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Landscapes on the Edge: New Horizons for Research on Earth’s Surface CHAPTER FOUR Mechanisms for Developing Initiatives and Sustaining Growth in Earth Surface Processes This report has identified nine grand research challenges and four high-priority research initiatives in a rapidly evolving field—Earth surface processes—that is poised to take a vital, international position in predictive, quantitative Earth and environmental sciences. To realize the full promise of the field through development of the four research initiatives, the nation’s research structure for Earth surface processes faces challenges to build intellectual and technological infrastructure in three main areas: (1) data collection and distribution, (2) instrument technology, and (3) interdisciplinary collaboration and community building. This chapter suggests mechanisms that could support development of the initiatives as well as sustained growth in the field of Earth surface processes. Some of the mechanisms could be enacted through existing means and as a complement to current efforts by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and other federal agencies to support this field. The first section of the chapter provides a brief review of the mechanisms already in existence at NSF that can support research in Earth surface processes. The next section elaborates on actions and targeted mechanisms for data collection and distribution, technology development, and community building that can accelerate growth in the field. The last section outlines specific ways through which the four research initiatives can be developed, emphasizing the intellectual collaborations outlined in Chapter 3 and the potential means to overcome the challenges of establishing those collaborations. 4.1 FEDERAL RESEARCH FRAMEWORK NSF, particularly through the Directorate for Geosciences (GEO) and its three Divisions of Atmospheric, Earth, and Ocean Sciences, is a critical source of funding for basic research in all of Earth science. Through the Division of Earth Sciences (EAR), NSF has supported research on a range of fundamental topics in Earth surface science with application to natural resources, geohazards, geoscience-based engineering, and stewardship of
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Landscapes on the Edge: New Horizons for Research on Earth’s Surface the environment among others. EAR currently consists of two sections on Surface Earth Processes (SEP) and Deep Earth Processes (DEP), as well as other programs and initiatives that include Education Programs, Special Programs, Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs), and Paleo-Perspectives on Climate Change.1 The SEP section, with its programs of Geobiology and Low-Temperature Geochemistry; Geomorphology and Land Use Dynamics; Hydrologic Sciences; Sedimentary Geology and Paleobiology; and Education currently provides the primary support in the nation for research relevant to Earth surface processes, although Earth surface process-related research is only one portion of the total research portfolio that SEP and its programmatic disciplines are tasked to address. Importantly, Earth surface processes is a rapidly progressing, integrative research field that also overlaps other disciplinary elements within EAR, the other divisions in GEO, and other NSF directorates including Biological Sciences; Computer and Information Science and Engineering; Engineering, Mathematical and Physical Sciences; and Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences. For interdisciplinary research projects that may pertain to one or more funding units, NSF program officers may share proposals among units to consider joint funding. A recent report of the Committee of Visitors commended program officers in SEP for their efforts to identify opportunities for co-funding from both within and outside NSF (NSF, 2008). Although this committee encourages continuation of that type of discretionary sharing of proposals among programs and sections, this informal option is not considered sufficient by itself to foster and maintain growth in the field of Earth surface processes. Comments received by the committee during the course of this study confirm this view. Rather, explicit interdisciplinary programs and funding opportunities are more effective for such work and are especially important in the initial stages of developing broad, interdisciplinary initiatives. NSF has existing mechanisms to accommodate research that may not fall naturally under one existing disciplinary research program. These mechanisms could allow interdisciplinary research initiatives, such as those suggested by this committee for Earth surface processes, to take root and develop: Support for workshops, symposia, and conferences funds proposals in special areas of science and engineering that bring together experts to discuss recent research or education findings or to expose other researchers or students to new research and education techniques. These activities could be supported by multiple units and may lead to new programs, for example, NSF MARGINS, that employ multidisciplinary approaches.2 The Frontiers in the Critical Zone workshop3 is another example that led to the development of Critical Zone Observatories (CZOs; see Box 2.5); 1 EAR website, http://www.nsf.gov/div/index.jsp?div=EAR [accessed August 8, 2008]. 2 http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=13516&org=EAR&from=home [accessed October 5, 2008]. 3 http://www.czen.org/content/frontiers-exploration-critical-zone.
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Landscapes on the Edge: New Horizons for Research on Earth’s Surface Intradirectorate initiatives, for example, CZOs; Definition of priority areas and special grant opportunities (for example, the research area “Biocomplexity in the Environment” at NSF began as a special competition in 1999 and grew in the intervening years to become an established multidirectorate program of “Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems” in 2007); the Collaboration in Mathematical Geosciences Program4 is an example of a special funding opportunity (through 2010) to enable crossdisciplinary research and education at the intersection of mathematical sciences and geosciences; Dear Colleague Letters announce special funding opportunities for interdisciplinary research. For example, three Dear Colleague Letters issued in February 2009 are relevant to Earth surface processes: (1) Environment, Society, and the Economy (ESE) seeks to increase collaboration between the geosciences and the social and behavioral sciences in integrated studies related to environment, society, and economics;5 (2) Emerging Topics in Biogeochemical Cycles (ETBC) bridges the biological, atmospheric, geological, oceanographic, and hydrological sciences through topics related to biogeochemical cycles and processes;6 (3) Multiscale Modeling (MSM) enhances support for research that links the biological sciences with the Earth system sciences in the area of multiscale modeling;7 Crosscutting activities—funding programs in which two or more NSF directorates and/or other federal agencies participate; for example, the Dynamics of Coupled and Natural Human Systems Program (CNH),8 through coordination by the Directorate of Biological Sciences, the Directorate of Geosciences, and the Directorate of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences, promotes interdisciplinary analyses of human and natural system processes and interactions (the U.S. Forest Service recently began participation as a partner in the conduct of annual CNH competitions); NSF-wide activities (activities in which all NSF directorates participate, for example, “Carbon and Water in the Earth System”9); Science and Technology Centers, for example, the National Center for Earth-surface Dynamics (NCED), which carry out sustained, interdisciplinary research over 5 to 10 years (see Box 2.7); and Grants for rapid response research (RAPID) and Early concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER)10 (these provide relatively modest amounts, respectively, 4 http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2009/nsf09520/nsf09520.htm?org=NSF. 5 http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2009/nsf09031/nsf09031.jsp. 6 http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2009/nsf09030/nsf09030.jsp. 7 http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2009/nsf09032/nsf09032.jsp 8 http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=13681&org=EAR&from=home [accessed October 5, 2008]. 9 http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=13651&org=OCE&from=home [accessed October 5, 2008]. 10 http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/policydocs/pappguide/nsf09_1/gpg091print.pdf [accessed March 19, 2009].
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Landscapes on the Edge: New Horizons for Research on Earth’s Surface for quick-response research on natural or anthropogenic disasters and unanticipated events, and for high-risk, exploratory, and potentially transformative research; interdisciplinary projects could be supported by multiple relevant programs). It is important to note that, in addition to NSF, federal research activities related to Earth surface processes exist within the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and U.S. Department of Agriculture, among other agencies (see Appendix D). Although NSF is the appropriate focal point for providing broad support for research on Earth surface processes, these activities at other agencies present significant opportunities for coordination and partnership. 4.2 OTHER PARTNERSHIPS Although the majority of funding for academic Earth surface research has come from the federal government, a consistent record with important future potential exists to develop supporting partnerships with other groups. States have long supported locally targeted surface process research, especially as related to water quality, and state water quality standards often play a dominant role in landscape restoration projects. Earth surface processes are also important to a diverse array of industries, from environmental consulting and forestry to hydrocarbons and mining. Forest products companies have supported research related to problems of erosion and sedimentation in logged upland areas, for example. Scientists working on depositional systems are in a somewhat unusual position in that seismic and other data on subsurface structure are expensive to obtain and hence are held mostly by private industry. Given that petroleum companies also work on fundamental and wide-ranging problems in predicting surface evolution over long time scales, areas of common research interest between academia and industry are readily identified and partnerships between these groups of researchers could be actively pursued. Furthermore, although the descriptions of the supporting mechanisms for Earth surface processes research in this chapter focus on implementation within the U.S. domestic research framework, a clear need exists for international collaborations and networks of research that stretch across key global surface environments. The types of problems addressed by research in this field by their very nature often require a global outlook or approach. Although support for research partnerships across international boundaries is difficult to garner, federal agencies may play some role in facilitating international scientific exchanges. The committee is aware of large research efforts in Earth surface processes in China, Australia, and Europe that could serve as initial contacts for such exchanges and later development of full research partnerships. Such international research may pay off handsomely in the future in terms of acquired knowledge as well as predictive capability to mitigate or avoid future problems.
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Landscapes on the Edge: New Horizons for Research on Earth’s Surface 4.3 DATA COLLECTION AND DISTRIBUTION, MODELING, TOOL DEVELOPMENT, AND COMMUNITY RESEARCH FACILITIES AND SITES The rapid growth of quantitative research in Earth surface processes has been fueled in part by the large quantity and high quality of data collected during the past decade from satellites, airborne lidar (light detection and ranging), seismic reflection, geochronologic and geochemical instruments, and other technologies (see also Chapters 1 and 2), and the increased availability and power of new computing and modeling techniques to use these data. Maintaining existing instruments and supporting the development of new technologies to measure processes at Earth’s surface are necessary parts of this fabric of growth and continued advancement of the field. Community laboratories and field sites also facilitate links among different technological applications and communication among disciplines. Access to Data and Metadata Broad access to data and metadata is necessary to advance any field of research but is especially important for interdisciplinary fields where barriers to communication among researchers are more likely to exist. Existing programs to enable data access include those supported by federal agencies as parts of their missions (see Appendix D), as well as the development of new cyber-databases. For example, EarthChem, an NSF-funded program, provides databases on rock and sediment chemistry (http://www.Earthchem.org/EarthchemWeb/index.jsp). The CZOs (Box 2.5) and the Critical Zone Exploration Network have enabled a group of Critical Zone scientists to compile data for sites that span gradients in environmental variables (for example, lithology and climate) to drive the development of models and understanding with respect to regolith evolution. These researchers are establishing protocols and a template for input and sharing of data generated by CZO research projects. The NCED (Box 2.7) has established a web-based system by which NCED and other community data are shared freely. The National Center for Airborne Laser Mapping (NCALM) provides research-grade airborne laser swath data to the national research community (see also Chapter 1), and those collected for the GeoEarthScope program are available at the GEON OpenTopography portal.11 The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Geophysical Data Center12 is an example of a readily accessible online resource for geophysical data that includes observations from space and models of the seafloor and solid Earth. The results produced by large observatory networks such as the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network also are made available through the Internet via links from the network web page to databases maintained by network member sites (Box 4.1). Other examples are efforts to track diseases (for example, 11 http://facility.unavco.org/project_support/es/geoEarthscope/. 12 http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/.
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Landscapes on the Edge: New Horizons for Research on Earth’s Surface BOX 4.1 Data Sharing in the LTER Network The LTER Network is a long-running program with much experience that can inform the Earth surface community of its success in promoting data sharing among LTER scientists and with the broader science community. A data access policy was formalized by the LTER Network Coordinating Community in 1997 (http://lternet.edu/data/netpolicy.html). Significant latitude exists in the way in which the policies are implemented by individual sites, but all share several common attributes: Two types of datasets exist: The first type is freely accessible within two to three years of collection with minimal restrictions, whereas the second type is available only with written permission of the principal investigator or researcher. Type 2 datasets are rare. Data are available to the scientific community in a timely way. Investigators contributing data to LTER databases receive appropriate acknowledgment for use of the data by other researchers. Documentation of the dataset is adequate for the data to be used by researchers not involved in its original collection. Data must continue to be available even if an investigator leaves the project or NSF no longer funds the LTER site. Adequate quality assurance and control are maintained. Datasets may not be sold or distributed by the recipient. Investigators have reasonable opportunity to have first use of data they collect. Each site’s data management policy and data accessibility are peer-reviewed every three years during an NSF-required formal site review process. Development of functional data-sharing capability was a major challenge for the network. In the 1980s, LTER scientists were no more likely to share data than other scientists. Attempts to make data available online were met with resistance by many investigators even though the benefits of data sharing were widely recognized. Consequently, a committee of site data managers was convened to investigate ways to promote data sharing and yet protect the data collected by individual investigators from use without attribution. By 1990, network guidelines had been established requiring each site to develop its own data management policy. The benefits of establishing guidelines rather than a policy were that researchers whose data would be part of the data-sharing effort were engaged in developing policies that worked for them and multiple approaches emerged. Approaches that proved to be effective were adopted by other sites and refined so that by 1993 each site had its own data-sharing policies in place. The 1997 LTER data-sharing policy is the product of the LTER Network’s efforts to make needed data available to researchers worldwide. Currently more than 4,000 datasets from 26 LTER sites are listed in the online data catalogue (http://metacat.lternet.edu/knb/). Importantly, renewal of funding is contingent upon adherence to network data management standards.
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Landscapes on the Edge: New Horizons for Research on Earth’s Surface cholera, severe acute respiratory syndrome [SARS], avian influenza - H5N1 virus), global climate change, and the Integrated Ocean Observing System. Analysis of these types of frequently used data sharing arrangements reveals common attributes such as openness, transparency, quality control of data, operational flexibility, respect for intellectual property, management accountability, dedicated infrastructure, and long-term financial support. Despite general community agreement that data-sharing and maintenance of large datasets are important, large-scale data sharing is not easily implemented and requires concerted action by the research community and sponsors. Consensus policies lend confidence to the process of the eventual treatment, acknowledgment, documentation, and distribution of the data (see Box 4.1). Modeling Until recently, there was no coordinated effort among Earth surface processes researchers to build community models. Instead, individual research groups developed models to support their research, and commonly these models were not readily available to others. Even if made available, the constantly changing language in which the models were written and the lack of interface instructions made using these models difficult. Notable exceptions include those where individuals or organizations made considerable effort to make the models accessible and usable by others.13 Recently, NSF supported the formation of the Community Surface Dynamics Modeling System (CSDMS) to provide access to software generated by the community, create linked dynamic models for landscape basin evolution, and foster collaboration and community sharing of model and model development (see also Section 2.3). Fostering partnerships between Earth surface process software development and other relevant geoscience computation initiatives (e.g., the Computation Infrastructure for Geodynamics [CIG]) and the modeling efforts of the geospatial sciences (e.g., the National Center for Geographic Information Analysis) also could enable emerging technologies in other fields to be used for Earth surface process modeling. These are important steps and could lead to a framework to build the many models anticipated to emerge from each of the four research initiatives. Technology Development New technologies have greatly increased the quantity and flexibility of data collection on many aspects of the Earth’s surface at scales from individual mineral surface sites to continents (see Chapter 2, as well as Boxes 1.2, 2.1, 2.4, 2.6). The importance of continued 13 For example, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers Hydrologic Engineering Center programs for flow, flood, and sediment transport; the Excel-based programs by Gary Parker (University of Illinois) for a range of channel hydraulics and sediment transport calculations; and the USGS-supported Multi-Dimensional Surface Water Modeling System.
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Landscapes on the Edge: New Horizons for Research on Earth’s Surface support for existing technologies such as satellite sensors, lidar and InSAR (interferometric synthetic aperture radar), geochronologic methods, geophysical instruments, and biogeochemical tools is emphasized throughout this report (see also Appendix C). Of particular importance has been the development of numerous geochronologic methods that support the dating of different materials and time scales (Boxes 1.2 and 2.4). Community laboratory facilities such as the NSF-supported Purdue Rare Isotope Measurement [PRIME] laboratory at Purdue University and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Center for Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (CAMS) have provided relatively inexpensive access for researchers and are especially important in this regard. New technologies and improvement of existing ones for measuring different properties, forms, fluxes, and rates are greatly needed, and these technologies should be readily available to the community. Some current areas ripe for support and advance are summarized here. Earth’s near-surface environment is largely inaccessible but for drill holes or trenches, which provide only limited information about subsurface characteristics that dictate runoff, moisture dynamics and geochemical weathering, and geomechanical strength properties. As described in Section 2.5, geophysical methods such as electrical resistance tomography, self-potential, ground-penetrating radar, seismic refraction, and neutron probe surveys have been little used in Earth surface process research but may provide key observational data obtainable by no other means. Improvements in data analysis, the availability of and knowledge about instruments, and the development of other methods are needed, and support for community-level efforts in this area could provide significant advances to improve data density and software analysis. Airborne hyperspectral surveys, integrated with lidar data are beginning to be used to map vegetation structure and topography. High-resolution quantification of form via lidar (both airborne and ground-based) is revolutionizing field work and analysis of many surface processes. We are entering an era of being able to measure real time Earth surface processes with high accuracy. Hundreds of wireless devices uplinked to broadband systems can be positioned across a landscape and monitored simultaneously to document sap flow, soil moisture, overland flow, groundwater levels, air temperature, solar radiation, suspended sediment concentrations, and other attributes. Already, a few examples of such observations are radically improving our understanding of process dynamics. Research is under way to develop software to manage these data systems. NSF has a Science and Technology Center devoted to wireless networks, the Center for Embedded Networked Sensing. Support for further development of instruments and software will usher in this “real-time” era. Other instruments that still are being prototyped for application to Earth surface and other research include terrestrial and marine autonomous vehicles for collecting environmental data, particle and organism tracking with various types of radio-frequency devices, and instruments for measuring physical properties at the base of ice sheets.
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Landscapes on the Edge: New Horizons for Research on Earth’s Surface Community Research Facilities and Sites In recent years we have seen a rebirth of the use of both large-scale experimental facilities and intensive field monitoring campaigns in the study of Earth surface processes. This rebirth is associated with the widely recognized need for facilities (experimental or field observatories) where community-level, interdisciplinary collaborations can tackle fundamental problems. Such collaborations are enabled by new technologies of observation and new models to both guide and test observations, and are motivated by urgent new questions. Many individual researchers have built experimental facilities for particular research projects, but the maintenance of these by individual scientists is taxing and facilities often fall into decline once a project is completed. National facilities enable concentration of shared resources so that technically challenging problems can be undertaken in a cost-effective manner. Such facilities also create opportunities or even the necessity for interdisciplinary research. In the United States, just one national experimental facility at the Saint Anthony Falls Laboratory (NCED, Box 2.7) exists for Earth surface process studies. Not only does it house a large number of flumes, but adjacent to the facility is the Outdoor StreamLab in which field-scale channels with riparian zones are built and a wide range of ecogeomorphology studies are conducted. As with the Biosphere 214 indoor experimental hillslopes, building large, experimental landforms at the finer end of such features found in nature enables greatly improved measurements, represents more realistic biotic processes, and reduces or eliminates many issues about upscaling. The simultaneous call from many disciplines for relatively large-scale field “observatories,” which was initiated many years ago, is now being met (CZOs [Box 2.5], National Ecological Observatory Network [NEON], LTER sites [Box 4.1], and planning for hydrological observatories). Various experimental watersheds operated by universities and federal agencies (for example, the Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed,15 and the Big Spring Run, Pennsylvania, floodplain-wetland restoration experiment funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the USGS, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) provide opportunities for research at field sites where long-term monitoring of environmental variables occurs (see also Section 2.6). These sites are essential to advancing the research initiatives and addressing the grand challenges identified in this report. Given the range and diversity of science questions and ecogeomorphic regions, continuation and growth of various observatories is appropriate. A very different kind of facility, one focused on data synthesis, has been successfully developed in ecology at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis 14 http://www.b2science.org/index.html. 15 http://www.tucson.ars.ag.gov/unit/gis/wg.html.
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Landscapes on the Edge: New Horizons for Research on Earth’s Surface (NCEAS).16 Synthetic activities are supported by the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI) for water-related research. CSDMS and NCED organize workshops, but there is no synthesis center in the form of NCEAS in Earth surface processes. Such a center, perhaps in response to emerging observations from the various observatories, could prove valuable. 4.4 DEVELOPING THE HIGH-PRIORITY RESEARCH INITIATIVES The four high-priority initiatives described in Chapter 3 cut across research disciplines and themes and draw together the interacting aspects of the natural and social sciences needed to investigate the Earth’s surface. The four initiatives require sustained, interdisciplinary, intellectual and technical collaboration that includes linked field, laboratory, and modeling efforts. Coordinated, interdisciplinary field campaigns (“joint field campaigns”) and the use of shared laboratory facilities, observatories and experimental field sites, research centers, federal data repositories, and other organized networks and programs can help build the communication base necessary to link research in many fields. Exchange of information and results and mutual education through organized workshops, symposia, or wireless networking media are also a part of the process of community building to develop the four research initiatives and foster growth in the field. The four initiatives are major undertakings that will require significant, coordinated effort to mobilize and direct. This would be in addition to continued support and building of existing disciplinary research programs related to study of the Earth’s surface at NSF, particularly those programs within the SEP section of EAR. Although nascent interactions among various disciplinary groups have begun, challenges to effective and fulfilling collaboration include bridging cultural differences across disciplines. Nonetheless, the success of some of the aforementioned interdisciplinary centers shows that the broad research community has evolved to the point of being able to overcome these barriers. Some potential organizational mechanisms, as they could be applied explicitly to these four initiatives, are given below for consideration by NSF and the science community. Because the four initiatives are strongly synergistic, the development of mechanisms to enable fluid, ongoing sharing of insight and information among all four initiatives may further encourage their success. Interacting Landscapes and Climate Fostering collaboration between Earth surface scientists and atmospheric scientists, with targeted research options specifically for young investigators, could be centerpieces to 16 http://www.nceas.ucsb.edu/.
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Landscapes on the Edge: New Horizons for Research on Earth’s Surface achieve the objectives outlined in this initiative (see Chapter 3). Significant progress could be made in facilitating effective collaborations through the following: Interdisciplinary training and education through community workshops and climate-land surface summer schools for graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and faculty (for example, the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Cooperative Program for Operational Meteorology, Education and Training [COMET] program17 or the NSF Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship programs). Joint field campaigns tackling shared fundamental problems of the interaction of climate and Earth surface processes that could involve atmospheric scientists and Earth surface scientists. Modeling collaborations between climate scientists and Earth surface science researchers that could include, for example, regional and microclimate modeling (including land-cover effects), orographic precipitation, hydrological responses, wind and wave energy, glacier dynamics and sea level, and landscape evolution (the CSDMS could play an active role). Organized participation by joint engineering and Earth surface science teams in the development of satellite and land-based sensors for monitoring and quantifying environmental factors and processes relating to climatic control of Earth surface processes. The requirements from these sensors may include rainfall, evapotranspiration, streamflow, soil temperature and moisture content, storm surge and wave energy, near-surface winds, sediment transport, solute transport, and glacier sliding velocities and mass balance. Quantitative Reconstruction of Landscape Dynamics Across Time Scales Addressing the objectives in this initiative requires focus on (1) application and development of specific analytical techniques and tools, including cosmogenic isotopic analyses, low-temperature and detrital thermochronology, isotopic measurements, molecular biological analyses, lidar mapping of landforms, and three-dimensional imaging of subsurface structures and (2) effective combination of these analyses and their results in coupled models. As discussed in Chapter 3, the necessary intellectual collaborations include deep- and surface-Earth sciences, with a balance between scientists from industry and those from academia. Significant progress could be made in facilitating effective collaborations through the following: 17 http://www.comet.ucar.edu/outreach/index.htm.
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Landscapes on the Edge: New Horizons for Research on Earth’s Surface Development of natural deep-time laboratories to focus on reconstruction of Earth’s surface evolution from short-term to geologic time scales—from instants to eons—with emphasis on using quantitative methods to identify thresholds and abrupt changes and to study the interplay of tectonics, climate, biota, and surface processes. This effort would include a targeted program of intensive drilling and seismic acquisition. Targeted projects with joint industry and academic participation, organization, and products to apply noncommercially sensitive portions of three-dimensional seismic surveys along with associated core data, potentially acquired through new shallow drilling endeavors, to key initiative objectives. Continued development of cosmogenic, optically stimulated luminescence, isotopic, and low-temperature thermochronological methods for quantifying the rates of past processes and the timing of abrupt changes; encouraging the use of existing community laboratories (PRIME laboratory, for example) and research on application of these tools to new minerals could strengthen these collaborations. Coordinated community development of fully coupled climate-tectonic-geochemical, ecological-surface process models that engages existing numerical modeling initiatives (for example, CSDMS, CIG, and other geochemical initiatives) and organizes targeted interdisciplinary workshops with participation from the atmospheric sciences and from ecological and paleontological disciplines. Development and support of shared, community experimental laboratory facilities for landscape research across time scales and testing models in a controlled environment. Coevolution of Ecosystems and Landscapes The recent emergence of ecohydrology, geobiology, and ecogeomorphology to describe current research activities shows the growing effort to work at the interface of Earth and biological sciences. The initiative proposed here would focus on taking this interest much farther and deeper. The ultimate goal is to create opportunities for discoveries that are equally advanced in the fields of ecology and Earth surface processes and are obtainable only because of strong interdisciplinary interactions (see also Chapter 3). Specific mechanisms to develop these collaborations include the following: Establishing working groups that organize regular meetings to focus on research at the interface of ecosystems and landscape processes and evolution. Special sessions on ecosystems and landscapes at national meetings of many organizations (for example, the American Geophysical Union, Geological Society of America, Association of American Geographers, and Ecological Society of America) are a
