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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.

Coastal Marshes and Rising Sea Levels (VCR LTER)
Tidal marshes play a vital ecological role in coastal landscapes. They act as a filter for nutrients and pollutants from the land and provide habitat and food for a variety of species important to conservation. As sea level rises, marshes can maintain their relative elevation through vertical accretion: increased tidal flooding of marshes leads to increased deposition of sediment, gradually...
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Dynamic Coastal Landscapes (VCR LTER)
Coastal landscapes are among the most vulnerable to changing climate conditions. Periodic, extreme storm events, superimposed over background conditions of gradual sea-level rise, can force dramatic changes in these geographically marginal, unprotected systems. The redistribution of sediment by waves and currents is typically the driving force behind these changes. For instance, storm waves...
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Importance of Bottom Dwellers (VCR LTER)
Shallow coastal ecosystems are highly sensitive to rapid changes in population and land use occurring in the coastal zone. Nutrients associated with sewage, fertilizer, and other by-products of anthropogenic development flow from streams, rivers, and groundwater aquifers into coastal waters. As a result, the rate of nutrient loading to coastal bays is directly related to agricultural, forest, and...
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Predicting Change (VCR LTER)
VCR scientists are using this knowledge to forecast climate change effects on these fragile coastal landscapes. Plant ecological dynamics on barrier islands are a function of complex interactions and feedbacks between individual species, environmental factors, and geological processes. However, long-term studies of barrier island ecology in the VCR LTER site has revealed that the controls on...
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Regional Shoreline Change (VCR LTER)
Barrier islands on the U.S. mid-Atlantic coast are characterized by dynamic patterns of shoreline movement. Erosion and accretion driven by episodic storm events, gradual sea-level rise, and natural or engineered changes in sediment supply occur at a variety of temporal and spatial scales, with significant implications for coastal management. VCR researchers were among the first to show that...
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