Competitive Proposals

LTER: Long-Term Research at the Jornada Basin (LTER-VI) funded by the National Science Foundation

Project Summary
Intellectual merit: Chihuahuan Desert landscapes exemplify the ecological conditions, vulnerability, and management challenges in arid and semi-arid regions around the world. The goal of the Jornada Basin Long Term Ecological Research program (JRN LTER) established in 1982 is to understand and quantify the key factors and processes controlling ecosystem dynamics and patterns in Chihuahuan Desert landscapes. In collaboration with the Jornada Experimental Range (USDA ARS), studies initiated in 1915 have been incorporated into the JRN LTER program. Previous research focused on desertification, a state change from perennial grasslands to woody plant dominance that occurs globally. Based on findings from growing long-term databases, the breadth of studies was expanded to include four additional state changes that occur in dryland systems worldwide: (1) a reversal to grassland states, (2) transitions among different states dominated by woody plants, (3) invasion by non-native grasses leading to novel states, and (4) transitions to human-dominated states. Processes of interest include water mediated plant-soil feedbacks, patch-scale contagion, landscape context, and time lags that are manifested as nonlinear dynamics and threshold behavior. The overall goal of Jornada LTER-VI (2012-2018) is to understand and quantify the mechanisms that generate alternative natural and human-dominated states in dryland ecosystems, and to predict future states and their consequences for the provisioning of ecosystem services. A modified conceptual framework and integrated research plan in LTER-VI will be used to: (1) test specific elements by coupling existing long-term studies of patterns with new experiments aimed at elucidating processes, (2) integrate data from long-term studies in novel ways to address new questions, both at the JRN and in the surrounding region, and (3) forecast alternative future landscapes and consequences for ecosystem services under a changing environment. The proposed research is organized around two major geomorphic units that characterize the Chihuahuan Desert, and that contain on-going long-term studies and a sensor network. Long-term studies will be combined with new mechanistic experiments designed to identify dominant processes and drivers with a focus on pattern-process relationships that transcend scales. The generality of this framework will be assessed with cross-site and regional studies. Simulation modeling will be used to synthesize and integrate data, both to understand current patterns and to predict future dynamics. New socio-economic studies and scenarios based on the Ecosystem Millennium Assessment will place Jornada research into a broader socio-economic-ecologic context. Proposed research will result in five major products: (1) new understanding of state changes, in particular in drylands, that lead to theory development, testable hypotheses, and new experiments; (2) accessible data and visualization tools applicable at multiple scales; (3) explanatory and predictive relationships between drivers, patterns, and processes that can be used to (4) develop scenarios of alternative human- and natural-dominated states with assessments of their impacts on ecosystem services; and (5) usable information transfer to a broad audience including K-12 students and teachers, and NGO and government agency land resource managers.

Broader impacts: Training opportunities will be provided for a large number of graduate and undergraduate students, primarily from New Mexico State University, a Hispanic-serving institution. International collaborations will include cooperative agreements with research and academic institutions on five continents (North and South America, Asia, Europe, Australia). JRN LTER research supports a highly successful K-12 and teacher training program: over 60,000 students, teachers, and other adults were involved in educational outreach programs during LTER V. The majority of participants are from underserved populations from southern New Mexico and west Texas: ca. 80% are classified as ““economically disadvantaged,”” and 75% are Hispanic. These programs will continue to include inquiry based science education curricula, field trips, schoolyard ecology activities, teacher workshops, and public education events. Interactions with resource management practitioners will occur via workshops, seminars, and service by LTER scientists on various boards of directors. The JRN LTER annual research symposium is attended by > 100 scientists, educators, and land managers. A periodic newsletter is available on the JRN LTER web page and is distributed to > 300 people.

Jornada Basin LTER V: Landscape Linkages in Arid and Semiarid Ecosystems  funded by the National Science Foundation

Project Summary
Intellectual merit: Chihuahuan Desert landscapes exemplify the ecological conditions, vulnerability, and management issues found in arid and semi-arid regions around the world. The goal of the Jornada Basin Long Term Ecological Research program established in 1982 is to understand and quantify the causes and consequences of desertification in these systems. In collaboration with our research partner, the Jornada Experimental Range (USDA ARS), we have incorporated studies beginning in 1915 into our program. In the past 6 years as part of LTER IV, we expanded our plant-interspace resource redistribution framework to include multiple spatial and temporal scales in our landscape linkages framework. We propose to elaborate on this landscape linkages framework in LTER V by: (1) testing specific elements using existing long-term studies, (2) conducting a suite of new integrated, cross-scale experiments, both at the Jornada and in a nearby suburban interface, (3) continuing cross-site and regional studies designed to test its generality, and (4) forecasting alternative future landscapes under a changing environment that includes socioeconomic processes and explicit interactions with the ecological system. Our overall hypothesis is that spatial and temporal variation in ecosystem dynamics is the result of patch structure interacting with transport vectors (wind, water, animals) and environmental drivers (e.g., precipitation, temperature, human activities) to influence cross-scale resource redistribution. These interactions feed back to patch structure and dynamics to cause cascading events with effects on ecosystem goods and services. Historic legacies and geomorphic templates are important modifiers of this relationship. We propose to organize our research around three major geomorphic units that characterize the Chihuahuan Desert, and contain existing long-term studies and a sensor network. We will combine long-term studies with new mechanistic and process-level experiments designed to identify dominant processes and drivers with a focus on patch structure. We will use simulation modeling to synthesize and integrate these data, both to understand current patterns and to predict future dynamics. New socio-economic studies and scenarios based on the Ecosystem Millennium Assessment will place Jornada research into a broader socio-economicecologic context.

Broader impacts: Our research activities provide training opportunities for a large number of graduate and undergraduate students, primarily from New Mexico State University, a Hispanic serving institution. Our international scientific collaborations include cooperative agreements with research and academic institutions on four continents (North and South America, Asia, Europe). Our research supports a highly successful K-12 and teacher training program: over 50,000 students, teachers, and other adults were involved in educational outreach programs during LTER IV. These programs will continue in LTER V and include field trips, schoolyard ecology activities, teacher workshops, and public education events. The proposed research includes targeted interactions with resource management practitioners through workshops, seminars, and service by LTER scientists on various boards of directors. Our annual research symposium is attended by > 100 scientists, educators, and land managers.

2006 Supplement for LTER IV: Jornada Basin: Linkages in Semi-arid Landscapes Proposal

2007 Supplement for Jornada Basin LTER Proposal

2008 Supplement for Jornada Basin LTER V: Landscape Linkages in Arid and Semiarid Ecosystems Proposal

2008 Construction of a Multi-user Facility at the Jornada Experimental Range Field Station Proposal

2009 Construction of an On Site Manager Residence at the Jornada Experimental Range Field Station Proposal