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Media Advisory 14-001

NSF symposium addresses the long view of environmental change: Ecological scenarios

Scientists ask: If this happened, what then, in ecosystems around the world

NSF's Harvard Forest LTER site in winter

Winter at NSF's Harvard Forest LTER site, where future scenarios studies are taking place.

January 28, 2014

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Like all of us, scientists think in scenarios: If this happened, what then?

Results of their efforts to understand and anticipate global environmental changes through the process of scenario thinking and ecological forecasting are the topic of the annual National Science Foundation (NSF) Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Mini-Symposium.

The forum will be held on Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, at NSF headquarters in Arlington, Va.

Presentations will address social and ecological change; ecosystem vulnerability, resilience and adaptability; and why long-term data are essential to understanding and predicting future responses to natural and human-caused environmental changes.

Results from scenario-thinking and simulations will be presented for ecosystems from forests to lakes to the open ocean.

For example, the Harvard Forest LTER site scenarios project integrates stakeholder engagement with land use and ecosystem modeling.  LTER scientists are working to understand the reasons for and consequences of land use change in New England forests and how decisions are made for the forests' future.

Harvard Forest is one of 25 such NSF LTER sites around the world in ecosystems from deserts to grasslands, coral reefs to Arctic tundra.

Another talk at the mini-symposium will describe scenarios for long-term change in a southern Wisconsin watershed, part of the North Temperate Lakes LTER site. The scenarios will be presented as narratives, art and trajectories and maps of environmental factors.

Central Arizona-Phoenix LTER site scientists use "participatory modeling" in their research. The models engage researchers and decision-makers as partners in addressing city planning needs. Results of these efforts will be presented at the forum. 

Building on long-term research at the California Current Ecosystem LTER site, models are being developed to better understand changes in fish and other marine species that live in or migrate along the California Current. Findings will be reported at the mini-symposium.

Other presentations will address research at the Hubbard Brook LTER site on the recovery of acid lakes in the Northeast, and climate change in northern Alaska at the Arctic LTER site.

Who:NSF LTER Network Scientists
WhatNSF LTER Annual Mini-Symposium
When:  Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, 8:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Where:National Science Foundation,
Stafford II, Room 555
4201 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22230

Detailed Agenda: Scenarios and Ecosystem Forecasting Mini-Symposium

8:30 a.m.Welcome and Opening Comments
Saran Twombly (NSF Division of Environmental Biology), Scott Collins (University of  New Mexico and Sevilleta LTER site) and David Foster (Harvard University and Harvard Forest LTER site)
8:45 a.m.A Long View: Integrating Stories, Art, and Biophysical Models to Explore Long-term Change in the Yahara Watershed, Wisconsin
Stephen Carpenter (University of Wisconsin and North Temperate Lakes LTER site)
9:15 a.m.Sustainable Futures Scenarios
David Iwaniec (Arizona State University and Central Arizona-Phoenix LTER site)
9:45 a.m.Land Use Scenarios, Ecosystem Services, and Links to Society: A New England Case Study
Kathy Lambert (Harvard University and Harvard Forest LTER site)
10:15 a.m.Break
10:30 a.m.Recovery of Acid Lakes in the Adirondack Region of New York:  Model Projections under Different Scenarios of Emissions Controls
Charles Driscoll (Syracuse University and Hubbard Brook Forest LTER site)
11:00 a.m.Fire and Ice: Climate Change and Changing Disturbance Regimes in Northern Alaska
Gaius Shaver (Marine Biological Laboratory and Arctic LTER site)
11:30 a.m.

Ocean Ecosystems: Forecasting Responses to Climate Forcing
Emanuele DiLorenzo (Georgia Institute of Technology and California Current Ecosystem LTER site) 


Media Contacts
Cheryl Dybas, NSF, (703) 292-7734, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2021 budget of $8.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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