LTER VII is led by John Blair (PI) with Co-PI support from David Hartnett, Sara Baer, Walter Dodds and Jesse Nippert in advisory roles. We are currently addressing new research themes and questions in LTER VII, but our long-term overarching goal remains to further understand the interactive effects of key natural and altered drivers on grassland dynamics and to advance ecological theory through synthesis and integration of LTER data. As to be expected in a long-term ecological research program, many of the long-term experiments and datasets initiated in previous LTER funding cycles are being continued throughout the current funding period, while several new experiments and datasets are being initiated. The value of these long-term experiments and datasets continues to increase with time. In addition, results from these long-term studies have new relevance as we move towards evaluating the ecological impacts of a suite of global change phenomena occurring at KNZ.
During this funding cycle, we are coupling decadal-scale experiments and observational measurements to understand ecological dynamics and trajectories of change in tallgrass prairie, with new complementary studies to investigate mechanisms underlying sensitivity and resilience of grasslands to global change. Our research will address mechanisms including legacies and feedbacks that influence grassland sensitivity, and identify how these drivers modulate the resilience and recovery of grassland. This approach will provide broad insight for a range of general ecological phenomena and provide a platform to test general ecological theory. Several new KSU faculty scientists have been added in LTER VII, including Lydia Zeglin (Biology), Andrew Hope (Biology), Trisha Moore (Civil Engineering), and Eduardo Santos (Agronomy). New faculty scientists added from non-KSU institutions include: Pam Sullivan (University of Kansas), and Meghan Avolio (Johns Hopkins University).
Our aims for LTER VII are to:
1. Build upon our core LTER experiments and expand datasets on fire, grazing and climate variability to deepen and refine our understanding of the abiotic and biotic factors and feedbacks affecting grassland structure and function;
2. Develop a mechanistic and predictive understanding of grassland dynamics and trajectories of change in response to natural and anthropogenic drivers using long-term experiments and datasets, coupled with complementary shorter-term studies;
3. Conduct new syntheses using KNZ data and results from other sites to advance ecological theory, and expand the inference of KNZ research to other grasslands and biomes;
4. Train the next generation of ecologists, educate the public, and provide outreach to increase the relevance of KNZ long-term research to society.
For more detailed information, see our LTER VII proposal.