Lynn Christenson is Co-PI on New NSF Conference Grant
Lynn Christenson, Associate Professor of Biology, received a National Science Foundation award with her collaborators from George Mason University and USDA Forest Service, to support a workshop related to “Forest biodiversity responses to changing climate across the Americas: Synthesis of long-term ecological data.” Funding will bring together ecologists, data managers, and statisticians in a workshop format to harmonize data from long-term research sites in forest ecosystems, including Long-term Ecological Research sites in the U.S. and abroad, U.S. Forest Service experimental forests, and National Park Service biodiversity monitoring sites, in order to assess the long-term effects of climate change on forest communities across the Americas. Results will lead to a strong research network of ecologists focused on understanding the long-term changes in forest ecosystems both at local and continental scales.
Forest communities are changing rapidly due to climate change, but it has been difficult to determine whether those changes are attributable solely to climate or if other changes, such as habitat destruction, are also partially responsible. Many studies follow forest community change over short periods of time, making it difficult to identify drivers of change. Long-term research – spanning decades and collecting data about different species, individuals and environmental conditions at specific locations, such as Long-term Ecological Research sites – provides unique opportunities to uncover both patterns and drivers of change.
The explicitly interdisciplinary nature of the funded workshop will foster linkages and collaborations that will result in alleviating field sampling and statistical barriers for scaling the information from individual long-term ecological research sites to the macrosystem scale. The two-day workshop will harmonize data sets from different locations, as well as spatial and temporal scales, to investigate the effects of climate change on biodiversity in forest ecosystems across the Americas. The resulting synthesis research paper will encompass how forest biodiversity, in locations not affected by habitat destruction, across the Americas has changed over the past ~ 40 years and the role of climate in driving those changes. The data sets generated during the workshop will be made available through the Environmental Data Initiative, including approaches used to harmonize data. This workshop will also provide ongoing professional development for all participants, engaging each in new techniques that will support their own future work as well as creating a new network of collaborators.