
  • Foster public involvement in environmental decision-making
  • Spread knowledge and scientific literacy
  • Encourage collaboration
  • Address questions of local concern
  • Expand awareness of an organization’s mission
  • Ignite synergies between science, education, and public engagement

Twenty-one experienced practitioners hailing from non-profit, government, and academic institutions set out to tame the exuberant diversity of the citizen science frontier into shared core principles. The report delves into  the strengths and limitations of citizen science, illustrating the breadth of existing applications through case studies. The authors identify hallmarks of research questions ripe for volunteer involvement as well as those that might not be appropriate for a citizen science approach.

Citizen science is not fluff science,” said report co-organizer Abe Miller-Rushing, science coordinator for Acadia National Park and the Schoodic Education and Research Center. “Citizen science has a strong reputation for education and outreach, but its ability to deliver actionable information is underrated.”

Volunteers for Smithsonian's Biocube project sort and identify specimens for a biodiversity survey. Credit, Carolyn A. F. Enquist.

Volunteers for Smithsonian’s Biocube project sort and identify specimens for a biodiversity survey. Modeled on the classic ecologist’s quadrat, which marks out a standard sampling plot, Biocube guides observers to catalog the variety of life found in one cubic foot of soil or seawater.  Credit, Carolyn A. F. Enquist.

Citizen science has earned a reputation for excellence in advancing science literacy at all ages and educational levels. With this report, Miller-Rushing, McKinley, and co-authors hope to demonstrate that citizen science also has the tools to produce high quality data. Citizen science projects have produced rigorous science on par with conventional research produced entirely by professional scientists. Data gathered by observers for the North American Breeding Bird Survey, for example, have contributed to more than 500 peer reviewed papers.

Participation in research makes abstract concepts concrete—and fun. Participants say they are motivated by opportunities to contribute information that will be used in the conservation of organisms, ecosystems, or natural areas that they care about.

 “Hands-on involvement in a real research question makes science tangible and lends participants a sense of personal connection to our natural resources,” said author Heidi Ballard, an associate professor in the School of Education at the University of California, Davis.

But citizen science is not just an individual or personal activity; it is often undertaken in groups. Local communities and environmental organizations have been involved in monitoring local natural resources for many years. In some cases, local communities have actually driven the development of a research initiative through acute concerns about water or air quality in their region. Participation in citizen science generates greater participation in public decision-making, with some projects providing direct means for public input on government policy and environmental management.

Through citizen scientist volunteers, scientists, land managers, and policy makers have gained access to data collection at scales that would not be possible through conventional science. Even before the scaling power of the internet and smartphone technology, programs like the Christmas Bird Count and the Cloned Lilac Project mustered observer reports through the U.S. Mail from across North America. Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count, celebrated annually since 1900, is not only one of the largest, longest-running citizen science programs, it is one of the largest ecological datasets available. Part of its success lies in its simplicity and backing by a large, experienced environmental organization.

Robust results hinge on appropriate design and implementation of citizen science programs. Project managers must think carefully and honestly about their organization’s goals and set clear expectations for program outcomes. “Investing in Citizen Science” provides an overview of the benefits and pitfalls of different approaches to citizen science. It describes some of the technology and data management tools currently available and the infrastructure investments required to build successful citizen science programs, taking into account the special policy considerations that come into play when federal agencies are involved.

Good citizen science gets us fine grain, broad extent data we can’t collect, or afford to collect, any other way,” said author Julia Parrish, a professor of aquatic and fisheries sciences at the University of Washington and director of the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST).  “Along the way, we can move thousands—maybe millions!—of citizens from a state of vague worry about the environment to a place of understanding the science and lobbying for responsible resource management based on good science. Win-win in my book!”


150930 issues in ecology 19 citizen science coverInvesting in Citizen Science can improve natural resource management and environmental protection. Issues in Ecology No. 19, Fall 2015.

Report Coordinators:

  • Duncan McKinley, Research and Development, USDA Forest Service, Washington, DC 20250. dcmckinley@fs.fed.us; (202) 309-8269
  • Abraham J. Miller-Rushing, Schoodic Education and Research Center, Acadia National Park, National Park Service, Bar Harbor, ME 04609. abe_miller-rushing@nps.gov; (207) 288-8733

Co-Authors:

  • Heidi Ballard, School of Education, University of California, Davis, CA 95616
  • Rick Bonney, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 14850
  • Owen Boyle, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Madison, WI 53707
  • Russell Briggs, Division of Environmental Science and Forestry, State University of New York, Syracuse, NY 13210
  • Hutch Brown, Research and Development, USDA Forest Service, Washington, DC 20250
  • Stuart Chapin III, Department of Biology and Wildlife Institute of Artic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK 99775
  • Daniel M. Evans, AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, Research and Development, USDA Forest Service, Washington, DC 20250
  • Rebecca French, AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow, Office of Research and Development, US Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC 20460
  • David Hewitt, Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA 19103 and Evidential Planning and Management, LLC, Philadelphia, PA 19128
  • Julia Parrish, School of Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98105
  • Tina Phillips, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14850
  • Peter Preuss, Office of Research and Development, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC 20460
  • Sean Ryan, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556
  • Lea Shanley, Commons Lab of the Science and Technology Innovation Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, DC 20004
  • Jennifer Shirk, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14850
  • Michael Soukup, Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park, Winter Harbor, ME 04693
  • Kristine Stepenuck, University of Wisconsin Extension, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706
  • Jake Weltzin, National Coordinating Office of USA National Phenology Network, U.S. Geological Survey, Tucson, AZ 85721
  • Andrea Wiggins, College of Information Studies, University of Maryland College Park, College Park, MD 20742

