Organization: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Research Title: Ecological Diversity

Funding Level (millions of dollars):

FY94 0.0
FY95 4.6
FY96 4.8

Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Component:
(a) Subcommittee: Global Change Research Subcommittee (100%) NSTC Committee on Fundamental Science
(b) Environmental Issue: Large-Scale Changes in Land-Use (100%)
(c) Research Activity: System Structure and Function: Understanding (60%); Impacts and Adaptation: Ecological Systems (40%)

Organizational Component:
Division of Environmental Biology (DEB)
Directorate for Biological Sciences
National Science Foundation
NSF/DEB, Room 635
4201 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22230

Point of Contact:
Scott Collins
Phone: 703-306-1479

Research Goals:
To determine the potential impacts of global change on the biological and ecological diversity of managed and unmanaged ecosystems and the resulting effects of altered diversity on ecosystem function.

Research 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

Program Interfaces:
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. This program also is a centerpiece of the multi-agency US/GCRP initiative on terrestrial ecology related to global change. Interagency coordination of solicitation and review of proposals is under way.

Program Milestones:
- Conduct of research projects examining the effects of global change on the biological and ecological diversity of managed and unmanaged ecosystems in 1995 and following years.
- Conduct of research projects that increase understanding of the fundamental relationship between biological diversity and ecological processes in 1995 and following years.
- Conduct of research projects that determine how biological diversity can alter or ameliorate deleterious effects of global change in 1995 and following years.

Policy Payoffs:
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.