Organization: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Research Title: Land Margins Ecosystems Research (LMER)

Funding Level (millions of dollars):

FY94 4.1
FY95 2.9
FY96 2.8

Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) Component:
(a) Subcommittee: Global Change Subcommittee (70%) Water Resources/Coastal and Marine Environments Subcommittee (30%) NSTC Committee on Fundamental Science
(b) Environmental Issue: Global Change (30%); Large Scale Changes in Ocean Ecosystems (30%); Natural Variability (20%); Aquatic Ecosystem Integrity (20%) (c) Research Activity: System Structure and Function: Understand (100%)

Organizational Component:
Ocean Sciences Division
NSF, Biological Oceanography Program
OCE/NSF, Room 725
4201 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22230

Point of Contact:
Scott Collins
Phone: 703-306-1483

Research Goals:
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.

Research Description:
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.

Program Interfaces:
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.

Program Milestones:
1) Establishment of an additional LMER site in 1995, with special emphasis given to a site at one of the Great Lakes; (2) establishment of several new sites by 1997 to ensure at least

Policy Payoffs:
This program concerns 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.