PROGRAM TITLE:	Land Margin Ecosystems Research  (LMER)
ACTIVITY STREAM:	Process, Observe, Data, Model
SCIENCE ELEMENT:	Ecological Systems


SCIENTIFIC MERIT:  Environments at the land/sea interface change 
constantly because of natural variability of climate and sensitivity to storms 
and sea level changes.  Change in these environments is accelerating due to 
impacts of anthropogenically altered freshwater flows, sediment loading and 
material inputs, and harvest of resources.  With population density and 
growth in coastal areas outpacing all other regions, it is crucial to understand 
how changing climate and man-induced changes will interact and alter these 
ecosystems.  To this end, NSF established the LMER program  to increase 
understanding of: 1) the organization and function of land-margin 
ecosystems (e.g., estuaries, coastal wetlands, tidal portions of rivers and coastal 
reefs); 2) the linkages between these systems and adjacent terrestrial and 
marine systems, and (3) the impacts of major natural environmental 
perturbations, particularly sea-level rise and freshwater inputs.  In coming 
decades, greenhouse effects may cause global climate changes resulting in 
alterations in river runoff, material flow, sea-level height and temperature. 
The LMER program has begun to gain knowledge that will enable us to 
predict the effects of these global and human changes on ecosystems at the 
land/sea interface. LMER projects seek to understand major environmental 
changes that influence land-margin environments, and assess how the 
populations, communities and ecosystems of the land-margin environments 
respond. Key elements of LMER are: (1) interdisciplinary research; (2) studies 
of spatial and temporal scale effects; (3) modeling to guide the research and 
facilitate comparisons with other systems; and (4) comparative studies of 
different ecosystems.

Operation of the program is through peer/merit review of proposals with 
NSF as the lead agency.  An LMER Coordination Committee comprises senior 
investigators from existing projects (5 at present) to foster cross-site 
comparison of system characteristics and processes, and to implement 
common observational, experimental, modeling and data management 
protocols.  A LMER Program Coordination Office is established to facilitate 
inter-project activities and to link LMER to other  relevant U.S. and 
international (particularly IGBP/LOICZ)  programs.

STAKEHOLDERS:  LMER grew out of major community workshops and 
recommendations of scientific societies in the US.    Beneficiaries of the LMER 
program include mission agencies responsible for coastal environments, 
scientists in the US and abroad studying ecosystem dynamics in coastal areas, 
and environmental policymakers.  LMER is a cooperative program involving 
NOAA/NOS and the Estuarine Research Reserves, and EPA/ORD.  NOAA 
and EPA are gaining understanding of the dynamics of some coastal 
ecosystems in their direct mission jurisdiction. Independent scientists are 
using LMER activities as a basis for ancillary research programs.   The 
program is leading the US science community in understanding 
denitrification processes in coastal systems.  LMER has received industry 
support (from Bonneville Power) for studies in the Columbia River estuary 
system  because of industry's need to understand and control impacts.  The 
network of LMER scientists and sites are pursuing cross-system comparisons, 
working with the NSF LTER - Long Term Ecological Research projects.  
Discussions are ongoing about linkages between LMER and agencies involved 
with watershed and land management.  LMER represents the major USGCRP 
component of the IGBP -LOICZ (Land Ocean Interactions in the Coastal Zone) 
Program.  It will also link with the IUBS/SCOPE Diversitas Program to 
understand the role of biodiversity in the functioning of estuarine and coastal 
ecosystems, and the IAI - Conosur program of southern Latin America. 

POLICY RELEVANCE:  Field observations and experiments, and modeling is 
allowing identification of ecosystem capabilities in trapping and assimilating 
materials transported from land into coastal environments; the importance 
of the biogeochemistry of coastal ecosystems at regional and global scales; the 
impact of ecosystem, watershed and range management on the health and 
dynamics of coastal ecosystems with variations in climatology; and the 
contribution of groundwater nutrients in coastal areas to euthrophication and 
ecosystem alteration.  All of these are directly linked to issues of 
environmental management.   LMER programs will deal directly with issues 
of the ecosystem function of biodiversity in estuarine and coastal systems.

James Callahan, Environmental Biology Program Director
Phillip Taylor, Biological Oceanography Program Director