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BES

Baltimore Ecosystem Study

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Stream sampling at BES LTER, June 2002
BES
The Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES) aims to understand metropolitan Baltimore as an ecological system. The program brings together researchers from the biological, physical, and social sciences to collect new data and synthesize existing information on how both the ecological and engineered systems of Baltimore work. As a part of the National Science Foundation's Long-Term Ecological Research Network, we also seek to understand how Baltimore's ecosystems change over long time periods. The ecological knowledge we create helps support educational and community-based activities, and interactions between the project and the Baltimore community are important components of our project. Such an integrative project includes many disciplines and many research and educational institutions, both in Baltimore and beyond.

When people think of ecology, they usually imagine studies out in the country. The next thing they think of is studies involving the relationship of plants and animals to one another. They also imagine studies that show how organisms relate to the physical environment -- air, water, and soil. People and cities usually don't come to mind when ecology is mentioned.

But ecologists now realize that it is important to understand cities and suburbs, because about three quarters of the people in the United States live in metropolitan areas. More people are also moving to cities throughout the world. So ecologists want to know how organisms and environments in and around cities are affected by the buildings and paved surfaces, the things that people do, and the new environments that cities create. To do that ecologists have to work with other researchers who understand people. That means more than just knowing how many people there are in an area. Understanding the urban environment requires that we understand how people are interact as groups and organizations that make decisions. What people do and build in and around cities affect the environment and the plants and animals for many miles around

What is the Long Term Ecological Research Network?

The Baltimore Ecosystem Study is one of 24 research programs established by the National Science Foundation to study ecological systems over long time periods. Ecological processes often take long times to occur, and so scientists must collect and use data that span long time periods. The projects that make up the Long-Term Ecological Research Network span different kinds of sites of interest to ecologists and decision makers. There are sites in the Arctic, in Antarctica, in moist coniferous forests, deciduous forest, coastal areas, grasslands and deserts. BES represents the particularly dynamic and patchy ecosystem type found in and around cities, and enhances ecological understanding by including an ecosystem type rarely studied by ecologists.

http://www.lternet.edu

The Baltimore Ecosystem Study is a long-term ecological research project. It is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Environmental Protection Agency to learn how an urban area works as an ecological system. We want to know the ecological interactions in the whole range of habitats -- from the center city of Baltimore, out into the surrounding rural areas. We are conducting research on the soil, the plants and animals on land and in the streams, the water quality, and condition of the air in and around Baltimore. For that information to make sense, we are also studying how families, associations, organizations and political bodies make decisions that affect ecological processes. In other words, we are treating the whole collection of urban, suburban and rural areas as an ecological system that includes people and their activities. This is a really unusual approach to ecology because it combines with social sciences, physical sciences, and education to understand a big metropolitan area as an ecological system. Saying that an urban area is a system just means that we are concerned with the interactions between wild and domestic organisms, people and their organizations, and the natural and built environment all affect one another. It is these relationships that determine the quality of the environment we experience in the places where we live, work and relax.

The research project is long-term, because conditions in the past affect the urban environment we experience now, and we also need to be able to say what environmental effects the things we are doing now in and around our cities will affect the environment in the future. This information can help people, including individuals, families, organizations and government agencies, to make decisions that have the environmental effects that they want. We will try to keep people informed through this publication, through meetings and workshops, through school and community interactions, and through the web. We're young, and growing rapidly. We look forward to keeping in touch with you.

Short history: 
Baltimore has a long history of social science research that takes an ecological perspective. This is quite rare, and means that we will be able to very readily connect ecological and physical sciences research with an already well developed understanding of the social organization and processes in Baltimore. Researchers at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Johns Hopkins University, and the US Geological Survey are key members of the LTER team. In addition, there are wonderful paleoecological (ancient) records, and great geographic data and historical records. The connection with the Chesapeake Bay is also important. Last, but by no means least, there is a well established and mutually respectful network of interaction between researchers, community leaders, managers, and policy makers. Revitalizing Baltimore and the Parks and People Foundation have been crucial in maintaining these links.
History: 

Baltimore has a long history of social science research that takes an ecological perspective. This is quite rare, and means that we will be able to very readily connect ecological and physical sciences research with an already well developed understanding of the social organization and processes in Baltimore. Researchers at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Johns Hopkins University, and the US Geological Survey are key members of the LTER team. In addition, there are wonderful paleoecological (ancient) records, and great geographic data and historical records. The connection with the Chesapeake Bay is also important. Last, but by no means least, there is a well established and mutually respectful network of interaction between researchers, community leaders, managers, and policy makers. Revitalizing Baltimore and the Parks and People Foundation have been crucial in maintaining these links.

Short research topics: 
Patch dynamics of built, social, biological, and hydrological components of the metropolitan area; feedbacks between social, economic, and ecological components of an urban ecosystem; effect of infrastructure and development on fluxes of nutrients, energy, and water in upland, stream, and coastal regions of metropolitan Baltimore.

The Baltimore Ecosystem Study Long-Term Ecological Research project seeks to understand a major urban region as an ecological system. The project focuses on a five county metropolitan region in which watersheds can be used as the stage on which to understand the reciprocal interactions of the social, biophysical, and built environments. Using watershed function as a synthetic indicator and target for model development, the project seeks to answer three questions:

  • What are the fluxes of energy and matter in the Baltimore metropolitan ecosystem, and how do they change over the long term?
  • How does the spatial structure of ecological, physical, infrastructural, and socio-economic factors in the metropolis affect ecological processes?
  • How can urban residents develop and use an understanding of the metropolis as an ecological system to improve the quality of their environment and their daily lives?

Changes in the system through time will range from the distant past into the future.

Based on paleoecological and historical data the study will explore the temporal relationships and lags between social, infrastructural and biophysical processes, and use these relationships to develop simulations to project land cover, social structure, and ecological processes into the future. The Baltimore region is changing in population density and distribution, with land abandonment in the central city and consumption of land on the urban fringe. The project will conduct ecological experiments on the effect of neighborhood revitalization and on the role of exotic species on ecosystem processes. Integrating the research with interested communities and agencies is a major feature of the project.

Baltimore Ecosystems Study
Room 134
TRC Building 5200 Westland Blvd
Baltimore
MD
21227
USA
845-677-7600 X 210
845-677-5976
Urban Ecosystem
elevation comment: 
Data Source: Collins/Waide. class data. 2008. not published yet.
latitude comment: 
Data Source: LTER Site Characteristics Database. http://www.lternet.edu/sites/bes
Longitude_comment: 
Data Source: LTER Site Characteristics Database. http://www.lternet.edu/sites/bes
ecosystem comment: 
Data Source: GreenLand, D., G. G. Goodin., R. C., Smith. 2003. An Introduction to Climate Variability and Ecosystem Response. p8. In Climate Variability and Ecosystem Response at Long-Term Ecological Research Sites. Oxford University Press

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