A series of papers published this month on ecological changes at 26 global research sites -- including one administered by the University of Colorado Boulder in the high mountains west of the city -- indicates that ecosystems dependent on seasonal snow and ice are the most sensitive to changes in climate.
The six papers appeared in the April issue of the journal BioScience. The papers were tied to data gathered at sites in North America, Puerto Rico, the island of Moorea near Tahiti, and Antarctica, which are known as Long-Term Ecological Research, or LTER, sites and are funded by the National Science Foundation. CU-Boulder's Niwot Ridge site, one of the five original LTER sites designated by NSF in 1980, encompasses several thousand acres of subalpine forest, tundra, talus slopes, glacial lakes and wetlands stretching up to more than 13,000 feet on top of the Continental Divide.
As part of the new reports, LTER scientists in association with NSF have come up with a new evaluation system of the research sites that brings in the "human dimension," said CU-Boulder Professor Mark Williams, the principal investigator on CU's Niwot Ridge LTER site. "In the past we tried to look at pristine ecosystems, but those are essentially gone," said Williams. "So we've come up with an approach that integrates human activities with our ecological research."
One of the six papers, "Long-Term Studies Detect Effects of Disappearing Ice and Snow," was led by Portland State University Professor Andrew Fountain and co-authored by several others, including Williams, a geography professor and a fellow at CU-Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. According to the authors, there are big changes occurring in temperate areas beyond the poles, where warming temperatures have triggered declines in polar bear and penguin populations.
Key measurements at the Niwot Ridge site -- which has climate records going back more than 60 years tha
|Contact: Mark Williams|
University of Colorado at Boulder