Sweeping across the desert Southwest in the summer months, the monsoon not only brings rains and relief from the scorching heat to the people who live here, it also acts as a major driver of ecological processes.
To better understand the highly complex processes by which this unique weather phenomenon influences ecosystems and natural cycles, the National Science Foundation, or NSF, has awarded almost $3 million to fund a groundbreaking research endeavor aimed at unraveling the profound interactions between weather, soil and plants linked to the monsoon phenomenon.
The grant is one of only two research proposals considered "outstanding" across all categories evaluated by the NSF from a pool of 50 competing applications.
"We are constructing a highly coupled computer modeling system between summer weather and ecology that has never been constructed before for this part of the world," said Russell Monson, principal investigator of the grant. Monson recently joined the University of Arizona's School of Natural Resources and the Environment and the Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research.
"Traditionally, ecologists have tended to focus on individual ecosystems, small study sites and limited populations of organisms," he added. "What we're doing under this NSF grant is broad, regional-scale ecology. It's a new way of practicing, and thinking about, ecology. The monsoon seasonal weather phenomenon organizes and synchronizes virtually all the ecological systems in the southwestern United States, from low-elevation deserts to high-elevation spruce-fir forests."
The North American Monsoon System was selected "because it is not only a principal ecological driver at a large regional scale, but also susceptible to perturbation due to climate change," Monson explained. "Fluctuations in sea surface temperatures due to climate cycles, especially those that influence near-coastal waters, such as in the Sea of Cortez, exert a strong control
|Contact: Daniel Stolte|
University of Arizona