Funding:

Production of Issues in Ecology 19 was funded by Cooperative Agreement 12-CA-11221633-096 between the U.S. Forest Service and the Ecological Society of America (ESA). Other funding and services were provided by the National Park Service and the Schoodic Institute at Acadia National Park.


The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Issues in Ecology is an official publication of ESA, using commonly-understood language to report the consensus of a panel of scientific experts on issues related to the environment. Issues in Ecology aims to build public understanding of the importance of the products and services provided by the environment to society. The text for every Issues in Ecology is reviewed for technical content by external expert reviewers. http://www.esa.org/esa/science/issues/ 

 

 

Monica Turner Named President of the Ecological Society of America for 2015-2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, 24 September 2015
Contact: Alison Mize, 202-833-8773 ext. 205, Alison@esa.org

 

Credit, Brian J. Harvey

Credit, Brian J. Harvey

Monica Turner, the Eugene P. Odum Professor of Ecology and a Vilas Research Professor in the Department of Zoology, University of Wisconsin-Madison became President of the Ecological Society of America (ESA) on August 14, 2015.

Elected by the members of ESA for a one-year term, Turner presides over the world’s largest professional society of ecologists. Its membership is composed of 10,000 researchers, educators, natural resource managers and students, reflecting the diverse interests and activities of the Society. As President, Turner now chairs ESA’s governing board, which lays out the Society’s vision for overall goals and objectives.

“It is a tremendous honor to serve as President of the Ecological Society of America, and even moreso to serve during our centennial year. ESA is my primary professional society, and I have been a member since I was in graduate school. Many aspects of the profession have changed over the years, but I remain firmly committed to ESA’s mission. Our journals will remain highly respected sources of excellent research as we transition to our new publishing partnership with Wiley, and I’m excited that all members will have complimentary online access. Ecologists also face challenges, including heightened needs for communicating ecology to diverse audiences and for providing policy makers with sound ecological science to use as the basis for decision-making. I look forward to working with the ESA staff, Governing Board, and membership this year as we position ESA to support ecology and ecologists in the years ahead,” Turner said.

Turner is an internationally recognized landscape ecologist, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a Fellow of the Ecological Society of America. She received the Ecological Society of America’s Robert H. MacArthur Award in 2008. Her field studies and simulation models have provided new insights about the causes and ecological consequences of spatial patterning in the environment. She has studied disturbance regimes, vegetation dynamics, nutrient cycling, animal movements, and climate change, and is well known for her long-term studies of recovery after the large fires that swept through Yellowstone National Park in 1988.

Turner’s quarter century of work in Greater Yellowstone has generated new understanding about the resilience of forest ecosystems to severe fires and bark beetle outbreaks. This research has laid the groundwork for deeper understanding of how major disturbances shape ecosystems in space and time. Turner also studies land-water interactions in Wisconsin, effects of current and historical land use on Southern Appalachian forest landscapes, and how land-use and climate change affect ecosystem services—the benefits provided to people by nature.

New 2015-16 ESA President Monica Turner surveys the site of the Bearpaw Bay fire in July 2010, one year after it burned in the summer of 2009. The lodgepole pine p inus contorta) forest near Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park had burned just 28 years previously, in a region that more typically burns at 200 year intervals. A trend toward a warmer, dryer climate in the Rocky Mountains is likely to increase fire frequency, which could have consequences for the regeneration of the forest and carbon storage. Turner’s research group has ongoing, long term investigations into seedling recruitment, carbon storage, and other questions about the effects of natural disturbances on vegetation dynamics in the region of Yellowstone. Credit, Monica Turner.

New 2015-16 ESA President Monica Turner surveys the site of the 2009 Bearpaw Bay Fire in July 2010, during the first summer after lightening ignited a 2,800 acre wildfire in the lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) forest. The are near Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park had burned just 28 years previously, in a region that more typically burns at intervals of 100 to 300 years. A trend toward a warmer, dryer climate in the Rocky Mountains is likely to increase fire frequency, which could have consequences for the regeneration of the forest and carbon storage. Turner’s research group maintains ongoing, long term investigations into seedling recruitment, carbon storage, and other questions about the effects of natural disturbances on vegetation dynamics in the Greater Yellowstone. Credit, Monica Turner.


