The Pacific Northwest is experiencing increased drought and wildfire, and decreased snow packs. There is much uncertainty about how its ecosystems of forests, streams, and mountain meadows will respond. Ecologically, these habitats are experiencing environmental changes in very different ways. Socially, public values associated with these areas vary greatly and can be in conflict with one another. The goal of this long-term project is to understand how and why forested mountain ecosystems respond to changes in climate, land-use decisions, and the relationship between climate and land-use decisions. Over the next six years, research will focus on determining how physical and biological processes interact to alter ecosystem and species responses to changing climate in mountain ecosystems. Simultaneously, researchers will examine how forest managers combine science and values to make decisions that affect these ecosystems. Working with non-scientists in the arts and humanities, researchers will enhance public literacy about science, demonstrate the value of long-term ecological research, and convey the strong sense of place necessary to improve the well-being of all stakeholders. The project will continue education and outreach activities for teachers and K-12, undergraduate, and graduate students. Additionally, scientists will continue to engage the general public, with an emphasis on enhancing participation of women, people with disabilities, and those from under-represented backgrounds.

The project addresses the question: How do climate, natural disturbance, and land use -- as influenced by values and decisions -- interact with biodiversity, hydrology, and carbon and nutrient dynamics? Research will employ the ecological concept of “interactions” to evaluate and characterize spatial and temporal patterns and processes in old-growth temperate forests, streams, and montane meadows of the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon. Analyses of long-term climate data will be used to investigate how forests modulate the expression of regional climate to create local microclimates. More specifically, analysis of temperature, snow, and vegetation data will be combined with short-term studies of tree physiology, canopy microbiomes, and remote sensing of forest ecosystems to examine how microclimate and legacies of land use and disturbance influence populations, communities and ecosystem processes. Analyses of long-term bird, fish, and vegetation data and integrated, multi-taxa experiments on birds, lichens, trees, fish, and salamanders will examine how species interactions amplify or reduce responses to microclimate. New studies of conservation ethics and the effects of long-term ecological science on management will explore how values filter the use of science in land-use decisions.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Environmental Biology (DEB)
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Douglas Levey
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Oregon State University
United States
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