George Perkins Marsh Institute

Current Research Projects

The Marsh Institute draws on expertise from the social, natural, and technical sciences to conduct multidisciplinary, integrated research programs, both nationally and internationally. Its studies typically represent the interactions in various ways of humans and the environment. Many diverse themes exist.

The following are some of the Institute's current projects, listed alphabetically by principal investigator:



Conserving Small Natural Features with Large Ecosystem Functions in Urbanizing Landscapes

Principal Investigator at Clark University: Dana Bauer
Collaborators: Kathleen Bell, Aram Calhoun, Malcolm Hunter, Cynthia Loftin, and Michael Kinnison (University of Maine), and Erik Nelson (Bowdoin College)

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

Many landscapes have small natural features whose importance for biodiversity or ecosystem services belies their small size. Management challenges for these areas include: uncertainties over their location and contributions to ecosystem services; tensions between private property rights and public rights to environmental protection; and the spatial mismatch between the broad, regional accrual of beneficial services and the concentrated, local costs of protection. Conservation strategies are undermined by limited scientific knowledge, especially of mechanisms that link ecological and social processes. In the forested landscapes of the Northeast, small, seasonally inundated wetlands (vernal pools) emerge as an excellent model system to study the dynamics of small natural feature management. This project brings together a team of ecologists and economists from multiple sub-disciplines and institutions to: (1) explore the biophysical and socioeconomic components of one type of small natural feature, vernal pools, as a coupled-systems model for management of these features; (2) improve strategies for conserving vernal pools and other small natural features with large significance; and (3) share results with local and state-level stakeholders and policy makers.

Navigating the Trade-off between Pest Management and Pollinator Conservation

Principal Investigator: Dana Bauer

Funding Agency: US Department of Agriculture


Originally introduced in the mid-1990s, neonicotinoid insecticides ('neonics') experienced an exponential rise in use on farmland over the past two decades and are now the most widely used insecticides in the world. Unfortunately, the attributes that make neonics versatile and powerful pest management tools also make non-targeted insects vulnerable to their effects. Specifically, neonics have been implicated as a factor in sudden die-offs of managed honeybee hives and long term declines in native bee populations. Thus, farmers growing pollinator-dependent crops, which represents a large fraction of all fruits and vegetables, are confronted with a potential trade-off between two competing aspects of crop production: effective pest suppression and successful pollination. The overarching goal of this $3.6 million, 5-year project is to develop holistic pest-pollinator joint management regimes that are effective, profitable, and sustainable. Specifically, this project will: identify insecticide management strategies that simultaneously optimize pest suppression while minimizing non-target exposure to pollinators; determine the consequences of neonic exposure for honey and wild bee health; and assess the ecological and socioeconomic trade-offs among pollinators, pests, crop yield, and farm profitability resulting from alternative pest management regimes. This interdisciplinary research partnership involves collaborators from the George Perkins Marsh Institute at Clark University, Purdue University, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, and the University of New Hampshire. Marsh Institute assistant director Dana Bauer is leading the economic analysis of grower preferences, profitability, and decision-making.

Assessment and Scoping of Infrastructure and Extractive Industries in Relation to Deforestation

Principal Investigators: Anthony Bebbington, Denise Humphreys Bebbington, and John Rogan

Funding Agency: Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA)

Large-scale infrastructure and extractive industry projects have attracted significant private and public investment, with direct and indirect synergies between them. However, while the effect of roads on deforestation has been widely studied, the extent to which extractive industry affects forest cover and forest-dependent livelihoods is less clear. Although the actual footprint of operations is modest in absolute terms, the footprint of pollutant-based externalities can be far larger. In addition, the drivers of these different processes are multiple and complex. With a focus on three regions (Brazil, Mexico/Central America, and Indonesia), this project will: (i) describe the recent geography of infrastructural and extractive industry investments; (ii) assess the current state of knowledge regarding the impacts of these investments on forest cover and quality, and the rights, organizations and livelihoods of forest dependent communities; (iii) examine the work different organizations are already doing on the relationships among infrastructure, extractives and forests including what their successes and failures have been with different types of strategy; and (iv) identify feasible strategies for CLUA.

Tracking the Politics of Natural Resources and Inclusive Development Over Time

Principal Investigator: Anthony Bebbington

Funding Agency: Effective States and Inclusive Development Research Centre, Manchester, UK

The exploitation and governance of natural resources (taken here to refer to mining, oil and gas extraction) offers a particularly insightful window onto the role of political settlements and development ideologies in shaping the prospects for inclusive development, and the significance of how our core domains of accumulation, redistribution and recognition relate to each other. It is also a domain in which transnational private and public actors have special weight. ESID Natural Resources Project One will track the historical experience of countries with long-established histories of natural resource extraction in both Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. Clark University will provide Research Assistantship support to University of Manchester researchers, providing background research and briefing documents on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in Peru, Bolivia, Ghana and Zambia, and on changes in the international context of extractive industries since the 1960s with a particular focus on changes in IFI policies and practices, and changes in NGO advocacy related to extractive industries.

Women's Leadership, Agency and Voice: Promoting Gender Justice within Community-Based Tenure System

Principal Investigators: Cynthia Caron and Denise Humphreys Bebbington

Funding Agency: Rights and Resources Institute

This project explores how women gain access to and maintain control over land and forest resources in traditional community-based tenure systems and how they participate in natural resource governance based on their multiple subject positions (i.e., as wives, co-wives, daughters, widows) in the family and community. The project asks a common set of questions across continents and contexts where different types of resources (forest, land, hydrocarbons and wildlife) must be governed together, in order to understand the complexities involving multiple resources and actors with competing interests, often enmeshed in contexts of social conflict and serious asymmetries of power. Case studies of Bolivia and Zambia focus on understanding: 1) how women experience authority and address asymmetries of power; 2) the processes through which they do so; and 3) the specific role of women's leadership and networking in promoting rights of access to land and forests.

