Working Group Participation

David S. Schimel, Chairman

Otis B. Brown

William E. Easterling

Diana M. Liverman

James J. McCarthy

Harold A. Mooney

Piers J. Sellers

Herman H. Shugart

Peter Vitousek

Designated Federal Liaison: Robert Harriss

Rapporteur: William Westermeyer


David S. Schimel, Chairman

Large-scale ecosystem studies are a rapidly maturing field of science, which under the impetus of global change research has had major successes over the past decade. Improvements in fundamental understanding of marine and terrestrial ecosystems and hydrology have already led to practical applications in weather and climate modeling, air quality, and improved water resources; forest, fisheries, and rangeland management; and natural hazards responses.

The principal questions in large-scale ecosystem science involve understanding the effects of changing land cover on land- atmosphere exchanges of carbon dioxide (CO2), water, and energy, and consequent effects on climate and the carbon cycle. The synergistic instrument complement of the Earth Observing System (EOS) AM-1 and PM-1 platforms, combined with data from Landsat and other ocean-sensing satellites to document the roles of marine ecosystems in the carbon cycle, will satisfy in large measure the satellite data needs of the ecosystems community and will result in a massive improvement in the quality of remote observations.

Assessment and Future Requirements of the U.S. Global Change Research Program and the Mission to Planet Earth

Overall, the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) has been successful in advancing the science and tools required for space-based assessment of ecosystem change. The ground- and ocean-based components of the program have had varying degrees of success. Elements linked to atmospheric science (biophysics and trace gases) have had the strongest programs. The more ecological (vegetation and land cover) and integrative (ecosystem manipulation experiments) components have been supported on an ad hoc basis. Extension of local understanding from process studies to regional and global scales requires modeling. This work has made major advances but is less well-developed than in situ or remote sensing aspects of the program. Fulfilling the goals of the USGCRP requires enhancement of integrative modeling and close coordination of modeling with ground-, ocean-, and space-based studies.

Areas of Success

Critical Work in Progress That Should Be Continued or Enhanced

Several Areas Requiring Special Emphasis