Guide Long-term Ecological Change in the Northern Gulf of Alaska

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Editorial Reviews. Review. "A bold, broad synthesis of current understanding of the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems in the northern gulf of Alaska .
Table of contents

Ecosystems that can maintain higher native species diversity through niche partitioning and competition often have lower exotic species invasions Tilman Biodiversity can increase with species invasions. For example, low-diversity systems in harsh, warming Antarctic environments are rapidly increasing in diversity through increases in a novel resource, water Van Horn et al.

Declining ecosystem trajectories can result from presses and pulses that exceed the abilities of species and communities to adapt, especially when responses involve a decline in reproduction Yang et al. Long-term ecological research has also revealed how climate changes presses and human activities pulses interactively affect organismal body sizes and species phenologies. For example, large predators are declining and becoming extinct worldwide from unsustainable hunting or fishing and habitat loss, leading to losses of large-bodied species and the top-down functional role they serve in ecosystems Estes et al.

Warmer temperatures are also shifting the phenology of species and species interactions Yang and Rudolf , such as increasing the growing season of perennial forbs in alpine ecosystems Walker et al.

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Long-term ecological re search has advanced understanding of drivers of retention of organic and inorganic matter in ecosystems. Perturbations resulting in organic and inorganic matter losses, as well as additions from adjacent and distant subsidies of organic and inorganic matter, drive long-term spatiotemporal variability in ecosystem production and retention.

Long-term energy budgets identified that forested streams derive the majority of their energy from forested watersheds Fisher and Likens and that removal of terrestrial organic matter results in subsequent loss of stream secondary production that persists long term Wallace et al. The timescales of productivity gains and losses are driven by the life histories of dominant primary producers. For example, productivity in old-growth Douglas fir forests is measured at decadal instead of annual timescales because of the proportionally higher structural relative to photosynthetic plant tissues Harmon and Pabst Although nutrient enrichment can stimulate short-term ANPP, long-term enrichment leads to shifts in benthic communities from seagrasses and perennial macroalgae to short-lived, bloom-forming algae Slavik et al.

Cross-site LTER has shown that nutrients reduce plant species diversity through competitive growth-induced light limitation, and herbivory increases diversity where light is limiting Borer et al. Long-term research of coral reefs has identified grazing as a critical top-down regulator of productivity, especially in stressed coral ecosystems Mumby et al. The time required for nutrient cycles to close during ecosystem development was not predicted by Odum , and LTER studies across ecosystems show spatiotemporal variability in nutrient cycling.

Use of space-for-time substitution in studies of succession from decadal to millennial timescales is often necessary Walker et al.

Norris and colleagues found higher productivity and biomass carbon and nitrogen storage in woody-encroached grassland but negligible effects of this land-cover change on pools and fluxes of nitrogen in soil. From an earlier successional perspective, nitrogen cycling becomes tighter and more conserved as grasslands develop on former cultivated soil because of carbon gain and progressive nitrogen limitation Baer et al.

In contrast, the legacies of forest harvesting lead to persistent declines in ecosystem nutrient retention even after forest regrowth, indicating a shift from biological to physical regulation of nutrient cycling Bain et al. From taiga permafrost peatlands to tropical forests, nutrient retention is maintained through plant—soil microbial feedback mechanisms and perturbations such as fire, forest harvesting, soil tillage associated with agriculture, and hurricanes, which can shift ecosystems from biotic-driven retention to abiotic release of organic and inorganic matter if those feedback mechanisms are altered Grandy and Robertson , Likens , Silver et al.

Soils in urban watersheds can be nutrient sinks that quickly shift to nutrient sources during storms Bettez et al. Furthermore, nitrogen retention and export from watersheds depends on long-term precipitation regimes, a relationship that has been observed among ecosystems across biomes Kane et al. Long-term ecological research inherently integrates press—pulse drivers of ecosystems, and the core research areas of LTER integrate disturbance patterns affecting the spatiotemporal variance in primary production, populations, and movement of organic and inorganic matter.

Disturbance is a filter of community assembly that affects many attributes of recovering ecosystems Grimm et al. Long-term ecological research has focused on ecosystem responses to disturbances by manipulating ecological presses e. Long-term and widespread disturbance can change ecosystem processes at multiple scales to result in tipping points and ecosystem states that are difficult to reverse e. High variability in ecosystem responses in frequently disturbed ecosystems and spatial heterogeneity in human-dominated ecosystems Grimm et al.

