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‘Ecosystem Services’ In A Changing World

February 23, 2010

Results from Long-Term Ecological Research show importance of resources and processes supplied by ecosystems

Humans are sustained by a multitude of processes and resources in the environment around us. These benefits are called “ecosystem services,” and include products like clean drinking water and the provision of foods such as crops and spices.

On Thursday, March 4, the National Science Foundation (NSF) will host a symposium titled, “Ecosystem Services in a Changing World: Perspectives from Long-Term Ecological Research.” The meeting is the ninth such annual NSF symposium to address topics in long-term ecological research (LTER).

Ecosystem services are grouped into four main categories: provisioning, such as the production of food and water; regulating, as in control of climate and disease; supporting, such as nutrient cycles and crop pollination; and cultural, including spiritual and recreational benefits.

As human populations grow, so do our demands on these ecosystem services. Our global footprint is becoming ever larger, with increasing impacts on the benefits ecosystems provide.

It’s important, say LTER and other scientists, to understand how ecosystem services are responding in a changing world, so these ecosystems may be managed in ways that sustain life on Earth.

Presentations at the symposium will address ecosystem services in agricultural systems, in temperate forest harvest systems and in residential landscapes. Also covered will be subjects such as changing urban water supplies in the tropics, the impacts of marine reserves on fisheries, and the implications of wildfires on human subsistence.

Scientists from several of NSF’s 26 LTER sites will talk about new ways of conducting research on–and thinking about–ecosystem services.

NSF’s LTER network spans the Arctic to the Antarctic to the tropics. The sites represent Earth’s major ecosystems, and include grasslands, forests, tundra, urban areas, agricultural systems, freshwater lakes, coastal estuaries and salt marshes, coral reefs, coastal zones and the open sea.

Who: LTER Scientists

What: Symposium on ecosystem services and long-term ecological research

When: Thursday, March 4, 8:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.

Where: National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Room 110, Arlington, VA 22230

Detailed Agenda:

8:30 to 8:45 “Welcome and Opening Remarks,” Todd Crowl, NSF Division of Environmental Biology

8:45 to 9:10 “Overview of Ecosystem Services,” Steve Carpenter, North Temperate Lakes LTER Site

9:10 to 9:35 “Ecosystem Services and Agricultural Systems,” Scott Swinton, Kellogg Biological Station LTER Site

9:35 to 10:00 “Ecosystem Services in Temperate Forest Harvest Systems,” Barbara Bond, H.J. Andrews LTER Site

10:00 to 10:25 “Changing Prefrences for Ecosystem Services Over Time,” Christopher Boone, Baltimore Urban LTER Site

10:25 to 10:40 Break

10:40 to 11:05 “Ecosystem Services in Residential Landscapes: Perceptions, Tradeoffs, and Cross-Site Research Opportunities,” Kelli Larson, Central Arizona-Phoenix Urban LTER Site

11:05 to 11:30 “Changing Urban Water Supplies in a Tropical Context,” Fred Scatena, Luquillo LTER Site

11:30 to 11:55 “Social and Ecological Impacts/Implications of Marine Reserves on Trap Fisheries,” Hunter Lenihan, Santa Barbara Coastal LTER Site

11:55 to 12:20 “Ecosystem Service Impacts/Implications of Fire Regime on Human Subsistence,” Terry Chapin, Bonanza Creek LTER Site

Image 1: Earth’s clean air depends in large part on processes in forests. Credit: Tom Iraci, Oregon State University

Image 2: Forests play an important role in providing abundant clean water. Credit: Al Levno

Image 3: Wildfires have doubled in Alaska in recent decades, affecting indigenous communities. Credit: La’Ona DeWilde

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