Description: Uncertainty about the magnitude of global change effects on terrestrial ecosystems and consequent feedbacks to the atmosphere impedes sound policy planning at regional, national, and global scales. A strategy to reduce these uncertainties must include a substantial increase in funding for large-scale ecosystem experiments and a careful prioritization of research efforts. Prioritization criteria should be based on the magnitude of potential changes in environmental properties of concern to society, including productivity; biodiversity; the storage and cycling of carbon, water, and nutrients; and sensitivity of specific ecosystems to environmental change. A research strategy is proposed that builds on existing knowledge of ecosystem responses to global change by (1) expanding the spatial and temporal scale of experimental ecosystem manipulations to include processes known to occur at large scales and over long time periods; (2) quantifying poorly understood linkages among processes through the use of experiments that manipulate multiple interacting environmental factors over a broader range of relevant conditions than did past experiments; and (3) prioritizing ecosystems for major experimental manipulations on the basis of potential positive and negative impacts on ecosystem properties and processes of intrinsic and/or utilitarian value to humans and on feedbacks of terrestrial ecosystems to the atmosphere.
Date: September 1, 1998
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