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DEVELOPING TOOLS FOR EVALUATION OF INTERACTIONS BETWEEN GLOBAL CHANGE STRESSORS AND ECOSYSTEM FUNCTIONING
The overall objective of this task is to develop quantitative relationships for assessing the vulnerability of aquatic ecosystems (freshwater and coastal) and their services to global change. The task will contribute experimental and modeling tools for assessments of the interactions of global climate and UV changes with coral reefs and selected watersheds and estuaries in the U.S. and Brazil These activities are contributing to two APGs in the ecosystems focus area of the Global Change Research Multiyear Plan: the 2008 APG (APG 2) on developing information and tools that managers will use in their decision-making about how to adapt to the effects of global change on aquatic ecosystems; and the 2010 APG (APG 3) on providing information and models that will support development of biocriteria for corals. One major task objective is to assess interactions of global warming and UV exposure that are contributing to the observed coral bleaching and disease. Our lab is working with scientists at the NHEERL Gulf Ecology Lab to characterize UV exposure and effects at several coral reef sites in the Florida Keys. This collaboration will contribute to one ERD APM in 2006 and three joint NERL-NHEERL APMs in the 2008 - 2010 period. Other research is examining the effects of changing climate and UV on microbial activity in waters close to beaches in the U.S. Work is being completed on the interactions of land use and climate changes with the ecological functioning of streams in watersheds of the southeastern U.S. The task also includes two sub-tasks that are funded mainly by funds-in IAGs. One sub-task funded by NASA involves research in central Brazil that is part of the Large Scale Biosphere Atmosphere Experiment (LBA). This work involves a close collaboration between EPA and a group of scientists from the Department of Ecology, University of Brasilia, Brazil. The objectives of this project are to assess the impacts of land use and climatic changes on soil nutrient cycles and microbiota, trace gas exchange and water quality in the Brazilian cerrado. Another sub-task funded by the Office of Naval Research is examining interactions between nitrogen and organic substances in aquatic ecosystems that produce the colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) that controls penetration of solar UV radiation into coastal waters.
Case studies in key selected coral reefs and watersheds will be completed to provide scientific data, concepts and models that describe the responses of the functioning of these ecosystems to global change stressors. The studies will focus on relating global changes to local and regional scale changes in chemical, physical, and biological conditions in these ecosystems. Coral reef studies will determine the interactions of climate change and land-based human activities with exposure of coral reefs in the Florida Keys to UV radiation and unusually warm temperatures. Other research will examine how changes in land use and climate affect the biological, chemical, and physical functions of the Brazilian cerrado. The Brazilian studies are part of Phase 2 of the Large-Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA); a multi-investigator study that is planned for 2003 - 2006 in Brazil. The task also will assess the influence of nitrogen concentration and composition on formation and stability of colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) in coastal ecosystems. CDOM has important effects on a number of biological and chemical processes, including primary production, UV exposure of living organisms, and carbon turnover rates.