a stream in a forest

Story by Sean Turner

Forest and freshwater ecosystems are not just important for their natural beauty. They also provide our communities with drinking water, power, transportation, and provide habitat for other species. And because of their importance as infrastructure, it is imperative that we know how climate change has affected these biomes and how we can protect them in the future.  

Institute for Resilient Infrastructure Systems affiliate, Dr. C. Rhett Jackson, analyzed the US Long Term Ecological research (LTER) sites along with other world renowned researchers ranging from the University of Puerto Rico to Harvard University.  

In a special section on LTER and Climate Change published in Oxford Academic, the researchers discuss the nine sites (located in Puerto Rico, Oregon, Alaska, Wisconsin, Harvard, New Hampshire, Maryland, Baltimore, and North Carolina) and the studies conducted on them.  

Using field and laboratory experiments, long-term monitoring, and modeling, the scientists were able to observe air temperature and precipitation; changes in water balance hydrology; impacts of extreme weather events; and ecological responses to climate change within forest and freshwater ecosystems. 

According to the article, the goal of this extensive research is to “ensure that the ecosystems continue to deliver valuable services to society.”  

However, as the name “long term” suggests, this is not quick research. The LTER sites are used to study the past, the present, and the future. Research periods date as far back as the twentieth century (1900-1999) and will be compared to dates as far away as 2070-2099. 

This lengthy research period allows researchers to gain a better understanding of how these ecosystems respond to climate change. And with this better understanding, we will be able to support the wide range of beneficial goods and services provided by forest and freshwater ecosystems through wise infrastructure planning decisions. 



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