Organization: Department of Energy (DOE)

Research Title: Program on Ecosystem Research (PER)

Funding Level (millions of dollars):

FY94 5.6
FY95 5.0
FY96 5.3

Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Component:
(a) Subcommittee: Global Change Research Subcommittee (100%) Biological Diversity and Ecosystem Research Subcommittee (contributing)
(b) Environmental Issue: Climate change (100%)
(c) Research Activity: System Structure and Function: Understanding (75%); Impacts and Adaptation: Ecological Systems (25%)

Organizational Component:
Environmental Sciences Division
Office of Health and Environmental Research
Office of Energy Research; ER-74
U.S. Department of Energy
Washington, D.C. 20585

Point of Contact:
Jerry W. Elwood
Phone: 301-903-4583

Research Goals:
To (1) improve understanding of the responses and adjustments of terrestrial organisms and ecosystems to atmospheric and climatic changes, and the mechanisms controlling the responses, (2) develop ways of detecting the responses, and (3) scale the responses across organizational levels up to the whole ecosystem.

Research Description:
PER is an experimental research program conducted by investigators in universities and government laboratories to (1) identify and quantify the responses and adjustments of terrestrial ecosystems and their component organisms to climatic and atmospheric changes; (2) how the adjustments are controlled; (3) how the adjustments and their controls can be detected and measured, and (4) how such adjustments will impact ecosystem properties of utilitarian and/or intrinsic value to humans (e.g., production of food and fiber, conserving biodiversity and ecosystem integrity, and sustaining ecological services (water quality, soil conservation, etc.). Developing models to scale response functions and control mechanisms across hierarchical scales up to whole ecosystems is another PER objective.

Program Interfaces:
This program is part of DOE's global change research program. Coordinated efforts with other projects funded by other agencies, including USDA, and NSF have been initiated. Research in PER is being coordinated with ongoing and proposed global change research at the NSF Long-term Ecological Research sites. Ties are also being established with other ongoing research supported by DOE, EPA, NSF, and USDA dealing with organism and ecosystem responses to CO 2 enrichment and climate change.

Program Milestones:
FY 1995 - Conducted programmatic review of PER. FY 1996 -Provide methods for determining the interdependence of soil microbes and plant responses to changing climate regimes, and determine the mechanisms regulating the plant responses. FY 1998 - Determine mechanisms of some plant, soil microbe and fungi, and animal responses at the biochemical and physiological (organismic) levels to specified climate changes. FY 2000 - Identify some of the critical biochemical and genetic mechanisms that control organismic responses to specified climate changes. FY 2005 - Provide projected adjustments of eastern deciduous forest and aridland ecosystems to specified climate changes, based on predicted organismic responses.

Policy Payoffs:
PER research will provide needed information for assessing the vulnerability of terrestrial ecosystems to climate change and for assessing the potential impacts on terrestrial ecosystems of atmospheric and climatic changes. The research will have important short- and long-term payoffs to policymakers and research planners.