The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

ESA receives NSF Award to seed new Network for Next Generation Careers

ESA 100 years logoFor immediate release: Tuesday 15 September 2015
Contact: Alison Mize alison@esa.org 202.833.8773, ext. 205

 

The Ecological Society of America, in partnership with the Society for Conservation Biology (SCB), will create a new network of prospective employers, faculty and professional societies over the next eighteen months with a $48,000 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).  The Next Generation Careers – Innovation in Environmental Biology Education (NGC) incubator project will explore undergraduate college career progression into environmental biology, including fields such as ecology, evolution, conservation, and natural resource management. 

“We all know that academia is able to absorb only a limited number of biology graduates. A vast majority of graduates find their way into industry, government, or other applied and non-science jobs,” said Teresa Mourad, ESA’s Director of Education and Diversity Programs and Principal Investigator for the project. “What is not clear is how Biology students are being prepared for these rapidly evolving career tracks in environmental biology with an innovative mindset.”

New groups of professionals will be brought together that include academic faculty, industry, government, and non-profit organization personnel.  By working together, the network will develop materials, programs and career development tracks designed for 21st century STEM professionals in environmental biology and inform the broader community of the nature of education and skills that are necessary for future jobs in this ever-changing field.  This project addresses the goals and programs of NSF’s Improving Undergraduate STEM Education initiative, particularly the goal of building the professional STEM workforce for tomorrow.

The incubator project activities include surveys of biology department chairs, academic counselors, graduate schools as well as biology faculty and those at the nexus of biology and mathematics. Additionally, an analysis of job postings for entry-level positions in related jobs will seek to identify the most commonly sought skills for graduates with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Focus groups at selected disciplinary and professional scientific society meetings will also be organized to gather input. 

The results will be presented at a workshop of participants from academia, private sector, government, and non-governmental organizations in the fall of 2016.  Implications of the findings for underrepresented populations of students will be underscored.

“Recommendations  generated at the workshop will help us establish the network of prospective employers, higher education and professional associations essential to invigorate career preparation programs,” said Geri Unger, SCB’s Executive Director and co-PI on the project.  “This will enable us to identify what faculty need to effectively inspire, motivate and mentor new students and build new synergies across sectors to advance Next Generation careers in Environmental Biology and allied fields.”


 

The Ecological Society of America is the largest professional organization for ecologists and environmental scientists in the world.   The Society’s 10,000 members work to advance our understanding of life on Earth, directly relevant to environmental issues such energy and food production, natural resource management, and emerging diseases.  ESA works to broadly share ecological information through activities that include policy and media outreach, education and diversity initiatives and projects that link the ecological research and management communities and help integrate ecological science into decision-making.  The Society also organizes scientific conferences and publishes high-impact journals. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

The Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) is a global community of conservation professionals with members working in more than 100 countries, dedicated to advancing the science and practice of conserving Earth’s biological diversity.  SCB’s membership includes resource managers, educators, government, non-government, and private sector staff, students, and policy makers.  Our Sections, Chapters and Working Groups work regionally, locally and on issues concerning conservation and religion, freshwater, social science and conservation, and ecological economics and sustainability.  SCB hosts the international Congress on Conservation Biology, and regional meetings.  Our journals include “Conservation Biology” and “Conservation Letters”, both peer reviewed and high-impact. Visit the SCB website at http://www.conbio.org.

Reviving extinct Mediterranean forests, urban land-sparing, ocean noise pollution

Highlights from the September 2015 issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, September 08, 2015
Contact: Liza Lester, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, LLester@esa.org

 

Extinct Mediterranean forests of biblical times could return and thrive in warmer, drier future.

A small forest holm oak (Quercus ilex) on the south shore of Gorgo Basso, Sicily, stands a relic to the forests of past millennia. Credit, Willy Tinner, 2005.

A grove of holm oak (Quercus ilex) on the south shore of Gorgo Basso, Sicily, stands relic to the forests of past millennia. Ancient pollen from the long-vanished forests, held in sediments collected from the lake bottom, testifies to the dense canopy of oak and olive trees that dominated the landscape more that 2,000 years ago. Scientists writing in the September issue of ESA Frontiers say that the diminution of the forest has been driven by the disturbances of human habitation and industry. With help, they say, the forests could again thrive under current and future climactic conditions. Credit, Willy Tinner, 2005.

The Mediterranean has cradled humanity and our cities, farms, domesticated animals, and logging habits for many thousands of years. During the last 5 to 8 millennia, as people developed farming and settled in cities, the landscape has gradually changed from a thick canopy of trees to open grass and shrubs. The ghosts of Sicily’s extinct evergreen forests of holm oak (Quercus ilex) and olive trees (Olea europaea) remain in the record of pollen left in the lakebed sediments. On the slightly cooler and wetter coast of Italy’s Tuscany region, European silver fir (Abies alba) once mixed with holm oak and deciduous oaks (Quercus cerris and Quercus pubescens).

