Our overarching question is: How is climate change impacting the pelagic NES ecosystem and, in particular, affecting the relationship between compositional (e.g., species diversity and size structure) and aggregate (e.g., rates of primary production, and transfer of energy to important forage fish species) variability?
Capitalizing on high levels of seasonal and interannual variability in the NES, we study short-term responses to climate-related variables to:
- characterize low and high export food webs,
- understand the linkages and transfer of energy from the phytoplankton to pelagic fish, and
- identify the mechanisms that underlie shifts between high and low export communities.
Ultimately, mechanistic knowledge will be scaled up to understand and predict the impacts and feedbacks associated with decadal- to climate-scale forcing in the ecosystem.
How is the base of the food web changing over time and across and along the shelf?
How is variability in pelagic forage fish linked to variability at the base of the food web?
Is the NES ecosystem vulnerable or resilient to environmental variability?
The NES-LTER project integrates long-term observations, process and experimental studies, and models to understand and predict how planktonic food webs are changing on the Northeast U.S. Shelf, and how those changes impact ecosystem productivity, including higher trophic levels. The NES-LTER strategy combines observations that provide regional-scale context, process cruises along a high gradient cross-shelf transect, high-frequency time series at inner- and outer-shelf locations, coupled biological-physical food web models, and targeted population models.
Biological, chemical, and physical oceanographers work together in a multi-disciplinary team to study the NES ecosystem.
Core Research Themes
The five core research themes of the LTER Network facilitate cross-cutting science. The NES-LTER strategy includes integration and synthesis of multi-disciplinary observations, experiments, and models to address these themes.
- Patterns and controls of primary production
- Spatial and temporal population dynamics and food web interactions
- Patterns and controls of organic matter accumulation and decomposition
- Patterns of inorganic inputs and movements of nutrients
- Patterns and frequency of disturbance