NSF renews funding for long-term research at Cedar Creek Reserve

September 11, 2018

Ongoing support will ensure the continuation of longstanding experiments and make possible the introduction of new initiatives.

Biodiversity plots at Cedar Creek

Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve is home to some of the longest running ecological experiments in the world. Researchers draw on the long-term data from these experiments in grasslands, savannas and forests to understand and forecast how human-driven environmental changes will alter the earth’s ecosystems and the ability of ecosystems to provide the services that support human well-being. Key to these efforts is sustained funding.

The National Science Foundation recently recommended renewal of funding for long-term research at Cedar Creek for another six-year term setting the stage for the continuation of longstanding experiments as well as the addition of new studies. This funding is part of NSF’s Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program, which has provided continuous support for Cedar Creek research since 1982. Using the new NSF funds, project co-leaders Eric Seabloom and Sarah Hobbie along with other researchers at the station will continue work on decades-long studies including the longest-running biodiversity and elevated CO2 experiments in the world, and some of the world’s longest-running studies of nutrient enrichment and fire frequency. At the same time, a number of new initiatives will get the green light. New research projects will:

  • Use long-term experimental data to predict the effects of climate change and other human impacts on ecosystems.
  • Enhance long-term biodiversity experiments to determine the interactive effects of drought, nutrients, warming, and biodiversity on ecosystem processes and stability.
  • Develop and test models that predict how ecosystems recover from chronic nitrogen enrichment.
  • Test hypotheses about the how consumers such as bison and fire disturbance interact to restructure and alter the functioning of grassland, savanna, and forest ecosystems.

Cedar Creek LTER Co-Director Sarah Hobbie notes that the renewed funding will allow researchers to continue to explore new directions using the existing experiments.

“Experiments will continue with things layered onto them … The bison experiment that launched this summer in the oak savanna was actually layered on top of the longest running experiment at Cedar Creek, a fire frequency study established in 1964,” says Hobbie. “Forest Isbell is interested in how we can use bison to promote oak regeneration in savannas that experience frequent fire.” Isbell is associate director of Cedar Creek and an assistant professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior.

The long-term support of UMN and NSF has helped Cedar Creek to become one of the most renowned ecological research sites in the world, and has led to the training of hundreds of students and novel scientific discoveries.