Many researchers believe that progressively drier conditions in the Mediterranean brought about these changes in vegetation over the past 5–8,000 years. With the accelerating warming and drying brought to the region by anthropogenic climate change, the native trees might be expected to be pushed beyond the edge of their drought and heat tolerance, never to return. Some researchers have even suggested restoring forests with non-native Eucalyptus species from Australia or Douglas fir from North America.

In the September 2015 issue of ESA Frontiers, Paul Henne and colleagues dispute the idea that a drying climate was responsible for the disappearance of Mediterranean forests. They think that frequent wildfires, logging, agriculture, and the browsing of cattle, sheep, goats and unchecked deer over the long history of human occupation have wrought the changes to the landscape.

As a postdoc at the University of Bern, Switzerland, Henne, now research ecologist for the US Geological Survey’s Geosciences and Environmental Change Science Center in Denver, Colo., and his coauthors simulated current climate conditions in Sicily and coastal Tuscany, but with minimum human disturbance. Their models found that forests of oak and olive, much like the extinct, “pristine” forests that persisted until about 2,000 years ago, could prosper at present on the warm, dry coast of Sicily if fire is suppressed in the highly flammable shrublands until evergreen trees can mature. Silver fir (Abies alba) could be seen again at low elevation in Tuscany if protected from grazing animals and fire while the trees are young and vulnerable. Restoration of native vegetation, the authors argue, could slow erosion, improve water quality, sequester carbon, harbor wildlife, reduce fire risk, and build resilience for a hotter, drier future.

North of Gorgo Basso, open fields and maquis stretch into the distance. Open shrublands predominate in modern Sicily. Credit, Willy Tinner, 2005.

North of Gorgo Basso, open fields and maquis shrubland stretch into the distance. Open shrublands predominate in modern Sicily, where oak and olive forests once grew. Credit, Willy Tinner, 2005.

  • Reviving extinct Mediterranean forest communities may improve ecosystem potential in a warmer future. (2015) Paul D Henne, Ché Elkin, Jörg Franke, Daniele Colombaroli, Camilla Calò, Tommaso La Mantia, Salvatore Pasta, Marco Conedera, Orla Dermody, and Willy Tinner. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment13(7): 356-362. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/150027 

 

Getting a handle on ocean noise

Oceans are noisy in the modern era. Ships propellers generate a pervasive clamor, but the seismic airgun arrays used to map the seafloor have the largest acoustic footprint. The cumulative effect is confusing and stressful to undersea animals like whales, which use sound to communicate. But we lack the data to understand just how adverse are the effects and take steps to mitigate them, reports a group ecologists specializing in the role of sound in ecological processes in the September 2015 issue of ESA Frontiers . The group, drawn from the university, advocacy, and commercial realms, has reviewed the available data on ecological impacts of marine seismic surveys, concluding that existing environmental reviews are inadequate to meaningfully assess the impacts of noise on marine animals and the ecosystems they live in. They suggest the creation of legally binding international commitments to monitor and limit noise pollution in the sea.

  • Marine seismic surveys and ocean noise: time for coordinated and prudent planning (2015) DP Nowacek, CW Clark, D Mann, PJO Miller, HC Rosenbaum, JS Golden, M Jasny, J Kraska, and BL Southall. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 13(7): 378–386. http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/130286.

 

Large parks key to city success

More than half the world’s population now lives in cities. Previous research has demonstrated that urban green spaces and trees yield far-reaching benefits to people, from increased happiness and health to absorbing surface water run-off and storing carbon. Researchers have long debated whether it is better to build compact developments with large parks or nature reserves, as often found in Europe and Japan, or whether it is preferable to build sprawling suburbs with many small parks and gardens, as found in many North American and Australian cities. Iain Stott and colleagues at the University of Exeter, Penryn, UK and Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan analyzed nine case studies of cities worldwide, concluding that cities should feature compact development alongside large, contiguous green spaces to maximize benefits of urban ecosystems to humans. They report their results in the September 2015 issue of ESA Frontiers. Read the full press release from the University of Exeter.

  • Land sparing is crucial for urban ecosystem services. (2015) Iain Stott, Masashi Soga, Richard Inger, and Kevin J Gaston. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 2015 13(7): 387-393.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1890/140286.

 


The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, issued 10 times per year, consists of peer-reviewed, synthetic review articles on all aspects of ecology, the environment, and related disciplines, as well as short, high-impact research communications of broad interdisciplinary appeal. 

Hardening shorelines, polar lessons, and legal barriers in ESA Frontiers

Highlights from the August 2015 issue of ESA’s journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment and the 100th Annual Meeting of the society on August 9-14

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, 4 August 2015
Contact: Liza Lester, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, LLester@esa.org

 

Armored in concrete, hardened shorelines lose the soft protections of coastal wetlands

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#ESA100 
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As we expand our coastal cities and armor the coast against the ravages of the sea, we lose the resiliency of the coastlines’ natural defenses. Rachel Gittman and colleagues at the University of North Carolina, NOAA, and the US Coast Guard report in the August issue of ESA Frontiers that sea walls, bulkheads, breakwaters, and the like put in place to protect coastal communities harden 14 percent (22,842 km) of the tidal shoreline of the United States. But this conservative 14 percent hides a concentration of coastal development along soft marshy estuaries, lagoons, and tidal rivers; remote rocky coasts are less likely to be bolstered with artificial structures.

