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Terrestrial Ecosystem Science

Terrestrial Ecosystem Science Program Strategic Plan (2012)

The goal of TES is to improve the representation of terrestrial ecosystem processes in Earth system models (ESMs), thereby improving the quality of climate model projections and providing the scientific foundation needed to inform DOE’s energy decisions. TES seeks to focus its research on ecosystems that are globally important, climatically sensitive, and comparatively understudied or underrepresented in ESMs.

TES uses a systems approach to understand ecosystems over multiple scales that can be represented in models [e.g., single process models, system models, and Community Earth System Model (CESM)]. This emphasis on the capture of advanced understanding in models has two goals. It seeks to improve the representation of these processes in coupled models, thereby increasing the sophistication of the projections from those models. It also exercises those models and compares the results against observations or other datasets to inform future research directions.

Priorities for the Next Five Years:

  • Understand the role of disturbances in altering ecosystem functions and climate forcing.
  • Gain a mechanistic understanding of the role of subsurface processes (e.g., microbiology, geochemistry, root/rhizosphere, soil processes) in the terrestrial carbon cycle.
  • Support large-scale coupled modeling and process research projects as well as large-scale, long-term ecosystem manipulations.
  • Expand emphasis on Arctic and tropical ecosystems and the role of their carbon stocks in a changing climate.
  • Analyze long-term ecosystem observational records to inform and evaluate models.
  • Encourage exploratory projects to address previously unrecognized or innovative questions.

TES plans to expand investments in biogeochemical cycles (e.g., carbon and nutrients) associated with subsurface ecology, address interfacial systems that have previously been excluded from TES portfolios (e.g., water/land interface and natural/urban interfaces), initiate a new thrust in tropical system ecology, and support novel research that couples regional and global carbon cycle dynamics.

TES seeks to connect its projects closely to other research activities within the DOE Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) Climate and Environmental Sciences Division (CESD) and among the other federal agencies. Specifically, TES interacts with the CESD modeling programs by tying each TES-funded project to a model-justified hypothesis and by requiring that each large project have an explicit modeling component. TES will increase its coordination with the CESD modeling activities by coordinating research solicitations and jointly funding projects: for example, developing an Arctic regional model to support the growing emphasis in federal Arctic research. In addition, TES management will forge strong programmatic coordination with other CESD research areas such as Atmospheric System Research and the DOE Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory. TES management will furthermore establish a collaboration arrangement with the Genomic Science program (within BER's Biological Systems Science Division) to engage the molecular biology community.

For additional information, please refer to CESD's 2012 Strategic Plan.

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