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Landscapes on the Edge: New Horizons for Research on Earth’s Surface start. The workshop-style meetings envisioned here could complement these types of special sessions by providing an opportunity for interdisciplinary teaching and for formulating joint research plans. A community-level modeling program in which ecologists and Earth scientists collaborate on contributions to models for short-term forecasts and predictions on long time-scales of the coevolution of ecosystems and landscapes. For community-level modeling, collaboration is essential to avoid unrealistic, overly simplistic treatment of coupled ecosystem and landscape processes. Joint field campaigns conducted by climate scientists and Earth surface scientists, including ecologists, geomorphologists, and hydrologists, which will enable underlying mechanisms to be quantified that link biota, ecosystems, and Earth surface processes. New coalitions are necessary to build reliable models for prediction on the shorter-term and evolutionary time scales. The network of observatory sites (CZOs, NEON, LTER, and possibly hydrologic sites) can be used explicitly to explore ecological and Earth surface processes. Future observatory site selection could be optimized for both ecologic and physical science objectives. Codevelopment of instrumentation, geochemical, geophysical, and geochronological tools could facilitate significant advances. For example, shallow geophysical surveys should provide information important to ecosystem processes, and biologically mediated isotopic traces can reveal hydrologic pathways and residence times. The Future of Landscapes in the “Anthropocene” The overarching goal for this initiative is to transform our understanding of integrated human-landscape systems characteristic of the “Anthropocene” and improve predictive capabilities of how they might evolve in the future. Advancing the objectives for this initiative requires collaboration among climate scientists, Earth surface scientists, and ecologists, among others, and a range of social and behavioral scientists including economists, political scientists, and human geographers. Transformational advances require bridging the real and perceived gaps between the approaches of natural and social scientists. Collaboration with geospatial scientists, engineers, and applied practitioners is also needed. Success of an initiative to address the future of human-landscape systems includes effective transfer of scientific knowledge toward societal application. Increasing the awareness of the general public (at community research facilities) of the role of human activities and the sustainable management of Earth’s systems is also necessary. Workshops and working groups are central to the initial coordination and collaboration required among the disciplinary fields. Specific mechanisms to develop these collaborations include the following:
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Landscapes on the Edge: New Horizons for Research on Earth’s Surface Workshops to bring together Earth surface scientists and social scientists to build integrated community approaches, research questions, methodologies, scales of inquiry, and theories for human-landscape systems. Successful, sustained collaborations will allow study of complex mutual interactions between societies and Earth surface systems and will allow response to the challenge of incorporating human behavior in mechanistic models. Workshops that engage geospatial scientists with Earth surface scientists to examine the integration of existing and emerging geospatial technologies at specific experimental field sites and to process and synthesize remote-sensing data. These data serve as inputs to model development that could eventually extend from local, controlled experimental sites to global models. Development of community field and modeling centers to acquire the data necessary for new integrative and predictive models that involve multiple stressors within human-dominated landscapes, including social processes that influence those interactions. Focused field studies in sensitive environments that are determined to be most vulnerable to anthropogenic change, including coastal and urban areas where human populations are concentrated, mountain and polar environments where melting glaciers translate into water resource issues and hazards, and arid and semiarid areas that are increasingly affected by drought and variability in streamflow associated with climate change and expanding urban populations. These studies could take advantage of existing environmental observatories, such as CZOs and LTERs, and develop mechanisms for broad synthesis, as exemplified by the NCEAS. Collaborative research using engineered landscapes and restoration and redesign projects could provide relatively controlled conditions, including those of time and rate. Such research could improve the fundamental knowledge of processes relevant to a range of environments and problems, such as testing hypotheses about building self-maintaining ecogeomorphic systems. This collaboration could involve engineers and applied practitioners working with Earth surface scientists, which also could serve as a means to transfer scientific knowledge toward societal application.