Organization: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Research Title: Ecological Rates of Change (EROC)

Funding Level (millions of dollars):

FY94 3.0
FY95 3.0
FY96 3.0

Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Component:
(a) Subcommittee: Global Change Research Subcommittee (100%) NSTC Committee on Fundamental Science
(b) Environmental Issue: Global Change (80%); Large-Scale Change in Land- Use (20%)
(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
Rm 635, 4201 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22230

Point of Contact:
Scott Collins
Phone: 703-306-1479
E-Mail: scollins@nsf.gov

Research Goals:
To analyze the processes through which natural and human-induced changes affect ecological processes in order to improve predictions of the rates of adaptation, habitat modification and biome shifts resulting from global change.

Research Description:
The EROC program supports research on how global change, especially climate change, affects ecological processes. Both natural and human induced changes are included. This program underpins predictions of biotic responses to change, through quantifying changes in ecosystem functions, and in plant and animal frequency and abundance in time and space. Research concentrates on processes affecting ecological rates of change in terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, habitats, and ecotones, and in species interactions, abundance and distributional limits, biological diversity, and gene pools. Results from EROC supported research will lead to predictions of rates of adaptation, habitat modification and biome shifts. EROC also contributes to understanding the ecological processes that influence the Earth, including effects of the biota on climate, the geosphere, and atmosphere. Large-scale experiments across a network of different ecosystems are key components of EROC. Examples of experiments include soil, carbon dioxide augmentation, and landscape manipulations. In the network, ecological variables, including trace gas fluxes and biological diversity, are monitored across a range of ecosystem types. Models incorporating climate change and based on comparative data sets are being developed.

Program Interfaces:
EROC complements other NSF Programs such as ARCSS and BEC which also focus on understanding the interplay between biological systems and global change processes. It contributes to research conducted by oceanographic and atmospheric scientists through NSF programs as well as at mission agencies, and provides critical information for Global Circulation Models. It adds to programs in the US Forest Service (Forest Health Monitoring Program), to DOE's Research Parks Network of Ecological sites, and to the EMAP program at the EPA. It links to interagency interaction through the SBI and TRIG projects and to international efforts such as the IGBP and the Diversitas program (IUBS, SCOPE, UNESCO)

Program Milestones:
Conduct of research projects that monitor and analyze rates of change of different components of ecosystems and that distinguish between the impacts of natural vs. human induced causes on rates of change in ecosystems in l995 and following years.

Policy Payoffs:
Field experiments, observations and modeling will identify the ecological processes, essential for ecosystem health, which affect and are most affected by global change. EROC research provides the knowledge for predicting ecological change; knowledge needed to inform policy formulation related to biodiversity, desertification, and aspects of biological resource management.