Toward a Learning Agenda: Generating Knowledge and Evidence for Climate Information Services (CIS) Design and Implementation

Principal Investigators: Edward Carr, Sheila Onzere and Robert Goble

Funding Agency: USAID/Mercy Corps

Climate information services (CIS) involve the production and use of climate knowledge in climate-smart decisions, planning, and policy-making. Easily accessible, timely, and relevant scientific information can help society cope with current climate variability and limit the economic and social damage caused by climate-related disturbances. The goal of this project is to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of future investments in CIS delivery, and ultimately increase the number of users of CIS who will benefit through livelihood practices. Through literature reviews, analyses of existing CIS systems, and a pilot evaluation program using the Humanitarian Response and Development Lab (HURDL) Livelihoods as Intimate Government (LIG) approach, this project will (1) increase understanding of, and access to, knowledge on the effectiveness of current CIS programming, (2) expand the current understanding of how CIS systems function in the context of broader social, cultural, and institutional systems within which they operate, (3) increase evidence on the degree of effectiveness of CIS on livelihoods, and (4) escalate dissemination and uptake of new knowledge.

Building Resiliency and Adaption to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED)

Principal Investigators: Edward Carr and Sheila Onzere

Funding Agency: UK DFID/International Relief and Development

Using the Humanitarian Response and Development Lab (HURDL) Livelihoods as Intimate Government (LIG) approach, this project will build the resiliency of 264,000 people in Mali, targeting those most vulnerable to the risks of climate disasters, by helping communities identify, reinforce, and scale-up their unique adaptive capacities. Through community-led disaster risk management, BRACED will strengthen social cohesion, climate-adapted livelihoods, and natural resource management. Project interventions will be developed around a community planning process that includes: risk management; climate smart agriculture technologies; collective management of productive assets and savings; support for creation of micro-enterprises by women; strengthening integration of local climate change adaptation priorities by the local government; sustainable community management of natural resources; and promotion of energy-efficient household technologies.

Linking Gender Based Violence, Gendered Forest Governance, and Forest Outcomes

Principal Investigators: Edward Carr, Sheila Onzere, Denise Bebbington, and Cynthia Caron

Funding Agency: World Resources Institute

This project will explore the connection between different levels of women's participation in forest governance and forest outcomes. Gender-based violence emerges as a means by which households and communities discipline women and therefore shape their participation in forest governance, producing different levels of participation. A small number (2-3) case study communities in will be selected based on differences in the level of women's participation in forest governance. Using remotely sensed forest cover data and Humanitarian Response Development Lab (HURDL) Livelihoods as Intimate Government (LIG) ethnographic approaches, an understanding of the connection, if any, between these differing degrees of women's participation and differences in forest outcomes will be developed. Results from this work will support calls for future work on changing/improving women's participation in forest governance.

Mali Climate Change Adaption Activity

Principal Investigators: Edward Carr and Sheila Onzere

Funding Agency: USAID/Chemonics

Facing an estimated 30 percent drop in rainfall since the 1980s, while 80 percent of its population earns their livelihood from farming, Mali remains particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The Mali Climate Change Adaptation Activity (MCCAA) aims to share weather information more effectively and create community-driven systems that can better respond to climate variability. The program also increases the adoption of locally appropriate solutions to climate variability and change by communities and individual households. This project provides technical assistance in the development and implementation of activities, which will: strengthen the capacity of stakeholders' access and use of climate data and decision-support tools; assess the effectiveness and promote effective adaptive strategies; and contribute to reducing socioeconomic barriers to adopting adaptive strategies.

Developing Remote Sensing Capabilities for Meter-scale Sea Ice Properties

Principal Investigator: Karen Frey

Funding Agency: US Office of Naval Research

An increasing array of higher resolution commercial satellite assets has created the opportunity to directly track meter-scale sea ice properties over large areas. These high resolution satellite assets provide panchromatic optical, multispectral optical, and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) capabilities at high enough resolution (0.5-2.0m) to directly resolve features like melt ponds, floe boundaries, and individual ridges. These features have not been resolved by most earlier space-based remote sensing assets but are of substantial geophysical importance. Collecting imagery of the sea ice using these assets and applying this imagery to track these meter-scale processes at carefully chosen, regionally-representative sites will provide an important set of data products for modeling and process studies, and permit a newly comprehensive assessment of the processes driving ice loss in the Arctic. Throughout the program we will focus on disseminating both data and techniques developed to ensure the broadest possible impact of the work. The work will directly address a particular focus of the 2013 ONR core program solicitation by contributing to "the development of sea ice and ocean products derived from remotely sensed data."

The Polaris Project II: Amplifying the Impact

Principal Investigator: Karen Frey

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

The Polaris Project II seeks to amplify the impact of Polaris I (now in its third and final year) through its extension, expansion, and enhancement. The three overarching objectives of Polaris II are to 1) train the next generation of arctic researchers, 2) advance scientific understanding of the Arctic, and 3) expand public awareness of the feedbacks between the Arctic and the global climate system. These objectives will be accomplished through a multi-faceted effort that includes a summer field course/research experience in the Siberian Arctic, a series of on-campus arctic-focused courses, and a wide range of outreach activities. While undergraduate students remain the primary focus of Polaris II, participation in the annual field course will be expanded to include a K-12 teacher, graduate student, postdoctoral researcher, and visiting faculty member each year. Outreach activities will target K-12 students and teachers, undergraduate students and faculty, and a diverse public audience.

The unifying scientific theme of the Polaris Project is the transport and transformation of carbon and nutrients as they move with water from terrestrial uplands to the Arctic Ocean. Research conducted by the interdisciplinary Polaris Project team of faculty and students will make fundamental contributions to the scientific understanding of this topic, a central issue in arctic system science. While continued scientific advances are essential for arctic system understanding, prediction, and protection, tackling the climate change challenge is also a matter of education. Polaris II offers a unique experience in undergraduate research that will inspire and prepare a new generation of arctic researchers. Further, it will convey the importance of the Arctic to the public and to policy-makers, providing them with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions.

Karen Frey Watch an interview with assistant professor Karen Frey on The Polaris Project.

