Office of Science Ecological Research Reported in Nature and Science


Results from three long-term, large-scale, field research projects supported by the Department of Energy s Office of Science were recently reported in the prestigious international scientific journals Nature and Science. All three projects aim to better understand potential effects of environmental changes caused by energy production on the structure and functioning of terrestrial ecosystems in the United States. The Nature article presented data indicating that the abundance and ecological effects of insects and diseases in northern hardwood forests could be altered by increased carbon dioxide and ozone concentrations in the atmosphere. Both carbon dioxide and ozone concentrations are increasing because of fossil fuel use. One of the Science articles presented unique data from a decade-long soil warming experiment in New England that challenges assumptions made in some climate models about possible effects of warming on the release of carbon from forests and their soils. In particular, the research indicates that warming may not cause extensive carbon losses from some forests. The second Science article reported that changes in rainfall variability, a possible consequence of climatic change, can cause significant changes in the functioning of native grasslands in the Midwest. All three studies are continuing with Office of Science support.