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Award Abstract #1264031

Collaborative Research: Geomorphic Control of the Lowland Tropical Forest Nitrogen Cycle

Division Of Environmental Biology
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Initial Amendment Date: June 12, 2013
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Latest Amendment Date: June 12, 2013
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Award Number: 1264031
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Award Instrument: Standard Grant
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Program Manager: Henry L. Gholz
DEB Division Of Environmental Biology
BIO Direct For Biological Sciences
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Start Date: June 15, 2013
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End Date: May 31, 2017 (Estimated)
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Awarded Amount to Date: $271,507.00
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Investigator(s): Cory Cleveland cory.cleveland@umontana.edu (Principal Investigator)
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Sponsor: University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812-0001 (406)243-6670
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Program Reference Code(s): 1181, 9169, EGCH
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Program Element Code(s): 1181


Tropical forests are one of Earth?s most important and threatened biomes. They house a large fraction of the planet?s biodiversity, and they exchange more carbon and energy with the atmosphere each year than any other major terrestrial ecosystem type. This carbon and energy exchange is strongly regulated by the nature and strength of nutrient limitation, typically due to shortages of nitrogen, phosphorus or a combination of both elements. Tropical forests also contain enormous heterogeneity at every scale in the factors that control key aspects of nitrogen and phosphorus cycling, rendering large-scale predictions of nutrient limitation very difficult. This work will target a largely unexplored but potentially important driver of the lowland tropical forest nitrogen cycle: The role of geomorphology. The investigators will combine techniques from ecosystem ecology, biogeochemistry, geomorphology and remote sensing to assess variations in both nitrogen and phosphorus cycling across a regional scale, with a focus on how changes in landform topography and evolution affect nutrient limitation. The project also includes a first-of-its-kind partnership that combines on-the-ground techniques in biogeochemistry with the use and interpretation of airborne remote sensing data derived from a platform that includes both laser and optical sensors. The ultimate goal of the research is to produce better predictive models of tropical ecosystem function.

The project results will contribute to an improved ability to predict how one of Earth?s most critical but least-understood biomes may change in the future, thus aiding a variety of management and conservation goals. This project will also help extend a long record of outreach and public communication by the PI's. It will include a new partnership with the University of Colorado Center for Environmental Journalism (CEJ) and its Scripps Environmental Fellowship Program, where a Scripps Fellow (a visiting professional journalist) will be ?embedded? with the project. The CEJ team will also include a Masters student in journalism. The CEJ will provide access to multiple communication platforms to enhance this partnership; these include an award-winning video podcast (CU Science Update), and The Boulder Stand, a student-run multi-media magazine. A suite of communication strategies, ranging from traditional magazine-style articles, to video podcasts, to live blogging and the use of social media, will be assessed via formal surveys of classes at each participating institution, as well as of members of the Aldo Leopold Leadership and Google Science Communication networks. Finally, the AToMS remote sensing system used in this project led directly to those to be used in the new NEON Airborne Observing Platforms (AOP), and the work done in this project will help inform NEON goals of integrating AOP data with a suite of ground- and modeling-based approaches to resolving ecological dynamics at continental scales.


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Cleveland, C.C., P. Taylor, K.D. Chadwick, K. Dahlin, C.E. Doughty, Y. Malhi, W.K. Smith, B.W. Sullivan, W.R. Wieder and A.R. Townsend. "A comparison of plot-based, satellite and Earth system model estimates of tropical NPP," Global Biogeochemical Cycles, v.29, 2015, p. doi:10.10. 

Weintraub, S., S. Porder, C. Cleveland, A. Townsend. "Topography controls soil nitrogen availability in a lowland tropical forest," Ecology, 2015.

Taylor P, G Asner, K Dahlin, C Anderson, D Knapp, R Martin, J Mascaro, R Chazdon, R Cole, W Wanek, F Hofhansl, E Malavassi, B Vilchez-Alvarado, A Townsend... "Landscape-scale controls on aboveground forest carbon stocks on the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica," PLoS ONE, 2015.


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