Gittman and coauthors Danielle Keller and Joel Fodrie will present research related to this report on shoreline habitat, hardening, and the ecosystem services trade-offs of different shoreline conditions at the upcoming 100th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Baltimore, Md. on August 9-14.

Natural and artificially hardened shorelines found in the US: (a) rocky shore; (b) beach; (c) tidal marsh; (d) mangrove; (e) seawall; (f) riprap revetment; (g) bulkhead; and (h) breakwater, from Figure 1 of Gittman et al. 2015 Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 13: 301–307. For images of other shoreline types found in the US, refer to the NOAA ESI shoreline types image gallery (http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/esi-shoreline-types).

Natural and artificially hardened shorelines found in the US: (a) rocky shore; (b) beach; (c) tidal marsh; (d) mangrove; (e) seawall; (f) riprap revetment; (g) bulkhead; and (h) breakwater, from Figure 1 of Gittman et al. 2015. Credit, NOAA ESI shoreline types image gallery.

The ecological vibrancy of wetland habitats is valued by birders, hunters, recreational anglers, and commercial fisheries managers.  Coastal wetlands succor birds, fish, and crustaceans, filter outflowing pollution, and naturally buffer the coast against storm surge and erosion. But natural dunes and salt marshes also absorb the energy of storms. Examples of natural dunes and salt marshes emerging from severe storms with little to no damage, while nearby bulkheads took a battering, suggest that storm surge protection and habitat protection need not be at odds.

Nearly a third of the shoreline in the contiguous United States could be hardened by the end of the twenty-first century if the rate of shoreline hardening observed over the last century continues. On sheltered coasts, fortification of shorelines correlates more strongly with high housing density and GDP than with wave height or frequent storms. The authors project that growing populations will direct most new hardening to the US’ south Atlantic and Gulf coasts, which encompass greater that 50 percent of the remaining salt marshes and 100 percent of the mangrove forests in the US. The authors argue for the incorporation of green infrastructure into coastal protections as managers plan for the next century of growing cities and rising sea levels.

 

Also in the August issue of ESA Frontiers:

Cold lessons

Profoundly different in topography, ecology, and social history, the Arctic and Antarctic have very similar vulnerabilities to climate change. Climate change exacerbates problems of pollution, over-fishing, and invasive species at both poles. Joseph Bennett and colleagues describe this perfect storm of threats and lessons in cooperation from the polar regions.

 

Adaptive legalese

2015_08 Frontiers coverEnvironmental law has not kept up with the last 40 years of ecological discovery. The law struggles, in particular, to address dynamic ecosystems and adapt to the kind of global scale change ecologists expect in the coming century. The very different approaches to uncertainty and complexity in science and law bedevil the application of environmental research to environmental law. Lawyers and ecologists collaborate in this Concepts & Questions article by Olivia Odom Green and colleagues to recommend an adaptive governance approach to bridging the gap.

Browse the complete content of the August issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment online.


The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, issued 10 times per year, consists of peer-reviewed, synthetic review articles on all aspects of ecology, the environment, and related disciplines, as well as short, high-impact research communications of broad interdisciplinary appeal. 

Backyards prove surprising havens for native birds

Tucked away from judging eyes, backyards are unexpected treasure troves of resources for urban birds.

Ecological science at the frontier: Centennial logoESA Centennial Annual Meeting, August 9-14, 2015 in Baltimore, Md.
Ecological Science at the Frontier

Many of us lavish attention on our front yards, spending precious weekend hours planting, mowing, and manicuring the plants around our homes to look nice for neighbors and strangers passing by. But from the point of view of our feathered friends, our shaggy backyards are far more attractive.

Is a robin eating backyard pokeweed berries a welcome visitor or weed-spreading nuisance? Credit, C. Whelan.

Is a robin eating backyard pokeweed berries a welcome visitor or weed-spreading nuisance? Credit, C. Whelan.

So found ecologist Amy Belaire when she surveyed human and avian residents in 25 Cook County neighborhoods in suburban Chicago. She will present her research during the 100th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America on August 9–14, during a session on Urban Ecosystems that also includes Caroline Dingle’s observations on how birds modulate their songs to be heard over the noise of daily life in Hong Kong, and Kara Belinsky’s exploration of how many trees it takes to make a forest (from a bird’s point of view) in suburban New York.

Belaire, a natural resources manager and education and research coordinator at St. Edward’s University’s Wild Basin Creative Research Center in Austin, Tex., and her colleagues Lynne Westphal (USDA Forest Service) and Emily Minor (University of Illinois Chicago) asked people about their perceptions and awareness of birds in their neighborhoods and how they felt about having birds around their homes. They also asked about the yard design and management choices that residents make in both front and back yards. The researchers also looked at socioeconomic factors and used statistical analysis to tease out the relative importance on yard management choices of neighbors, factors like income, and perceptions of local birds.

