The Jornada Basin long term ecological research program

TitleThe Jornada Basin long term ecological research program
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsPeters DC, Bestelmeyer B, Bestelmeyer B, Havstad K, H. Monger C, Okin GS, Sala O.E, Vivoni ER, Archer SR, Duniway M
Conference Name2015 LTER All Scientists Meeting
Date Published08/2015
Conference LocationEstes Park, CO
ARIS Log Number321128
Abstract

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 is being 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 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 are being 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 is being assessed with cross-site and regional studies. Simulation modeling is being 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 is placing Jornada research into a broader socio-economic-ecologic context. Research is resulting 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. Please see the Special Issue in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment (Feb. 2015), "Emerging Perspectives and Shifting Paradigms in Water-Limited Systems" for recent findings from the Jornada.  Paper No. 73.