PROGRAM TITLE:	Ecological Diversity (Formerly "Terrestrial 
Ecology")
ACTIVITY STREAMS:	Processes, Consequences, Modeling, Assessment
SCIENCE ELEMENT: 	Ecosystem Dynamics

NATIONAL SCIENCE FOUNDATION

PROGRAM DESCRIPTION: Ecological processes influenced by or contributing 
to changes in the global climate and other natural systems ultimately are 
dependent on the diversity of organisms and their influence on system 
dynamics. An improved understanding of ecological processes requires 
knowledge of the species, populations, and spatial patterns that contribute to 
total community composition (including microbial communities), survival 
and adaptation mechanisms, natural rates of change, and human-caused 
changes such as exotic invasions or extinctions. Diversity can be defined as 
the number of different items and their relative frequency. For biological and 
ecological diversity, these items and processes are organized at many levels, 
ranging from complete ecosystems to the chemical structures that are the 
molecular basis of heredity. Projects supported by this program will include 
biotic surveys and inventories and research on the evolutionary history of 
organisms and species and the functions and interactions of populations, 
communities, and ecosystems. This new program is focused on research to 
determine the potential effects of global change on the biological and 
ecological diversity of managed and unmanaged ecosystems and the resulting 
effects of altered diversity on ecosystem function. Operation of the program 
consists of peer- based merit review of proposals submitted by investigators. 
Outcomes of research funded through this program are disseminated through 
scientific publications and presentations. Knowledge advanced through 
research funded by this program will help the US/GCRP meet many of the 
milestones identified in April 1992, especially those dealing with the 
ecosystem studies. Oversight and evaluation of the program will be provided 
through the NSF Biological Sciences Advisory Committee and committees of 
visitors charged by division directors in the Directorate for Biological 
Sciences.

STAKEHOLDERS: Ecological diversity has been identified as a major research 
need by a number of groups, including the multi- agency team developing a 
"Terrestrial Ecosystem" initiative for the US/GCRP in 1993, the NRC 
committee that produced a 1994 report entitled The Role of Terrestrial 
Ecosystems in Global Change, and participants in the 1994 CENR-related, 
NRC-convened forum on Environmental and Natural Resources Research. 
Within NSF, the Ecological Diversity Program complements the Ecological 
Rates of Change, Land-Margin Ecosystem Research, and Water and Energy: 
Atmosphere, Vegetation, and Earth (WEAVE) programs as primary means of 
addressing fundamental problems in ecological research related to global 
change. Development and operation of these programs is conducted by NSF 
in partnership with other US/GCRP agencies. To facilitate synthesis and 
comparison, researchers supported through the Ecological Diversity Program 
will be encouraged to use ecological research sites in networks and 
appropriate electronic data bases. These networks may consist of sites 
supported by NSF (e.g., LTER and LMER site-based networks) or by other 
federal agencies (e.g., National Parks, Estuarine Reserves, Wildlife Refuges, 
and Forest and Agricultural Experiment Stations).

POLICY RELEVANCE:  Comparative studies in Ecological Diversity are 
important because they are the basis for synthesis and generation of principles 
used in ecosystem management. In the short run, new knowledge obtained 
through research on these topics will assist in identification of critical gaps in 
understanding, thereby helping to establish future priorities for research. 
Longer-term payoffs will be evident as greater knowledge is gained of the 
ways of the vulnerability of managed and unmanaged ecosystems to changing 
environmental conditions. This advanced knowledge will also help refine 
integrated models used for assessments of the impacts of future global 
changes on ecosystems and the likely efficacy of various mitigation and 
adaptation strategies.