“The cool thing about this is how much it reveals about backyards,” said Belaire. “Our most interesting take-away is that backyards tend to be treasure troves of ecological resources. It’s where you find a lot of factors helpful to native birds—more vegetation complexity, more plants bearing fruits and berries—and more design with the intention of attracting birds.”

When planting and cultivating their front yards, people seemed most motivated by what their neighbors were doing. But in managing backyards, perceptions of birds became important to residents. This suggests that local birds may motivate stewardship. People enjoyment of and appreciation for birds appears to translate into on-the-ground effects, at least in backyards.

Examples of front yards in Belaire and colleagues' study area in the greater Chicago region. Credit: E. Minor.

Examples of front yards in Belaire and colleagues’ study area in the greater Chicago region.
Credit: E. Minor.

Belaire found a surprising 36 bird species living in or passing through the Chicago neighborhoods. In landscapes increasingly sublimated to human industry, parks and yards within cities are potentially essential habitat for local birds as well as oases for birds stopping by on long seasonal migrations. Belaire and colleagues want to know what motivates people in the design of their yards, and what yard elements matter the most to the birds.

Models of her data indicated that the resources in groups of neighboring yards were, as clusters, more important for predicting the diversity and distribution of bird species than measurements of whole neighborhood, or landscape scale, tree cover. In Cook County, backyards with more trees, especially a mix of evergreen and broadleaf trees, more fruit and berries, and fewer outdoor cats had more native bird species. Bird feeders did not have an effect on the number and diversity of birds.

Belaire said she and her colleagues were cheered by the excellent response rate to the survey and the overall enthusiasm of residents.

 “I think it was because of the subject matter. Birds are something that people care about and are excited about,” she said. “I was surprised by how much people enjoyed being part of a scientific study and felt honored to be asked.”

The importance of yard-scale land management choices in boosting the presence of native bird species in urban areas was also encouraging for its implications for outreach programs. The efforts of individuals can make a difference and many people care about outcomes for birds. In the future, people may even be influenced by neighbors to make changes that could help birds thrive.

Cook County, Ill. homeowners respond to survey questions about nature in their yards or neighborhoods. Courtesy, J. Amy Belaire.

Cook County, Ill. homeowners respond to survey questions about nature in their yards or neighborhoods. Courtesy, J. Amy Belaire.

“It’s empowering,” said Belaire. “Every little bit matters.”

 

 

Different social drivers, including perceptions of urban wildlife, explain the ecological resources in front vs. back yards (COS 151-4)
J. Amy Belaire, Wild Basin Creative Research Center, St. Edward’s University, Austin, TX
Friday, August 14, 2015: 9:00 AM, rm 347.

 

More meeting sessions on urban birds:

 


The 100th Annual Meeting of Ecological Society of America convenes this August 9–14 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Md. The centennial meeting is on track to be our biggest gathering, with 4,000 presentations scheduled on topics from microorganisms to global scale ecological change.

ESA invites press and institutional public information officers to attend for free. To apply, please contact ESA Communications Officer Liza Lester directly at llester@esa.org. Walk-in registration will be available during the meeting.


The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

Ecology from treetop to bedrock: human influence in earth’s critical zone

An organized session on Critical Zone Ecology at the 100th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America August 9-14, 2015 in Baltimore, Md.

Ecological science at the frontier: Centennial logoFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, 16 July 2015
Contact: Liza Lester, 202-833-8773 ext. 211, LLester@esa.org

Conference website
Program
Native Apps
More press releases for the 100th Annual Meeting

 

Modified from Chorover, J., R. Kretzschmar, F. Garcia-Pichel, and D. L. Sparks. (2007). Soil biogeochemical processes in the critical zone. Elements 3, 321-326. (artwork by R. Kindlimann).

Critical zone — artwork by R. Kindlimann. Modified from Chorover, J., R. Kretzschmar, F. Garcia-Pichel, and D. L. Sparks. (2007). Soil biogeochemical processes in the critical zone. Elements 3, 321-326.

On the high slopes of the Eel River watershed on California’s North Coast Range, large conifers sink their roots deep through the soil and into fractures in the mudstone bedrock, tapping water reserves that scientists are only recently learning to appreciate. These unexpected reservoirs may provide resiliency to the Eel River ecosystem in intensive droughts, such as the one California is now experiencing.

“The way water is stored, intercepted, and released is critical to drought and extreme floods. Researchers are getting surprises about how important the deep fractured bedrock can be,” said Mary Power, a stream ecologist at the University of California at Berkeley and an investigator at the Eel River Critical Zone Observatory, one of ten Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs) funded by the National Science Foundation that bring together geologists, hydrologists, microbiologists, climate scientists, ecologists, and more to work on research questions that tend to lie at the interface of their disciplines.

