People, however, have also established themselves as another major driver of connectivity among ecosystems. In the June 2008 Special Issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, titled “Continental-scale ecology in an increasingly connected world,” ecologists discuss how human influences interact with natural processes to influence connectivity at the continental scale.
The authors conclude that networks of large-scale experiments are needed to predict long-term ecological change.
“We know that the world has always been connected via a common atmosphere and the movement of water,” says Debra Peters, an author in the issue and a scientist with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS). “The world is also becoming highly interconnected through the movement of people and the transport of goods locally to globally. Among ecologists, there is an increasing realization that these connections can have profound influences on the long-term dynamics of ecological systems.”
The transport of many types of materials, including gases, minerals and even organisms, can affect natural systems. This movement results in “greenlash,” which occurs when environmental changes localized to a small geographic area have far-reaching effects in other areas. For example, a drought in the 1930’s caused small-scale farmers to abandon their farms across the U.S. Midwest. The absence of crops intensified local soil erosion, leading to powerful dust storms. Large amounts of wind-swept dust traveled across the continent, causing the infamous Dust Bowl and affecting air quality, public health and patterns of human settlement throughout the country.
Because of increasing globalization, people often inadvertently introduce non-native plants, animals and diseases into new locations. Invasive species and pathogens, such as fire ants from South America and the SARS virus from China, can create large, expensive problems: the U.S. currently spends over $120 billion per year on measures to prevent and eradicate invasive species. Understanding ecosystem connectivity across a range of scales – from local to regional to continental – will help scientists predict where invasive species are likely to go next.
The authors agree that field ecology studies should focus on long-term sampling networks that encompass a range of geographical scales. Integrating data from existing and developing networks, such as the National Science Foundation’s Long Term Ecological Research network (LTER) and NSF’s National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), will lead to a level of power for ecological comparison unparalleled by any one experiment.
“To draw conclusions about the consequences of increasing connectivity, we need to provide information about processes that span a vast scale of space and time,” says David Schimel, an author in the issue and the chief executive officer of the NEON project. “Our observations will characterize ecological processes from the genomic to the continental and document changes from seconds to decades.”
Additionally, the authors suggest that long-term studies should include data from social and behavioral science to allow incorporation of human movement patterns into their scientific models. Ecologists hope that understanding the patterns of connectivity within and among ecosystems will lead to more accurate predictions of future ecological change.
To learn more about ecological connectivity, look for a podcast interview with Debra Peters on the Ecological Society of America’s web site at http://www.esa.org/podcast on June 2.
The Special Issue of Frontiers was supported by funding from the National Science Foundation, USDA-ARS, and the Consortium for Regional Ecological Observatories. The issue is free and will be available to the public June 1 at http://www.frontiersinecology.org/.
The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest professional organization of ecologists, representing 10,000 scientists in the United States and around the globe. Since its founding in 1915, ESA has promoted the responsible application of ecological principles to the solution of environmental problems through ESA reports, journals, research, and expert testimony to Congress. ESA publishes four journals and convenes an annual scientific conference. Visit the ESA website at http://www.esa.org.
Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society
Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences