Journal of Ecology and Environment

pISSN 2287-8327 eISSN 2288-1220

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Ecological Observatories and Long-term Ecological Research

  • Review 2023-12-21 JEE 47:26

    Long-term ecological monitoring in South Korea: progress and perspectives

    Jeong Soo Park1* , Seung Jin Joo2 , Jaseok Lee3 , Dongmin Seo3 , Hyun Seok Kim4 , Jihyeon Jeon4 , Chung Weon Yun5 , Jeong Eun Lee5 , Sei-Woong Choi6 and Jae-Young Lee1

    [Abstract] Environmental crises caused by climate change and human-induced disturbances have become urgent challenges to the sustainability of human beings. These issues can be addressed based on a data-driven understanding and forecasting of ecosystem responses to environmental changes. In this study, we introduce a long-term ecological monitoring system in Korean Long-Term Ecological Research (KLTER), and a plan for the Korean Ecological Observatory Network (KEON). KLTER has been conducted since 2004 and has yielded valuable scientific results. However, the KLTER approach has limitations in data integration and coordinated observations. To overcome these limitations, we developed a KEON plan focused on multidisciplinary monitoring of the physiochemical, meteorological, and biological components of ecosystems to deepen process-based understanding of ecosystem functions and detect changes. KEON aims to answer nationwide and long-term ecological questions by using a standardized monitoring approach. We are preparing three types of observatories: two supersites depending on the climate-vegetation zones, three local sites depending on the ecosystem types, and two mobile deployment platforms to act on urgent ecological issues. The main observation topics were species diversity, population dynamics, biogeochemistry (carbon, methane, and water cycles), phenology, and remote sensing. We believe that KEON can address environmental challenges and play an important role in ecological observations through partnerships with international observatories.

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  • [Abstract] The United States (US) National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is a continental-scale observation facility, constructed and operated by Battelle, that collects long-term ecological data to better understand and forecast how US ecosystems are changing. All data and samples are collected using standardized methods at 81 field sites across the US and are freely and openly available through the NEON data portal, application programming interface (API), and the NEON Biorepository. NSF led a decade-long design process with the research community, including numerous workshops to inform the key features of NEON, culminating in a formal final design review with an expert panel in 2009. The NEON construction phase began in 2012 and was completed in May 2019, when the observatory began the full operations phase. Full operations are defined as all 81 NEON sites completely built and fully operational, with data being collected using instrumented and observational methods. The intent of the NSF is for NEON operations to continue over a 30-year period. Each challenge encountered, problem solved, and risk realized on NEON offers up lessons learned for constructing and operating distributed ecological data collection infrastructure and data networks. NEON’s construction phase included offices, labs, towers, aquatic instrumentation, terrestrial sampling plots, permits, development and testing of the instrumentation and associated cyberinfrastructure, and the development of community-supported collection plans. Although colocation of some sites with existing research sites and use of mostly “off the shelf” instrumentation was part of the design, successful completion of the construction phase required the development of new technologies and software for collecting and processing the hundreds of samples and 5.6 billion data records a day produced across NEON. Continued operation of NEON involves reexamining the decisions made in the past and using the input of the scientific community to evolve, upgrade, and improve data collection and resiliency at the field sites. Successes to date include improvements in flexibility and resilience for aquatic infrastructure designs, improved engagement with the scientific community that uses NEON data, and enhanced methods to deal with obsolescence of the instrumentation and infrastructure across the observatory.

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  • Short communication 2023-12-14 JEE 47:21

    The US National Ecological Observatory Network and the Global Biodiversity Framework: national research infrastructure with a global reach

    Katherine M. Thibault1* , Christine M. Laney1 , Kelsey M. Yule2 , Nico M. Franz2 and Paula M. Mabee1

    [Abstract] The US National Science Foundation’s National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is a continental-scale program intended to provide open data, samples, and infrastructure to understand changing ecosystems for a period of 30 years. NEON collects co-located measurements of drivers of environmental change and biological responses, using standardized methods at 81 field sites to systematically sample variability and trends to enable inferences at regional to continental scales. Alongside key atmospheric and environmental variables, NEON measures the biodiversity of many taxa, including microbes, plants, and animals, and collects samples from these organisms for long-term archiving and research use. Here we review the composition and use of NEON resources to date as a whole and specific to biodiversity as an exemplar of the potential of national research infrastructure to contribute to globally relevant outcomes. Since NEON initiated full operations in 2019, NEON has produced, on average, 1.4 M records and over 32 TB of data per year across more than 180 data products, with 85 products that include taxonomic or other organismal information relevant to biodiversity science. NEON has also collected and curated more than 503,000 samples and specimens spanning all taxonomic domains of life, with up to 100,000 more to be added annually. Various metrics of use, including web portal visitation, data download and sample use requests, and scientific publications, reveal substantial interest from the global community in NEON. More than 47,000 unique IP addresses from around the world visit NEON’s web portals each month, requesting on average 1.8 TB of data, and over 200 researchers have engaged in sample use requests from the NEON Biorepository. Through its many global partnerships, particularly with the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, NEON resources have been used in more than 900 scientific publications to date, with many using biodiversity data and samples. These outcomes demonstrate that the data and samples provided by NEON, situated in a broader network of national research infrastructures, are critical to scientists, conservation practitioners, and policy makers. They enable effective approaches to meeting global targets, such as those captured in the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

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  • Review 2023-12-22 JEE 47:27

    The Great Western Woodlands TERN SuperSite: ecosystem monitoring infrastructure and key science learnings

    Suzanne M Prober1* , Georg Wiehl2 , Carl R Gosper2,3 , Leslie Schultz4 , Helen Langley4 and Craig Macfarlane2

    [Abstract] Ecosystem observatories are burgeoning globally in an endeavour to detect national and global scale trends in the state of biodiversity and ecosystems in an era of rapid environmental change. In this paper we highlight the additional importance of regional scale outcomes of such infrastructure, through an introduction to the Great Western Woodlands TERN (Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network) SuperSite, and key findings from three gradient plot networks that are part of this infrastructure. The SuperSite was established in 2012 in the 160,000 km2 Great Western Woodlands region, in a collaboration involving 12 organisations. This region is globally significant for its largely intact, diverse landscapes, including the world’s largest Mediterranean-climate woodlands and highly diverse sandplain shrublands. The dominant woodland eucalypts are fire-sensitive, requiring hundreds of years to regrow after fire. Old-growth woodlands are highly valued by Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, and managing impacts of climate change and the increasing extent of intense fires are key regional management challenges. Like other TERN SuperSites, the Great Western Woodlands TERN SuperSite includes a core eddy-covariance flux tower measuring exchanges of carbon, water and energy between the vegetation and atmosphere, along with additional environmental and biodiversity monitoring around the tower. The broader SuperSite incorporates three gradient plot networks. Two of these represent aridity gradients, in sandplains and woodlands, informing regional climate adaptation and biodiversity management by characterising biodiversity turnover along spatial climate gradients and acting as sentinels for ecosystem change over time. For example, the sandplains transect has demonstrated extremely high spatial turnover rates in plant species, that challenge traditional approaches to biodiversity conservation. The third gradient plot network represents a 400-year fire-age gradient in Eucalyptus salubris woodlands. It has enabled characterisation of post-fire recovery of vegetation, birds and invertebrates over multi-century timeframes, and provided tools that are directly informing management to reduce stand-replacing fires in eucalypt woodlands. By building regional partnerships and applying globally or nationally consistent methodologies to regional scale questions, ecological observatories have the power not only to detect national and global scale trends in biodiversity and ecosystems, but to directly inform environmental decisions that are critical at regional scales.

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  • [Abstract] Growing complexity in ecosystem structure and functions, under impacts of climate and land-use changes, requires interdisciplinary understandings of processes and the whole-system, and accurate estimates of the changing functions. In the last three decades, observation networks for biodiversity, ecosystems, and ecosystem functions under climate change, have been developed by interested scientists, research institutions and universities. In this paper we will review (1) the development and on-going activities of those observation networks, (2) some outcomes from forest carbon cycle studies at our super-site “Takayama site” in Japan, and (3) a few ideas how we connect in-situ and satellite observations as well as fill observation gaps in the Asia-Oceania region. There have been many intensive research and networking efforts to promote investigations for ecosystem change and functions (e.g., Long-Term Ecological Research Network), measurements of greenhouse gas, heat, and water fluxes (flux network), and biodiversity from genetic to ecosystem level (Biodiversity Observation Network). Combining those in-situ field research data with modeling analysis and satellite remote sensing allows the research communities to up-scale spatially from local to global, and temporally from the past to future. These observation networks oftern use different methodologies and target different scientific disciplines. However growing needs for comprehensive observations to understand the response of biodiversity and ecosystem functions to climate and societal changes at local, national, regional, and global scales are providing opportunities and expectations to network these networks. Among the challenges to produce and share integrated knowledge on climate, ecosystem functions and biodiversity, filling scale-gaps in space and time among the phenomena is crucial. To showcase such efforts, interdisciplinary research at ‘Takayama super-site’ was reviewed by focusing on studies on forest carbon cycle and phenology. A key approach to respond to multidisciplinary questions is to integrate in-situ field research, ecosystem modeling, and satellite remote sensing by developing crossscale methodologies at long-term observation field sites called “super-sites”. The research approach at ‘Takayama site’ in Japan showcases this response to the needs of multidisciplinary questions and further development of terrestrial ecosystem research to address environmental change issues from local to national, regional and global scales.

