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Terrestrial Ecosystem Science

Research Approach

The Terrestrial Ecosystem Science (TES) program develops unique, foundational scientific insights about the terrestrial biosphere’s role in the global cycling of carbon, nutrients, and water.

Why the Program's Research is Important

A significant fraction of the CO2 released to the atmosphere during energy production is taken up by terrestrial ecosystems. This “sink” for anthropogenic carbon represents an important buffer, offsetting the greenhouse gas effects of CO2 emissions. However, the effects of related processes such as nutrient, water, and energy cycling, in addition to climate variability and change on that uptake remain a mystery. Uncertainties about how terrestrial ecosystems will function in a changing climate hamper efforts to determine long-term impacts and stability of carbon in the biosphere. This limitation makes resolving the role of the terrestrial biosphere in the global carbon cycle a high priority.

Future climatic changes will almost certainly affect critically sensitive ecosystems and their inherently important ecosystem processes. Understanding the foundational properties of these ecosystem processes is essential if we are to improve our ability to predictively model terrestrial ecosystems and potential forcing feedbacks. TES research will continue to navigate the forefront of interactions between terrestrial ecosystems and a changing climate.

Research Themes

Summaries of Funded Projects

Funded Projects by Type

The TES program supports mission-oriented research performed by


Now Featuring

The Surprising Life Inside Frozen Soil

Two TES-suppored scienctists, Colleen Iversen (ORNL) and Matt Wallenstein (Colorado State University), are featured on NPR's Science Friday. Visit Science Friday to listen. [Jan 12, 2018]

Research Highlights

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Now Featuring

Research Priorities to Incorporate Terrestrial-Aquatic Interfaces in Earth System Models Workshop [06/17]

2017 in Review

Expanding the Use of Plant Trait Observations and Ecological Theory in Earth System Models [05/16]

Building a Cyberinfrastructure for Environmental System Science: Modeling Frameworks, Data Management, and Scientific Workflows [10/15]

Building Virtual Ecosystems: Computational Challenges for Mechanistic Modeling of Terrestrial Environments [2/15]



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