Terrestrial ecology is the study of land-based ecosystems, their populations and communities of plants, animals, and microbes, their interactions with the atmosphere and with streams and groundwater, and their role in the cycling of energy, water, and the major biogeochemical elements such as carbon and nitrogen. Research approaches include field measurement campaigns and experiments, laboratory analyses, analyzing satellite images to study variation across the landscape and through time, and computer modeling to test our understanding of how populations, communities, and ecosystems function at present and in response to environmental change. Humans affect terrestrial ecosystems through land and water management, pollution, and climate change.
UMCES scientists are studying the responses of terrestrial ecosystems to human impacts, such as the effects of recent decreases in nitrogen air pollution on forests in the Eastern USA, the fate of chemicals carried in rain runoff from roads and agricultural fields, and the effects of fishing pressure on brook trout populations. They use remote sensing data and models to understand how earlier springs and longer growing seasons affect forests and crops. Scientists are linking socioeconomic studies on what influences farmers’ management decisions with their ecological consequences on biodiversity, water quality, and greenhouse gas emissions in order to identify options for both sustainable and profitable agriculture.