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  • Research 2023-12-18 JEE 47:23

    Long-term drought modifies carbon allocation and abscisic acid levels in five forest tree species

    Umashankar Chandrasekaran1,4 , Kunhyo Kim1 , Siyeon Byeon1 , Woojin Huh1 , Ah Reum Han2 , Young-Sang Lee2 and Hyun Seok Kim1,3,4*

    [Abstract] Background: This study analyzed the drought responses of five forest tree species grown in Korean peninsula, Korean fir Abies koreana (Ak), eastern white pine Pinus strobus (Ps), keyaki Zelkova serrata (Zs), tulip tree Liriodendron tulipifera (Lt), and Japanese elm Ulmus japonica (Uj). Physiological (chlorophyll, root collar diameter [RCD]) and biochemical responses (non-structural carbohydrates, proline, lipid peroxidase and abscisic acid [ABA]) of the plants grown under mild (MD) and severe drought (SD) were compared.Results: In this study, three soil moisture regimes: control (100% precipitation), MD (60% reduction in precipitation) and SD (20% reduction in precipitation) were applied. Soil moisture content showed high water content in control site compared to MD and SD. A decline in RCD was found for Korean fir, keyaki, and tulip plants, with eastern white pine and Japanese elm showing no significant decline to the prolonged drought exposure (both MD and SD). Total chlorophyll showed a significant decline in Korean fir and tulip, with the sugar levels indicating a significant increase in Korean fir and keyaki species under SD compared to control plants. Non-significant decline in sugar level was noted for eastern white pine and Japanese elm. High accumulation of ABA, malondealdehyde and proline was noted in Korean fir, tulip, and keyaki under SD compared to control. Signs of tree mortality was only observed in Korean fir under MD (38%) and SD (43%).Conclusions: The observed findings indicate the drought responses of five tree species. The majority of the morpho-physiological (especially mortality) and biochemical variables assessed in our study indicate superior long-term drought resistance of Ps and Uj compared to the highly sensitive Ak, and moderately sensitive Lt and Zs. The results provided will help species selection for afforestation programs and establishment of sustainable forests, especially of drought-tolerant species, under increased frequency and intensity of spring and summer droughts.

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  • Research 2023-12-26 JEE 47:28

    Growth environment characteristics of the habitat of Epilobium hirsutum L., a class II endangered wildlife species

    Kwang Jin Cho , Hyeong Cheol Lee , Sang Uk Han , Hae Seon Shin and Pyoung Beom Kim*

    [Abstract] Background: As wildlife habitats are being destroyed and growth environments are changing, the survival of animals and plants is under threat. Epilobium hirsutum L., a species that inhabits wetlands, has held legally protected status since 2012. However, no specific measures are currently in place to protect its habitat, leading to a decline in remaining populations as a result of land use change and human activities.Results: The growth environment (including location, climate, land use, soil, and vegetation) of the five habitat sites (Samcheok, Taebaek1, Taebaek2, Cheongsong, Ulleung) of E. hirsutum L. was investigated and analyzed. These habitats were predominantly situated in flat areas with gentle south-facing slopes, at an average altitude of 452.7 m (8–726 m) above sea level in Gangwon-do and Gyeongsangbuk-do. The average annual temperature ranged 11.5°C (9.2°C–12.9°C), whereas the average annual precipitation ranged 1,304.5 mm (1,062.7–1,590.7 mm). The surrounding land use status was mainly characterized by mountainous areas, and human interference, such as agricultural land and roads, was commonly found in proximity to these natural habitats. Soil physicochemical analysis revealed that the soil was predominantly sandy loam with a slightly high sand content. The average pH measured 7.64, indicating an alkaline environment, and electrical conductivity (EC) averaged 0.33 dS/m. Organic matter (OM) content averaged 66.44 g/kg, available phosphoric acid (P2O5) content averaged 115.73 mg/kg, and cation exchange capacity (CEC) averaged 23.43 cmolc/kg. The exchangeable cations ranged 0.09–0.43 cmol+/kg for potassium (K), 10.23–16.21 cmol+/kg for calcium (Ca), 0.67–4.94 cmol+/kg for magnesium (Mg), and 0.05–0.74 cmol+/kg for sodium (Na). The vegetation type was categorized as E. hirsutum community with high numbers of E. hirsutum L., Persicaria thunbergii (Siebold & Zucc.) H. Gross, Phragmites japonica Steud., Humulus japonicus (Siebold & Zucc.), and Bidens frondosa L.. An ecological flora analysis, including the proportion of lianas, naturalized plants, and annual herbaceous plants, revealed that the native habitat of E. hirsutum L. was ecologically unstable.Conclusions: Analysis of the habitat of E. hirsutum L., a class II endangered wildlife species, provided essential data for local conservation and restoration efforts.

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Journal of Ecology and Environment

pISSN 2287-8327 eISSN 2288-1220