The effects of most human stressors on natural resources are not direct cause-effect relationships, but are chronic, subtle, and synergistic. To quantify the relative effects of such factors requires a conceptual approach that can statistically detect and separate incipient changes from human and non-human factors, quantify their magnitude, and project probable long-term consequences. The most effective data-gathering approach employs long-term, ecosystem-level inventorying, monitoring, and research. Using this approach, FORT scientists are investigating ecosystem processes such as terrestrial biogeochemical cycling of key nutrients and energy (carbon), and changes in aquatic community composition.
Effects of Prescribed Burning in National Park Ecosystems
Major issues facing federal lands today involve environmental disturbances and land-use changes. To fully understand the ecological effects, Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture (USDA) land management bureaus are engaged in long-term research and monitoring for which FORT is providing analytical support. One component of this task involves analyzing sediment and surface water chemistry samples in the cooperative USGS-USDA Forest Service Bioanalysis Laboratory for a Sequoia National Park study on the long-term effects of fire at the watershed ecosystem scale. A second component is to research methodologies for detecting change in source areas of dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen for boreal streams and lakes, as well as for arctic tundra ponds, in response to disturbance. This cooperative NPS-USGS research uses the information context provided by long-term NPS and USGS watershed ecosystem monitoring and inventory, and builds upon current ecosystem research at the study site. The third component provides routine laboratory analyses of surface water chemistry, soils, and plant tissue for about 40 sites within the National Forest System and National Park Service.