Submitted to: Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/14/2008
Publication Date: 6/10/2008
Citation: Marshall, J.D., Blair, J.M., Peters, D.C., Okin, G., Rango, A., Williams, M. 2008. Predicting and understanding ecosystem responses to climate change at continental scales. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 6(5):273-280. Interpretive Summary: Climate change is increasingly recognized as a critical driver of ecosystem dynamics across a range of spatial and temporal scales. Predictions about the consequences of a changing climate to ecosystem dynamics are complicated by connectivity in resources that interact with climate change. This paper described ecological responses to four drivers associated with climate change: drought, warming, snowpack disappearance, and altered fire regimes. We propose a continental network of sites to examine these interacting drivers and responses across scales.
Technical Abstract: Climate is changing around the world across a range of scales from local to global, but ecological consequences remain difficult to understand and predict. Such predictions are complicated by changes in connectivity of resources, in particular water, nutrients, and propagules, that influence the way ecological responses scale from local to regional and from regional to continental. This paper describes ecological responses at regional to continental scales associated with four key meso-scale drivers that influence the ecosystems of the continental interior: drought, warming, snowpack disappearance, and altered fire regime. These drivers will affect, for example, atmospheric smoke, dust, and reactive nitrogen concentrations; stream discharge, nitrate concentrations, and sediment loads; and the vector-borne spread of invasive species and infectious diseases. A key component of the continental network should be simulation models that describe transport vectors, particularly atmospheric, hydrologic, and human transport processes, that connect different spatial scales.