Collaborative Research: Toward a Circumarctic Lakes Observation Network (CALON)

Co-Principal Investigator: Karen Frey

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

The scientific goals and methods that address the intellectual merits of the research are: (1) Expand on existing lake monitoring sites in northern Alaska by developing a network of regionally representative lakes along environmental gradients from which we will collect baseline data to assess current physical, chemical, and biological lake characteristics. This will allow the project scientists to make spatial and temporal comparisons to determine the impact of warmer temperatures, changing cloud cover and precipitation patterns, permafrost degradation, and direct human impacts on lakes; (2) Implement a multiscale (hierarchical) lake instrumentation scheme such that basic data is collected from 51 lakes, while a subset of lakes are more intensively instrumented; (3) Provide regional scaling and extrapolation of key metrics through calibration and validation of satellite imagery with ground measurements; and (4) Develop and implement standardized protocols to enable inter-site comparison and to prepare for expansion towards a pan-Arctic network. The education/outreach goals that address the broader impacts of the research outlined above are: (1) Incorporate indigenous observations of lake physical and biological characteristics and changes. Innovative interactive methods of sharing information will be developed and made available through native and local organizations. Scientific and technical training will be provided to Iñupiat students for monitoring lake and drinking water quality; (2) Develop a demonstration monitoring network based on the Delay Tolerant Network (DTN) architecture and link this network to research centers, indigenous communities, and other power- and connectivity-challenged environments; (3) Develop and refine data management, visualization, and archiving activities with A-CADIS; and (4) Provide an introduction to Arctic science for several beginning investigators.

Collaborative Research: The Distributed Biological Observatory (DBO)-A Change Detection Array in the Pacific Arctic Region (Phase 1)

Principal Investigator: Karen Frey

Collaborative Principal Investigators: Robert Pickart (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) and Jacqueline Grebmeier (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences)

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

Several regionally critical marine sites in the Pacific Arctic sector that have very high biomass and are focused foraging points for apex predators, have been reoccupied during multiple international cruises. The data documenting the importance of these ecosystem "hotspots" provide a growing marine time-series from the northern Bering Sea to Barrow Canyon at the boundary of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Results from these studies show spatial changes in carbon production and export to the sediments as indicated by infaunal community composition and biomass, shifts in sediment grain size on a S-to-N latitudinal gradient, and range extensions for lower trophic levels and further northward migration of higher trophic organisms, such as gray whales. There is also direct evidence of negative impacts on ice dependent species, such as walruses and polar bears. To more systematically track the broad biological response to sea ice retreat and associated environmental change, an international consortium of scientists are developing a coordinated Distributed Biological Observatory (DBO) that includes selected biological measurements at multiple trophic levels. These measurements are being made simultaneously with hydrographic surveys and satellite observations. The DBO currently focuses on five regional biological "hotspot" locations along a latitudinal gradient. The spatially explicit DBO network is being organized through the Pacific Arctic Group (PAG), a consensus-driven, international collaboration sanctioned by the International Arctic Science Committee. This project will be a U.S. contribution to the DBO effort in the Pacific Sector, and the scientific needs to be met are consistent with research needs identified in the US National Ocean Policy planning effort, and the NOAA strategic plan. The implemented project will serve as a contribution to the US-led Arctic Observing Network and will improve international cooperative efforts for evaluating ecosystem impacts from high latitude climate change. Identifying and collecting key prey-predator biological data in the context of high priority physical and chemical measurements will allow for integration of these data into scientific community analyses and ecosystem modeling efforts. Outreach to local communities and media will ensure that both those immediately impacted and the broader public will be made aware of changes going on in this sensitive area of the Arctic.

Collaborative Research: The Distributed Biological Observatory (DBO)-A Change Detection Array in the Pacific Arctic Region (Phase 2)

Principal Investigator: Karen Frey

Collaborative Investigators: Jacqueline Grebmeier (University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences), Kathleen Stafford (University of Washington), and Robert Pickart (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

Within the Pacific Arctic region, the northern Bering and Chukchi Seas are among the most productive marine ecosystems.Recent shifts in seasonal sea ice cover are having profound consequences for seasonal phytoplankton production as well affecting intimately linked upper trophic level species, including those harvested locally for subsistence. Many organisms are changing their distribution, migration and foraging patterns. However, key uncertainties remain as to how the marine ecosystem will respond to seasonal shifts in the timing of spring sea ice retreat and/or delays in fall sea ice formation. The internationally-coordinated Distributed Biological Observatory network provides a change detection array that allows for consistent sampling and monitoring of productivity hotspots by all participants. The overarching goal of this continuing project is to use coordinated south-to-north observations as a "space for time" strategy in which a suite of physical, biochemical, and biological measurements evaluate ecosystem change both seasonally and inter-annually over the spatially diverse latitudinal gradient. Specific questions for Phase 2 include: (1) Will an earlier sea ice retreat and changes in seawater properties influence the composition of pelagic and benthic prey species that can cascade to upper trophic organisms? (2) How will plankton and the benthos change on the Pacific Arctic continental shelves with reduced sea ice persistence over a south-to-north latitudinal basis, both seasonally and temporally? (3) What is the impact of seasonal changes in hydrography (salinity, temperature, and nutrients) on the lateral and vertical distribution of primary production and export production to the benthos?

Collaborative Research: Investigating the Influence of Sea-surface Variability on Ice Sheet Mass Balance and Outlet Glacier Behavior using Records from Disko Bugt, West Greenland

Principal Investigator: Karen Frey

Collaborative Principal Investigator: Matthew Evans (Wheaton College)

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

This project will further understanding of ocean-ice-atmosphere interaction around the Jakobshavn Isbrae and Disko Bay region of west Greenland, with a particular focus on the role of sea surface temperature and sea ice variability in modulating past outlet glacier behavior and ice sheet/cap mass balance (snowfall and melt) over the past two centuries. The PIs will reconstruct past environmental conditions in the Disko and Baffin Bay region based on new glaciochemical and stratigraphic records from three 100-m deep ice cores, several firn cores, and geophysical studies from three sites surrounding Disko Bay. The results will complement recent glaciological studies of regional ice dynamic behavior, as well as recent paleoceanographic and glacial geologic reconstructions of conditions from this area and era. Das and Frey will each supervise a full-time PhD student, and Evans will supervise undergraduate research assistants and senior theses. A high school science teacher will also participate in the field work and interact with students at his school in Massachusetts as well as from the ice.

