Vegetation Effects on Nitrogen Cycling Hotspots in an Alpine-Subalpine Ecosystem

March 18, 2008 – 4:11 pm

Funding agencies occasionally ask for short abstracts of proposed or completed research to help describe the research to policy makers and the public since, after all, our tax dollars are supporting the research. I wrote one of these descriptions this morning and thought I would post it here too. The proposed project is titled as above and describes the main idea of my dissertation. It’s supposed to be accessible to an educated member of the public, so feel free to let me know how I did.

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By burning fossil fuels and using nitrogen fertilizers, humans have doubled the global rate of nitrogen inputs to natural ecosystems. These higher nitrogen inputs contribute to a cascade of environmental problems including air pollution, invasive species, biodiversity loss, acid rain, eutrophication, and global climate change. To aid in understanding and managing these environmental problems, researchers have developed a detailed understanding of the nitrogen cycle based on small-scale plot-based measurements. While forming an important foundation, these small-scale measurements may not be representative of whole landscapes, especially in complex terrain. In this study, the investigators work toward a landscape-scale understanding of nitrogen cycling in an alpine-subalpine ecosystem. The research seeks to locate hotspots (unusually active areas) of nitrogen cycling activity within a heterogeneous 0.89 km2 alpine-subalpine ecosystem within the Niwot Ridge Long Term Ecological Research site in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. It also seeks to understand the relative roles of biotic and abiotic factors in controlling nitrogen cycling rates. To accomplish these goals, the investigators will make measurements of nitrogen cycling rates across a landscape and evaluate the measurements using field-collected and remotely sensed data that describe physical, chemical, and biotic conditions.

This work will contribute to: (1) our basic knowledge by improving our understanding of landscape-level nitrogen cycling; (2) our policy goals by improving our understanding of the effects of anthropogenic nitrogen deposition on mountain landscapes; and (3) our methodological capabilities by developing methods for ecological measurement at larger scales.

  1. 2 Responses to “Vegetation Effects on Nitrogen Cycling Hotspots in an Alpine-Subalpine Ecosystem”

  2. Eutrophi-what?

    By Jaclyn on Mar 19, 2008

  3. darn! Just when you think you have gotten all the jargon. Anyway, if you are really curious–and how could you not be–see here.

    Thanks for the pointer.

    By Anthony on Mar 20, 2008

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