delware environmental institute

NSF: Data-intensive ecology needed to understand what makes the biosphere tick

Have you looked closely at a local pond, meadow or forest--or at nature in your suburb or city--and observed changes in it over time? That's exactly what scientists are trying to do on a larger, regional to continental scale--a macrosystems biology scale. Macrosystems biology might be called "biological sciences writ large."Scientists funded by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) MacroSystems Biology Program are working to better detect, understand and predict the effects of climate and land-use change on organisms and ecosystems at regional to continental scales.

The researchers have published new results in this month's special issue of the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, published by the Ecological Society of America.

The ecologists are asking questions such as: How are regional-scale processes in plant and animal invasions, and in disease transmission, shaped by continent-wide environmental and land-use patterns? How can continent-wide data lead to better forecasts of disease outbreaks? How do invasive species and infectious diseases arrive at new locations, sometimes across great distances?