Observing and Understanding the Impacts of a Thinning and Retreating Sea Ice Cover on Light Propagation, Primary Productivity, and Biogeochemistry in the Pacific Arctic Region

Principal Investigator: Karen Frey

Funding Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

The Arctic sea ice cover is undergoing tremendous changes. There has been a pronounced decrease in the summer sea ice extent, an overall thinning of the ice, a lengthening of the summer melt season, and a fundamental shift to a primarily seasonal sea ice cover. Some of the greatest changes in the sea ice cover have been observed in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, where there has been substantial loss of summer ice in recent decades. These changes in the physical system are profoundly affecting biological and biogeochemical systems as well. Results from the NASA-sponsored Impacts of Climate on the Eco-Systems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment (ICESCAPE) program demonstrated how physical changes in the sea ice impact primary productivity and biogeochemistry by altering sunlight availability. Massive phytoplankton blooms in the water column were found directly beneath a melting, yet fully consolidated, sea ice cover in the central Chukchi Sea in July of 2010 and 2011. Unexpectedly high levels of transmitted sunlight through the ice cover into nutrient rich waters below enabled these blooms to occur. Furthermore, subsequent laboratory experiments have demonstrated that this available sunlight is also sufficient for significant photodegradation of chromophoric dissolved organic matter (CDOM) in the water column beneath the ice, which has important implications for the absorption of sunlight and heat balance of the upper ocean. The overarching goal of this proposed work is to determine the impact of physical changes in the sea ice cover of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas on biological productivity and biogeochemical cycling in waters beneath and associated with this ice cover. We propose an interdisciplinary and multi-methodological approach to address this goal, with integration of field observations, satellite remote sensing, process studies, and large-scale modeling. Our geographic domain is focused in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas of the Pacific Arctic region, where replacement of multiyear sea ice with seasonal sea ice has taken place over recent decades. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of this work, we plan to integrate this research with several ongoing projects including leveraging various observations from previous and ongoing field programs. Furthermore, we plan a strong educational component to this research, which includes the training of two Ph.D. students, multiple undergraduate students, and comprehensive student involvement in research subcomponents at all involved institutions (Clark, Dartmouth, CRREL, University of Washington, and NASA GSFC).

Forecasting Armed Civil Conflict under Alternative Climate Change and Socioeconomic Scenarios

Principal Investigator: Elisabeth Gilmore

Funding Agency: US Department of Defense

The impact of climate change on conflict is complex as the pathways are likely indirect and conditional. Changing weather patterns and other physical processes associated with climate change can amplify common drivers of armed conflict, such as economic underperformance, food insecurity, and human displacement, but these effects will vary because the immediate and long-term impacts of climatic shocks depend on the affected societies' resilience and adaptive capacity. This project investigates the joint role of socioeconomic and climate change for forecasts of future armed conflicts. Currently, migration as an indicator of social stress, which may then lead to social unrest and violence in both receiving and originating communities, is being evaluated by eliciting experts' mental maps of the potential pathways.

Coastal SEES Collaborative Research: A Cross-site Comparison of Salt Marsh Persistence in Response to Sea-level Rise and Feedbacks from Social Adaptations

Principal Investigator: Robert J. Johnston

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

Nearly half of the world's population lives within 100 km of the coast, the area ranked as the most vulnerable to climate-driven sea-level rise (SLR). Projected rates of accelerated SLR are expected to cause massive changes that would transform both the ecological and social dynamics of low-lying coastal areas. It is thus essential to improve understanding of the sustainability of coupled coastal human-environment systems in the face of SLR. Salt marshes are intertidal habitats that provide a buffer for coastal communities to SLR and are also valued for many other ecosystem services, including wildlife habitat, nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, aesthetics, and tourism. They are highly dynamic systems that have kept pace with changes in sea level over millennia. However, projected rates of SLR and increased human modification of coastal watersheds and shorelines may push marshes past a tipping point beyond which they are lost. Developing realistic scenarios of marsh vulnerability demands an integrated approach to understanding the feedbacks between the biophysical and social factors that influence the persistence of marshes and their supporting functions. This project will examine the comparative vulnerability of salt marshes to SLR in three U.S. Atlantic coastal sites that vary with respect to sediment supply, tidal range and human impacts. The research team will also address how feedbacks from potential adaptations influence marsh vulnerability, associated economic benefits and costs, and practical management decisions. Additional broader impacts include incorporating research results into curriculum used at local schools, an on-line cross-disciplinary graduate course, and on-going teacher-training programs, as well as training one postdoctoral researcher, four graduate students, and eight undergraduate researchers. This project is supported as part of the National Science Foundation's Coastal Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability program - Coastal SEES.

This project leverages the long-term data, experiments and modeling tools at three Atlantic Coast Long-Term Ecological Research sites (in MA, VA, GA), and addresses the broad interdisciplinary question "How will feedbacks between marsh response to SLR and human adaptation responses to potential marsh loss affect the overall sustainability of the combined socio-ecological systems?" The goals of the project are to understand: 1) how marsh vulnerability to current and projected SLR, with and without adaptation actions, compares across biogeographic provinces and a range of biophysical and social drivers; and 2) which marsh protection actions local stakeholder groups favor, and the broader sustainability and economic value implications of feasible adaptation options. The biophysical research uses historical trends, "point" and spatial models to determine threshold and long-term responses of marshes to SLR. Social responses to marsh vulnerability are integrated with biophysical models through future scenario planning with stakeholders, economic valuation of marsh adaptation options, and focus groups that place the combined project results within a concrete policy planning context to assess how marshes fit into the larger view of coastal socio-ecological sustainability. This integrated approach at multiple sites along gradients of both environmental and human drivers will allow for general conclusions to be made about human-natural system interactions and sustainability that can be broadly applicable to other coastal systems.

Coastal Hazards and Northeast Housing Values: Comparative Implications for Climate Change Adaptation and Community Resilience

Principal Investigator: Robert J. Johnston

Funding Agency: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Northeast Sea Grant consortium

Chief among the information needed to enhance coastal hazard adaptation are assessments of economic outcomes and policy implications. This project will combine coastal hazards, property value and other data with economic models to answer three questions central to Northeast coastal adaptation: (1) How do property values and tax bases in Northeast communities respond to coastal hazards, and do these responses create incentives to build/rebuild in risk-prone areas or undertake private adaptations? (2) How do property values and tax bases respond to adaptation actions undertaken by states, municipalities or homeowners/developers? (3) What do results imply for future scenarios of property values and tax bases in Northeast communities, under alternative SLR and hazard projections? The project will develop and apply rigorous social science methods that, when integrated with natural science data and projections on coastal vulnerability, will enable stakeholders and policymakers to evaluate property value and tax base impacts of climate change adaptation across Northeast states and communities. The result will be heretofore unavailable information quantifying the economic consequences of coastal vulnerability and adaptation. The project will be implemented in coordination with partners and communities involved in Northeast coastal adaptation including the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR), Great Bay NERR, Waquoit Bay NERR, and Nature Conservancy in Connecticut. Beneficiaries of the project include coastal adaptation work groups and government organizations; target communities; project partners seeking to better inform coastal adaptation; and policymakers/stakeholders. Project results will enhance the ability of communities to choose adaptations with intended and desirable economic consequences. First, results will enable policymakers and the public to understand the effects of current hazard vulnerability on property values and the tax base, replacing unsupported claims with reliable empirical evidence. Second, the project will provide information that policymakers can use to forecast property value and tax base implications of alternative adaptation measures. Third, future scenarios mapping will provide information to support community dialogue and visioning. The project builds upon extensive prior work of the investigators coordinating natural/social science data to forecast economic outcomes and using results in partnership with stakeholders and policymakers to inform management.