Power will report on effects on interactions of vegetation and the underlying geology on salmon and river ecosystems as part of an organized series of talks showcasing Critical Zone Ecology at the 100th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Baltimore, Md. this August 9–14.

“How flashy or spongy will the watershed be when it rains? Will the storm runoff be stored, and infiltrate, or flash off downslope? What are the water storage and slow release dynamics that will—please, please—keep us going through this drought?” These are pressing questions that the interdisciplinary team is working on at the Eel River CZO, Power said.

Large conifer trees span the critical zone between bedrock and atmosphere, in which the movements and actions of water, air, and a complex web of living organisms shape and transform the physical crust of the earth. Water can be stored in weathered bedrock, changed chemically during storage, and drawn up to the atmosphere by big trees. It flows down through rock fractures to supply downslope surface waters. In this relatively narrow space lie all the life-sustaining resources supporting terrestrial life on earth. Earth’s critical zone supports human societies and is deeply impacted by the actions and activities of those societies.

“To ecologists, the Critical Zone is an ecosystem, a watershed,” said Kathleen Lohse, who directs the new Reynolds Creek Critical Zone Observatory in southwest Idaho and co-organized the meeting session on critical zone ecology. “I’m trained as an ecosystem scientist. My specialty is soil. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the term ‘critical zone’ and the inclusive perspective it brings. It’s not owned by ecology, geology, soil science, or any other discipline. It’s shared.”

Originally conceived by earth scientists to describe the overlooked “vertical dimension” of the water cycle, critical zone science has grown as a truly interdisciplinary field. But, though living organisms affect the water cycle as profoundly as the characteristics of the underlying geology, ecologists have been late to the party – the term “critical zone” is unfamiliar to many.

“One reason why ecology hasn’t heard as much about the critical zone is that it’s based in the earth sciences. We need to bring more ecologists to play in the same sandbox,” said Lohse.

Lohse, an associate professor of soil and watershed biogeochemistry at Idaho State University, and Whendee Silver, a professor in ecosystem ecology at UC Berkeley and an investigator at the Luquillo Critical Zone Observatory in Puerto Rico, organized the session on “Ecology in the Critical Zone” at the 100th Annual Meeting to bring critical zone science to the attention of the ecological community.

“The goal of this whole session is to put the CZOs on the radar and get ecologists to see them as resources and to propose and conduct research,” said Lohse. They are typically much larger in scale than the traditional Long Term Ecological Research sites, and have the potential to allow ecologist to scale up small, intensive experiments and form a bridge to large scale modeling studies, she said.

Speakers include Power, Dawson, and representatives from the other CZOs. The observatories investigate a spectrum of biological, chemical, climatic, geological, and hydrologic conditions across the continental United States and Puerto Rico, but are also organized around specific research questions, from soil carbon storage in mountain forests (Reynolds Creek, ID) to erosion on intensively managed agricultural lands (Clear Creek, IA) to the legacy of cotton cultivation on resurgent pine stands in the Southern Piedmont (Calhoun, SC).

Dan Richter, director of the Calhoun CZO in South Carolina and a professor at Duke University, will also speak on the “One physical system” encompassed by the ecosystem and critical zone concepts at the Annual Meeting, during a session of talks on ecosystem function on the afternoon of Monday, August 7.

“We tried to get a relatively even distribution across the CZOs and to get the speakers to highlight some of achievements that have come out of their field of ecology, and the gaps where we really need ecologists to help us understand the critical zone,” said Lohse.

Gaps include the response of microbial communities to wildfire and climate change, contributions of roots and underground biological processes, and the activities and population dynamics of animals like gophers, beavers, and earthworms.

“If you walk across the Reynolds Creek CZO you see so much gopher and mole activity. There has been some work looking at their transfer of soil and carbon downslope, but you need to understand the population dynamics of those communities to really model it. They are critical players, particularly in Reynolds,” said Lohse.

Reynolds Creek is composed of about 70 percent public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management and 30 percent privately owned land, managed as a working landscape. The observatory is preparing to record the effects of a scheduled 12,000 acre prescribed burn in the experimental watershed in early fall, designed to clear encroaching Juniper from the sagebrush steppe.

“Stakeholders are really excited about this burn. They want to reduce fuel and increase forage,” said Lohse. “We’ve been establishing permanent vegetation plots on north and south facing plots in the watershed to monitor how the fire changes soil carbon quality and quantity.”

Water dynamics in the critical zone are profoundly affected by the sudden, massive changes to vegetation cover and soil brought by wildfire. The choices that we make to suppress or encourage fire, graze livestock or convert land to farm fields, clear-cut or plant mountain slopes, and divert water or leave it in natural flows, all play out in the dynamics of the critical zone.

The National Science Foundation funds 10 Critical Zone Observatories. http://criticalzone.org/national/

The National Science Foundation funds 10 Critical Zone Observatories. http://criticalzone.org/national/

In the dry heat of late summer in California, cold can be as valuable commodity as the water itself. Water that is too warm can be a big problem for fish and other animals. Sufficient cool groundwater flowing down through mountain bedrock and entering into streams can off-set low water levels and prevent the warm, stagnant conditions that stress salmon and encourage the growth of toxic algae. Decisions about how much cool water people divert from the system could tip the balance for the ecosystem, Power said.

