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LTER Key Research Findings

Among the many research results from LTER sites, some findings stand out as being particularly important to achieve the LTER goal of providing information to conserve, protect, and manage the nation's ecosystems. Short descriptions of key findings at each site emphasize the importance of long-term data in understanding the pace and pattern of ecological change.

Modeling Microbial Chemistry (PIE LTER)
Scientists understand quite well how chemicals react to produce new compounds, such as when oxygen mixes with natural gas and burns to produce carbon dioxide plus water, but as soon as biology is added to the chemical milieu, the task of predicting what chemical reactions will occur and how quickly remains a great challenge. Primitive organisms, such as bacteria and other microscope life, are at...
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Salinity and Nitrogen (PIE LTER)
Primary production in most estuaries and coastal marine waters is limited by the availability of nitrogen. Therefore, understanding nitrogen cycling is critical to predicting how coastal systems will respond to an increased delivery of nutrients from land. While nitrogen is an essential element, an over abundance of nitrogen leads to algal blooms and hypoxia in estuarine and coastal ecosystems....
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Scale Matters (PIE LTER)
By conducting large scale, long-term studies of entire river-estuary networks, PIE scientists revealed ways that human activities and natural processes interact to control the flow of water and nutrients from the land to the ocean. This science helps to guide the reduction of harmful nitrogen pollution in coastal waters. A myriad of human activities alter the hydrology and biogeochemistry of...
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Spatially-Explicit Fish Movements (PIE LTER)
There is a growing understanding of the need to restore coastal ecosystems to support both natural and human populations. In a degraded, developed watershed, setting realistic goals for restoration is challenging because the human footprint has substantially altered the historic biological and physical characteristics. The maintenance of a resilient population of anadromous fish, i.e., fish that...
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Tipping Points (PIE LTER)
PIE scientists have documented that salt marsh primary production responds to sea level anomalies at several locations along the east coast of the United States. At Plum Island, salt marsh primary production is nearly twice as great during high sea level years as opposed to low sea level years (Fig. 1). Many marshes are perched high in the tidal frame at an elevation that is super-optimal for the...
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