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The FY 2004 Request for the Environmental Biology (DEB) Subactivity is $104.77 million, an increase of $5.0 million, or 5.0 percent, from the FY 2003 Request of $99.77 million.

Environmental Biology Funding
(Dollars in Millions)

FY 2002
FY 2003
FY 2004
Enviromental Biology Research Projects
Total, Environmental Biology

The Environmental Biology Subactivity supports fundamental research on the origins, functions, relationships, and evolutionary history of populations, species, and higher taxa, and on the interactions within and dynamics of biological communities and ecosystems. Studies can be conducted in any natural or human-impacted biotic system of the world, and can address the species of or genealogical relationships among plants, animals, and microbes; the flux of energy and materials in ecosystems; and the principles or rules by which species function in communities and evolve through time.

In FY 2004, core activities in the DEB Subactivity are increased by $5.0 million to enhance support for multidimensional, multidisciplinary, integrative and data-driven research focused on understanding ecological and evolutionary patterns and processes. Such research seeks to achieve the overarching goal of 21st Century Biology: to understand life at both its most fundamental level and in all its complexity. Exciting progress and integration of advances in genomics, informatics, computer science, sensors, GIS and satellite imagery, mathematics, physics, chemistry, and engineering offer the promise of realizing this ambitious goal as DEB supported researchers collaborate in multidisciplinary teams.

Highlights of areas supported:

Multidisciplinary research on complex systems. Recent advances in computation, mathematics and modeling techniques support studies of the functioning of complex ecosystems. In the world's first large-scale rainfall manipulation experiment, researchers studying the Amazon are using empirical and modeling approaches over a five-year period to establish the level of drought stress that this rainforest can tolerate before large trees begin to die. These results are invaluable for understanding climate change since rainforests contribute substantially to the carbon dioxide dynamics of the atmosphere and worldwide they are experiencing stronger droughts as El Niño episodes become more frequent and severe.

Living Networks research involves fundamental analytical and synthetic studies on interactions between and among organisms, humans and their abiotic settings. During the summer of 2002, western North America experienced one of the largest forest fires in recorded history. The Biscuit Fire burned nearly one half million acres of mostly pristine habitats in Oregon and California. One project is using burned and unburned sites left by this fire to address questions in community ecology. At replicated sites, researchers will exclude ants, a major seed dispersal agent, and test for effects on plant community composition and growth. This work will significantly extend our knowledge of ant-plant community interactions and re-establishment after catastrophic fire.

Population-level genome-enabled research incorporates new methods and tools from genomics, computer science and mathematics to study the properties and processes that lead to variation within and between populations, both in the present and through evolutionary time. Fragmentation of populations, reproductive isolation, and population declines jeopardize the survival of many species. A representative project is examining the evolutionary dynamics of gene flow and its landscape scale conservation and restoration consequences using California Valley oak (Quercus lobata), a threatened species experiencing habitat loss from residential and agricultural development. The project will develop novel experimental approaches to generate data that can be integrated into spatially explicit simulation models of landscape changes, which will be useful for future species management and policy decisions.

Recent genome-enabled science and information technologies also underpin DEB support for exploration of the diversity and history of life on earth. Madagascar is home to some of the most rare and endangered organisms on Earth. A DEB supported study of the evolutionary history of Malagasy vertebrates using genomic tools will help us understand the consequences of environmental change for vertebrate speciation and human impact on genetic diversity of forest-dependent species. This research can inform conservation policy for one of earth's most ecologically diverse and threatened environments.