Estimation of Spatially Explicit Water Quality Benefits throughout River Systems: Development of Next Generation Stated Preference Methods

Principal Investigator: Robert J. Johnston

Funding Agency: US Environmental Protection Agency

Stated Preference (SP) methods are survey-based methods to calculate the economic value of environmental improvements, and provide the only means to measure total use and nonuse willingness to pay (WTP) for water quality change. Yet water quality has multiple characteristics that pose challenges for WTP estimation: water quality can vary spatially and temporally, the role of small streams is often under-appreciated, and water quality benefits are often realized through direct and indirect effects on other ecosystem services valued by different user and nonuser groups who may use and interpret indicators differently. Current methods are often stretched to their limits when faced with the heterogeneous and temporally/spatially explicit ways that aquatic ecosystem changes affect different user and nonuser groups. This large, multi-year interdisciplinary project will develop and evaluate a next generation approach to SP valuation, Free-form Choice Experiments (FCEs). FCEs restructure the way that WTP is elicited and estimated, hybridizing traditional survey methods with online labor pool survey techniques and Bayesian econometrics. The approach is developed to estimate use and nonuse WTP for linked water quality and ecosystem service improvements across river networks, but easily extends to other applications. The project intends to revolutionize the methods used by government agencies and others to calculate the benefit of water quality improvements to society. The project is led by Marsh Institute director Robert Johnston, with collaborators from the University of New Hampshire, Virginia Tech, and Abt Associates.

Exploring the Trends, the Science, and the Options of Buffer Management in the Great Bay Watershed

Principal Investigators: Robert J. Johnston and Dana Marie Bauer

Funding Agency: National Estuarine Research Reserve System/The Nature Conservancy

The US EPA recently designated New Hampshire’s Great Bay Estuary (GBE) as an impaired waterbody, which exhibits classic symptoms of nitrogen pollution. Sixty-eight percent of this nitrogen load originates from nonpoint sources including stormwater runoff, fertilizers, and septic systems—all of which could be mitigated through the coordinated use of buffer zones in the GBE region. Managing buffer zones wisely is also a recognized way of protecting (or avoiding) infrastructure in areas currently, or projected to be, impacted by sea level rise, coastal surge, and riverine flooding. This project is a partnership between a large number of organizations seeking better understanding of the natural and social dimensions of riparian buffer management. The goal is to enhance stakeholder capacity to make informed decisions related to the protection and restoration of buffers around GBE. In support of this goal, the project will conduct an Integrated Assessment focused on the following policy question: What are the potential regulatory and non-regulatory options for addressing the challenges to effectively protecting and restoring buffer zones around New Hampshire's Great Bay? The project will explore the ecosystem functions, services, and associated values that arise from protecting buffers. To the extent possible, the team will quantify the benefits of retaining these services and map where they are likely to provide the greatest value. They will couple this watershed scale analysis with an assessment of the regulatory and social context of Great Bay communities. Marsh Institute researchers are leading the economic component of this interdisciplinary effort, applying cutting-edge methods in meta-analysis to predict the value of riparian buffer enhancements in the GBE region, based on a systematic review and analysis of prior studies in the ecosystem services literature. The project draws on Johnston and Bauer's internationally recognized expertise in economic valuation and benefit transfer.

Linking Coastal Adaption Portfolios to Salt Marsh Resilience and Ecosystem Service Values

Principal Investigators: Robert J. Johnston and Dana Marie Bauer

Funding Agency: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

This project is an international and interdisciplinary collaboration led by Marsh Institute researchers, with collaborators at the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences and Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Tidal marshes are one of the most common natural features used for coastal adaptation (protecting the coast from flooding and storms), and are frequently promoted for their ability to support coastal resilience and valued ecosystem services. However, marsh resilience depends on the complex interplay of natural dynamics and human actions. The preservation of marsh transgression zones is among the most critical of these actions; transgression zones are undeveloped coastal areas that allow marshes to migrate inland as sea levels rise, hence promoting marsh resilience. Yet the effect of these zones depends on uncertain sea level rise (SLR) and natural dynamics, which determine how, when and where marshes migrate. These uncertainties and dynamics imply that diversified portfolios of adaptation actions (e.g., preserving different types of transgression zones in different areas) are best able to ensure the resilience of marsh areas and resulting social values. This project will develop tools that address a central coastal adaptation question: Considering the influence of SLR and other uncertain factors on tidal marsh resilience, how can information on biophysical dynamics and economic benefits and costs be coordinated to identify optimal, diversified portfolios of adaptation actions that best sustain marsh resilience and ecosystem service values? The project will develop and illustrate the methods and resulting insights using data from multiple Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites.

Multi-scale Coupled Natural Human System Dynamics of Nitrogen in Residential Landscapes

Principal Investigator: Robert J. Johnston

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

This $1.6 million project is a multi-year, interdisciplinary partnership between institutions including the George Perkins Marsh Institute at Clark University, the City University of New York (CUNY), Cornell University, the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station, the University of North Carolina, Florida Atlantic University, the University of Rhode Island, and others. Urban, suburban and exurban ecosystems are increasing in area across the U.S. There is significant concern and uncertainty about the environmental performance of these ecosystems, especially the extent to which they export nutrients to receiving waters, and how this net export is related to human behavior. Challenges are especially evident in the management of residential landscapes dominated by grass lawns. This project will apply social science theories related to institutional and behavioral change along with formal economic models of household behavior to address questions about human decision-making related to management of residential ecosystems at multiple scales (parcel, neighborhood, watershed, and municipality). These social investigations will be formally predicated on explicit results from biophysical studies of nitrogen and water fluxes. The project will address questions about how flows of information between biophysical and social science domains, either alone or in combination with other policy changes, can promote or constrain the adoption and effectiveness of measures to improve the environmental performance of urban ecosystems at these multiple scales. Results will help public and private decision-makers better understand how to manage the often negative environmental impacts of lawns.