Choices that people and communities make about the use of land for agriculture, living spaces, and industry have profound effects on the critical zone – but this also  suggests that communities may be empowered by good critical zone science to manage surface cover and land use to enhance the resilience and sustainability of watersheds and water reserves.


OOS 30 Ecology in the Critical Zone
Tuesday, August 11, 2015: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM, rm 328
organizers: Kathleen Lohse and Whendee Silver

  • 1:30 PM                OOS 30-1 Exploring relationships between microbial ecology and soil organic matter stability in deep tropical soil profiles
    Alain F. Plante,University of Pennsylvania
  • 1:50 PM                OOS 30-2 Urbanization effects on nitrogen dynamics in the critical zone
    Peter M. Groffman,Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
  • 2:10 PM                OOS 30-3 Microbial ecology in the high elevation, mixed-conifer critical zone
    Rachel E. Gallery, University of Arizona
  • 2:30 PM                OOS 30-4 Linking critical zone currencies to states of river ecosystems
    Mary E. Power, University of California Berkeley
  • 2:50 PM                OOS 30-5 Ecohydrology in the critical zone: Vegetation response to spatial and temporal variability in available water
    Paul D. Brooks, University of Utah
  • 3:40 PM                OOS 30-7 Aeolian transported and deposited microbial communities differ along an elevation gradient in the Southern Sierra CZO
    Emma Aronson,UC Riverside
  • 4:00 PM                OOS 30-8 Controls on potential iron reduction in soils from diverse ecosystems
    Wendy H. Yang, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • 4:20 PM                OOS 30-9 Examining ecosystem function in space and time within the critical zone through the lenses of ecology and biogeography
    Greg A. Barron-Gafford, University of Arizona
  • 4:40 PM                OOS 30-10 The role of elevation and time in structuring soil microbial communities in the Sierra Nevada, California
    Chelsea J. Carey, University of California
  • 5:00 PM                OOS 30-11 Patterns of plant available water storage capacity in montane Idaho and California
    Aaron Fellows, USDA Agricultural Research Service

 

COS 7-1 “One physical system”: Tansley’s ecosystem as Earth’s critical zone
Monday, August 10, 2015: 1:30 PM rm 321
Daniel deB. Richter, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University


The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.

US Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland named 2015 ESA Regional Policy Award winner

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, July 16, 2015
Contact: Alison Mize, 703-625-3628; Alison@esa.org

 

Ben Cardin 2The Ecological Society of America (ESA) will present its eighth annual Regional Policy Award to U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) during the Society’s Centennial Meeting conference in Baltimore, Md. The ESA award recognizes an elected or appointed local policymaker with an outstanding record of informing policy decisions with ecological science.

“Through his decades of public service, Senator Ben Cardin has been a champion for environmental protection that benefits the people of the city of Baltimore, the state of Maryland and our nation,” said ESA President David Inouye. “Through his position on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, he is a leading voice in promoting ecosystem health and ensuring science has a place at the table in the federal policymaking process.”

Senator Cardin is a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and the former chairman of the Water and Wildlife Subcommittee. He is an advocate for Chesapeake Bay restoration, water infrastructure improvements and addressing the multifaceted impacts of climate change. A highlight of his efforts include sponsorship of the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act, which encourages national, state and local officials, businesses and other stakeholders to engage in collaborative efforts that accelerate restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. Additionally, he has authored legislation requiring the federal government to comply with local storm water fees that are used to treat and manage polluted storm water runoff that was signed into law by the president in early 2011 (Public Law 111-378).

First elected to the Senate in 2006 and reelected in 2012, Cardin also serves as Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is a member of the Senate Committees on Finance, and Small Business and Entrepreneurship. During each of these assignments, he furthered protections for the environment and public health. He began his congressional career in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1987, representing Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District, which composes portions of Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel counties. Previously, during 18 years in the Maryland House of Delegate, he served as speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates from 1979 to 1986.

Cardin is a recipient of the Chesapeake Conservation Hero Award (2012), Friend of the National Parks Award (2011), Bird Conservation Leader of the Year Award (2011) and also has been recognized as the Audubon Society’s Conservation Champion (2011).

“Good science and the rule of law should always be at the forefront of policy making. We have one world to protect, so we have to get this right,” said Senator Cardin. “The notions that we must choose between economic growth and environmental protection or public health are fallacies. I thank The Ecological Society of America for a century of keeping scientists and students engaged in this important effort.”

ESA President Inouye will present the 2015 ESA Regional Policy Award at the start of the Opening Plenary on Sunday, August 9 at 5 PM in the Key Ballroom of the Baltimore Hilton.  ESAs Centennial conference is expected to draw over 4,000 scientists, policymakers and others attending from around the world.

 


The Ecological Society of America (ESA), founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.