Our revised theoretical framework of alternative trajectories of ecosystem development figure 1 could be used to better understand and predict variability among diverse developing, mature, and declining ecosystems of the twenty-first century from which data are increasing being collected.

Ecological changes often occur in a nonlinear pattern, which can appear as surprises when not considered in a long-term context Dodds et al. However, long-term data have the tremendous capacity to unpredictably reinform theories over time Lindenmayer et al. Understanding temporal lags, nonlinearities thresholds and hysteresis , and spatiotemporal scales of variability in ecosystems have only come about through long-term research Scheffer et al.

Revised theoretical frameworks—such as our alternate ecosystem development trajectories—that integrate scenarios of future environmental states and potential outcomes are needed to achieve synthesis and enhance prediction in ecology Carpenter et al. The integration of long-term data with ecological theories will continue to deepen and broaden our understanding of dynamic and developing systems, as well as inform the collection of observational data at multiple spatial scales. Current collection of ecological data has rapidly expanded through global networks Vanderbilt and Gaiser , and long-term data sets are increasingly made available Vanderbilt et al.

Data collection from observatory networks needs to be informed by theoretical frameworks that forecast changes in ecosystem structure and function and provide platforms for testing questions that are critical to further understanding and constructively managing ecosystems Lindenmayer et al. It is critical to seize the opportunity to synthesize long-term data and enhance the predictive capacity ecological science. Despite unprecedented rates of change in ecosystems, expansive data collection and predictive models have the capacity to reduce otherwise great uncertainty.

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However, we must extend existing and develop new theoretical frameworks to advance ecological theories, as well as integrate LTER and observatory networks to enhance prediction of the trajectory of Earth's ecosystems Waide , Lindenmayer et al. Jessica Corman and Peter Groffman provided feedback on earlier drafts of this manuscript.

This manuscript was greatly improved by feedback from the three anonymous reviewers. Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Sign In or Create an Account. Sign In. Advanced Search.

Article Navigation. Close mobile search navigation Article Navigation. Volume Article Contents. Ecosystem development under changing press—pulse regimes. Observatory networks and long-term ecological research: Sentinels of global change. References cited. E-mail: jkominos fiu. Oxford Academic. Google Scholar. Evelyn E Gaiser. Sara G Baer. Cite Citation.

Permissions Icon Permissions. Abstract Decades of place-based, long-term ecological research have generated important insights into patterns and processes among ecosystems. Table 1. Open in new tab. Table 2. In designing proposal solicitations, the Advisory Committee should be responsible for developing the scientific and technical subjects required to address GEM goals. Community workshops hosted by the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee would be one method to help articulate. The Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee and chief scientist should be responsible for organizing workshops designed to provide input on core variables to be measured over time.

Final decisions on variable selection can be based on hypotheses proposing how each variable provides insight into human and climate-based changes in the ecosystem. Recommendation: There should be an open process for nominating individuals to serve on the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, both during its initial formation and as the GEM program continues.

Various independent scientific groups can assist in the initial formation to help broaden the selection process and find candidates with suitable experience in the initiation and implementation of large-scale, long-term ecological research. The chief scientist should review the nominations and recommend selections, with appropriate documentation, to the Trustees, who are responsible for the appointments.

Conclusion: There will be significant costs associated with data and sample processing and with data archiving. It is a common mistake to underestimate the cost of data and information management.


To extract the full scientific value of any research program data and information must be made available to the scientific community, resource managers, policy makers, and the public on a timely basis. Each of these audiences will require information in a different format. The committee commends the initial development of data management procedures; careful implementation of these procedures is key.

Recommendation: GEM should create a comprehensive Data Management Office not just an archive but a group of people who address these issues. Other large science programs spend as much as 20 percent of funds on data management. The multi-decadal scale of GEM will require a similar commitment. Based on feedback from you, our users, we've made some improvements that make it easier than ever to read thousands of publications on our website. Jump up to the previous page or down to the next one. Also, you can type in a page number and press Enter to go directly to that page in the book.

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Sign up for email notifications and we'll let you know about new publications in your areas of interest when they're released. Conclusions and Recommendations. Get This Book. Visit NAP. Looking for other ways to read this? No thanks. Suggested Citation: "8. Page 76 Share Cite. According to an early EVOSTC document EVOSTC, b , GEM was conceived to have three main components: long-term ecosystem monitoring decades in duration ; short-term focused research one to several years in length ; and ongoing community involvement, including use of traditional knowledge and local stewardship.