Targeted Conservation Contracts To Enhance Agricultural Best Management Practices: Incorporating Heterogeneity and Predicting Additionality

Principal Investigator: Robert J. Johnston

Funding Agency: US Department of Agriculture

This project is a coordinated effort involving researchers from Clark University and the University of Delaware, and funded by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2016-67023-21757 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The U.S. spends billions on state and federal policies encouraging farmers to implement best management practices (BMPs) through conservation contracts. BMP programs seek agricultural objectives, such as increasing crop prices by reducing production, and environmental objectives, such as providing wildlife habitat. A vibrant area of social science research explains BMP adoption, largely as a function of monetary payments and farmer characteristics. Yet existing research provides little insight on the design of more flexible BMP contracts that capitalize on farmer differences and desires to enhance cost-efficiency and agri-environmental outcomes. The goal of this project is to improve the cost-effectiveness of policies used to promote best management practices on farms in the United States. The research will inform the development of targeted, more cost effective conservation contracts that can be used by governmental agencies to incentivize agricultural best management practices. It will produce information to enable the design of flexible conservation contracts that can be used to optimize environmental benefits, farmer adoption, or acres enrolled. These innovative contracts will help U.S. agriculture remain competitive while balancing production and sustainable agri-environmental benefits.

The targeted conservation contracts will be derived from a specially designed survey of farmer preferences with respect to one best management practice-cover crops-as a case study. A series of surveys and actual planting decisions will be combined to derive a model of farmer participation and preferences. There are six research objectives. First, the researchers will develop revealed/stated preference models of cover crop program flexibility/adoption to provide insight into relationships between program design and farmers' decision-making. Second, the researchers will design and implement innovative preference models to estimate tradeoffs among conservation contract attributes for different types of farmers across multiple regions in two states. Third, the researchers will characterize current cover crop patterns by coordinating cover crop adoption data from government programs, observational data (transect survey), and an adoption survey. Fourth, the researchers will validate (using collected transect survey and linked cover crop adoption data) and apply the revealed/stated preference model to forecast cover crop adoption and land cover change under innovative contract designs. Fifth, the researchers will compare contract fiscal efficiency under various conditions and developing an additionality analysis to control for enrolled land planted in cover crop regardless of contracts. "Additionality" occurs when policy incentivizes adoption that farmers would not otherwise provide. Sixth, the researchers will design targeted cover crop contracts that account for farmers' tradeoffs, nonadditionality, and fiscal inefficiency to inform more optimal and cost-effective conservation contract designs. This project directly responds to USDA goals by focusing research at the nexus of agricultural land use, management, and conservation, and providing methodological advances to inform incentive-based polices and improve agricultural profitability.

Collaborative Research: The Scale of Governance in the Regulation of Land: Community Land Trusts in the Twin Cities

Principal Investigators: Deborah G. Martin, Joseph Pierce, and James DeFilippis

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

This research examines relationships between individuals and institutions, including multiple levels of government, with regard to land and property through an exploration of Community Land Trusts ("CLTs") in the Twin Cities region of Minnesota. CLTs are private, not-for-profit organizations which own residential land in trust for a community defined by membership and geographical boundaries at varying scales, from the sub-neighborhood to the urban region. They offer long-term renewable leases for the use of that land to members, who in turn own the homes built on that land. Using voluntary, contractual mechanisms that are compatible with existing legal frameworks, CLTs disrupt the often taken-for-granted direct relationship between individual landowners (whether corporations or citizens), their properties, and regulatory agencies / governments. CLTs offer an institutional structure that allows individuals to "opt out" of certain parts of the land market--reconfiguring the homeowner relationship to property and governments--in exchange for a long-term commitment to participate in an organization which owns and thus possesses many controlling rights to the use of the land around and under individual homes. By examining the legal and social dimensions of CLT-governed common property in a major metropolitan area, the research highlights how the meanings of community and property can be negotiated through public and private institutions at multiple scales. Through a combination of archival research, semi-structured interviews and roving interviews, this research explores the following question: What are the relationships between the geographic scale of a Community Land Trust, its engagements in regional land governance (including interactions with other non-profit and government agencies), and its geographical identity?

LTER: PIE: Dynamics of Coastal Ecosystems in a Region of Rapid Climate Change, Sea-level Rise, and Human Impacts

Principal Investigator: Robert Gilmore Pontius Jr.

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

Over the last 30 years, surface seawater temperatures in the adjacent Gulf of Maine have risen at three times the global average, rates of sea-level rise have accelerated, and precipitation has increased. Coupled with these changes in climate and sea level are substantial changes within the rapidly urbanizing watersheds that influence water, sediment, and nutrient delivery to the marsh and estuary. The Plum Island Ecosystems (PIE) Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site is developing a predictive understanding of the response of a linked watershed-marsh-estuarine system in northeastern Massachusetts to rapid environmental change. This large-scale, interdisciplinary project will test how internal feedbacks within the marsh-estuary ecosystem influence the response of geomorphology, biogeochemistry, and food webs to three major drivers: climate, sea-level rise, and human alteration of the watershed. It will address three critical questions. How will the geomorphic configuration of the marsh and estuary be altered by changes in the watershed, sea-level rise, climate change, and feedbacks internal to the coastal system? How will changing climate, watershed inputs, and marsh geomorphology interact to alter marsh and estuarine primary production, organic matter storage, and nutrient cycling? How will key consumer dynamics and estuarine food webs be reshaped by changing environmental drivers, marsh-estuarine geomorphology and biogeochemistry? Cross-system comparisons with other LTERs along gradients of temperature, species composition, tidal range, and sediment supply will further our understanding of long-term change in coastal ecosystems.

Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI) Project East

Principal Investigators: Laurie Ross

Funding Agency: City of Worcester

Worcester, Massachusetts -- the second largest city in New England with a population of 183,000-exhibits many established risk factors for youth and gang violence. The goal of the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI) Project East is to reduce gang violence and prevent gang initiation among high-risk youth ages 12-17 in Worcester's Eastside neighborhoods. By focusing on Worcester's Eastside neighborhoods and on youth ages 12-17, this project addresses a major geographical, age, and programmatic gap identified in Worcester's Youth Violence Prevention Initiative -- which was the result of a comprehensive community gang assessment and citywide strategic planning process. SSYI Project East will bolster Worcester's Comprehensive Gang Model to direct outreach workers and case management to up to 50 youth who live on the city's Eastside, attend Worcester East Middle School, North High School or one of the city's alternative school programs, and are on the Worcester Public Schools Gang Protocol List. Clark University will be the project's research partner, developing and managing a data tracking system, as well as sharing best-practice research with the rest of the project team.

Greater Kilby-Gardner-Hammond Neighborhood Gang Violence Reduction Initiative

Principal Investigators: Laurie Ross, Ellen Foley, and Yelena Ogneva-Himmelberger

Funding Agency: U.S. Department of Justice (Byrne JAG Program)/Main South Community Development Corporation

The Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Justice Assistance Grant (BCJI - JAG) program was created to develop and implement place-based, community-oriented strategies to transform distressed communities into communities of opportunity. The Greater Kilby-Gardner-Hammond neighborhood of Worcester is perceived to be "gang territory" by area youth. Over 40% of the population is under the age of 24, unemployment is high, and median income is low. Only 13.7% of the population has obtained a college degree and 34.6% have not obtained a high school diploma. The public school system is also met with challenges including language access barriers and low reading levels. In collaboration with the Main South CDC, the Worcester Boys and Girls Club, the Worcester Police Department (WPD), and the City of Worcester, this project will develop, implement, monitor, and evaluate a plan, based on the evidence-based Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Comprehensive Gang Model, to reduce gang-related criminal activity while addressing the needs of disengaged youth in the Greater Kilby-Gardner-Hammond neighborhood.

Shannon Community Safety Initiative: Worcester Local Action Research Partner

Principal Investigator: Laurie Ross

Funding Agency: Massachusetts Executive of Public Safety and Security

The Senator Charles E. Shannon Community Safety Initiative (Shannon CSI) supports regional and multi-disciplinary approaches to combat gang violence through coordinated programs for prevention and intervention. These multi-disciplinary approaches include, but are not limited to, law enforcement initiatives such as anti-gang task forces and targeting of enforcement resources through the use of crime mapping; focused prosecution efforts; programs aimed at successful reintegration of released inmates and youth from juvenile detention; and programs that provide youth with supervised out-of-school activities. Working in partnership with the City of Worcester, the Worcester Police Department, the Boys and Girls Club of Worcester, Straight Ahead Ministries, the Worcester Community Action Council, and the Worcester Youth Center, Ross and Foley serve as the Shannon CSI Local Action Research Partner for Worcester, providing strategic research support and program evaluation of city-wide gang violence prevention and intervention.

Shannon Community Safety Initiative: Massachusetts Statewide Research Partner

Principal Investigators: Laurie Ross

Funding Agency: Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security

The Charles E. Shannon Community Safety Initiative is a state-wide program designed to reduce youth and gang violence in cities across Massachusetts. The initiative supports regional and multidisciplinary approaches through the implementation of the Comprehensive Gang Model, an evidence-based and intentional integration of prevention, intervention, suppression, organizational change, and community mobilization strategies. This multidisciplinary approach includes law enforcement initiatives such as hot spot analysis and anti-gang task forces, coordinated reentry programs for young adults and juvenile offenders, and education and employment programs for high-risk youth. As the Statewide Youth Violence Research Partner, investigators Ross and Foley: 1) identify emerging best practices in the literature related to youth and gang violence; 2) collaborate with individual Shannon CSI sites; 3) analyze information collected through quarterly reports and produce statewide summary reports and a comprehensive report on the impact of Shannon CSI; and 4) provide training and technical assistance on the Comprehensive Gang Model.

Collaborative Research: Alternative Ecological Futures for the American Residential Macrocosm

Principal Investigator: Rinku Roy Chowdhury

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

An apparent, but untested, result of changes to the urban landscape is the homogenization of cities, such that neighborhoods in very different parts of the country increasingly exhibit similar patterns in their road systems, residential lots, commercial sites, and aquatic areas; that is, cities have now become more similar to each other than to the native ecosystems that they replaced. This research examines the ecological homogenization of the American Residential Macrosystem (ARM) and specifically investigates factors that contribute to stability and/or changes in the ARM. The aim is to determine how factors that effect change (e.g., shifts in human demographics, desires for biodiversity and water conservation, regulations that govern water use and quality, and dispersal of organisms) will interact with factors that contribute to stability such as social norms, property values, neighborhood and city covenants and laws, and commercial interests. The project will determine ecological implications of alternative futures of the ARM for the assembly of ecological communities, ecosystem function, and responses to environmental change and disturbance at parcel (ecosystem), landscape (city), regional (Metropolitan Statistical Area), and continental scales. Five types of residential parcels as well as embedded semi-natural interstitial ecosystems will be studied, across six U.S. cities (Boston, Baltimore, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Phoenix, and Los Angeles).

FCE III -- Coastal Oligotrophic Ecosystems Research

Principal Investigator: Rinku Roy Chowdhury

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

The Florida Coastal Everglades (FCE) Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site seeks to understand how global climate change and shifting approaches to water management affects the Florida Everglades and the 6 million residents in the region. By conducting extended-duration research in freshwater wetlands, mangrove swamps, and shallow seagrass communities of Florida Bay, the FCE LTER employs long-term datasets to determine how the amount and quality of fresh water flowing through the Everglades influences ecological processes in the coastal zone. Coupled socio-economic studies reveal how decisions about Everglades restoration influence -- and are influenced by -- the human history of dependence on local natural resources. This project recognizes the importance of understanding the role of water in the sociopolitical environment, and addresses how and why land and water use in South Florida has changed. Specifically, this project identifies the sources of sociopolitical conflicts over freshwater distribution and evaluates how solutions that improve inflows to the Everglades mediate the effects of sea level rise on freshwater sustainability in the coastal zone.

Urban Resilience to Extreme Weather Related Events

Principal Investigator: Rinku Roy Chowdhury

Funding Agency: National Science Foundation

Urban areas are vulnerable to extreme weather related events given their location, high concentration of people, and increasingly complex and interdependent infrastructure. Recent disasters demonstrate not just failures in built infrastructure, they highlight the inadequacy of institutions, resources, and information systems to prepare for and respond to events of this magnitude. This interdisciplinary project will develop a diverse suite of new methods and tools to assess how infrastructure can be more resilient, provide ecosystem services, improve social well-being, and exploit new technologies in ways that benefit all segments of urban populations. The primary research question is how do social, ecological, and technological systems (SETS) interact to generate vulnerability or resilience to extreme weather related events, and how can urban SETS dynamics be guided along more resilient, equitable, and sustainable trajectories? Specifically, this project will analyze the spatial structure and land cover components of vulnerability to climate-driven extreme events in Miami and comparatively across other urban sites, and entails particular attention to spatially differentiated patterns of urban exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity in the face of extreme events such as hurricanes, floods and droughts. This work will enable characterizing how communities in Miami and the other chosen urban sites exhibit differential vulnerability to extreme events, and their resilience or adaptive capacity in the face of such events.

Surface Biogenic Carbon Flux Priors: Providing Priors, Analyzing Error Structures, and Reducing Parameter Uncertainties

Principal Investigator: Christopher A. Williams

Funding Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Better estimates of greenhouse gas sources and sinks are needed for climate management and for prediction of future climate. Atmospheric Carbon and Transport -- America conducts airborne campaigns across three regions in the eastern United States to study the transport and fluxes of atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane, and to measure how weather systems transport these greenhouse gases with the overall objective of enabling more accurate and precise estimates of the sources and sinks of these gases. Biogenic surface carbon flux prior estimates are a necessary component of the regional atmospheric inversion framework utilizing aircraft data. These surface flux priors should represent realistic spatial and temporal errors in the biological fluxes emerging from parameter uncertainty, be unbiased, and encompass the truth. This project delivers surface carbon flux priors to support regional inversions centered on aircraft campaigns and analyzes prior and posterior surface carbon fluxes to identify a reduced set of model parameters that are most consistent with the aircraft data.

Tools to Bridge the Gap between Static CMS Maps, Models, and Stakeholders

Principal Investigator: Christopher A. Williams

Funding Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

From its inception, the NASA Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) has largely been organized around two activities: observation-based mapping of biomass and model-based estimation of carbon flux. Although there has been significant progress in both biomass and flux activities at various scales, several challenges hinder the use of biomass products to inform flux modeling. Challenges include biomass maps are often static or local scale, uncertainties are difficult to render and incorporate into models, and map products are not designed with the needs and format standards of modelers in mind. To help address these challenges, this project will develop new tools to facilitate broader use of CMS data products by (a) converting static maps of aboveground biomass and land cover to dynamic yearly maps, and (b) collaborating with modelers and stakeholders to build a convenient interface that will facilitate their use of the dynamic map results. This will add significant value to the CMS program by thoughtfully and deliberately connecting the results from various disparate projects to each other and to modeling and accounting frameworks that provide a more integrated view of carbon dynamics.

Translating Forest Change to Carbon Emissions/Removals Linking Disturbance Products, Biomass Maps, and Carbon Cycle Modeling in a Comprehensive Carbon Monitoring Framework

Principal Investigator: Christopher A. Williams (Clark University)
Co-Principal Investigators: G. James Collatz (NASA GSFC, Biospheric Sciences); Jeffrey G. Masek (NASA GSFC, Biospheric Sciences); Gretchen Moisen (US Forest Service)

Funding Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Forests are a globally-significant store of carbon, but this store is vulnerable to release from disturbance processes such as harvesting or fires that oxidize forest carbon, releasing it to the atmosphere as CO2 and contributing to global warming. At the same time, intact forests serve as a major offset to rising CO2 concentrations as forest growth becomes stimulated by rising CO2 levels, enabling forests to absorb about one third of annual carbon emissions from fossil fuels and land use change. The balance of these processes is constantly changing and it varies widely from region to region. This project aims to quantify how much carbon is being released and taken up by each process over the entire United States, providing a new method for US reporting to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Historical forest clearing is responsible for about one third of all human-caused carbon emissions to date, with the rest coming from the combustion of fossil fuels. Avoiding further losses and protecting carbon uptake are both critical components of mitigating climate change. National and international policies aimed at protecting forest carbon storage rely heavily on high quality, accurate reporting (called "Tier 3") that earns the greatest financial value of carbon credits and hence incentivizes forest conservation and protection. But methods for Tier 3 Measuring, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) are still in development.

This project will offer a new approach to Tier 3 MRV, involving a combination of direct remote sensing, ground based inventorying, and computer modeling methods to track forest carbon emissions and removals at a 1 km scale across the US. Few existing approaches seek to combine all of these sources of information. Another major advantage of our approach is its specificity about the underlying processes driving carbon flows. This enables the framework to be used as a decision support tool to help test the relative benefits of various land management strategies and to examine how today's carbon sources and sinks will trend over time.

Quantification of the regional impact of terrestrial processes on the carbon cycle using atmospheric inversions

Project Principal Investigator at Clark University Christopher A. Williams
Principal Investigator: Ken Davis (Penn State Atmospheric Sciences)
Co-Principal Investigators: G. James Collatz (NASA GSFC, Biospheric Sciences); Tristram West (Pacific Northwest National Lab); Stephen Ogle (Colorado State University Natural Resource Ecology Lab); Andrew Schuh (Colorado State University Atmospheric Sciences); Natasha Miles (PSU); Scott Richardson (PSU); Thomas Lauvaux (PSU); Martha Butler (PSU)

Funding Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

This project is examining the carbon balance of the southeastern US by adding new precision measurements of atmospheric CO2 concentrations in a regional network to inform advanced modeling that can infer sinks and sources of carbon dioxide from measured concentrations in the atmosphere. This top-down approach will be combined with measurements and modeling of carbon fluxes from the ground up to examine consistency and explore possible biases in the various data sources.

Forests of the southeastern US are important for the North American carbon balance because the region is highly productive, is vigorously managed with intensive timber harvest, is sensitive to climate change, and is periodically inundated by severe storms that kill trees. The region also contains pockets of intensive agricultural lands along with a range of urban and suburban hotspots of emissions. By combining a range of measurement and modeling approaches, this project will improve quantification of these carbon sources and sinks.