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LTER: Comparative Study of a Suite of Lakes in Wisconsin

ABSTRACT (NTL Renewal)<br/><br/>Lakes are conspicuous, ecologically important, and socially valued components of landscapes. Lakes collect water, energy, solutes and pollutants from the land and atmosphere, provide habitats and resources for organisms, and interact with diverse human activities. The North Temperate Lakes (NTL) Long-Term Ecological Research program aims to understand the ecology of lakes in relation to relevant atmospheric, geochemical, landscape and human processes. The overarching research question is how do biophysical setting, climate, and changing land use and cover interact to shape lake characteristics and dynamics over time (past, present, future)? NTL will address this question through five inter-related goals: (1) perceive long-term changes in the physical, chemical, and biological properties, of lake districts, (2) understand the drivers of temporal variability in lakes and lake districts, (3) understand the interaction of spatial processes with long-term change, (4) understand the causes and predictability of rapid extensive change in ecosystems, and (5) build a capacity to forecast the future ecology of lake districts.<br/><br/>Patterns, processes, and interactions of lakes, landscapes and people will be examined at four spatial scales: individual lakes, small drainage systems with several lakes, entire lake districts, and the western Great Lakes region of North America. Temporally, scales from a fraction of a day to decades will be considered. NTL will use multiple approaches of long-term observation, comparison across ecosystems, experimental manipulations, and process modeling. In this proposal, decadal forecasts of ecosystem change are specifically addressed, which become the hypotheses for future long-term research. The interdisciplinary research group includes ecologists, hydrologists, climatologists, chemists, demographers, an economist, rural sociologists, and specialists in remote sensing and information management. The research should produce new conceptualizations of lake district dynamics, including new insights on the dynamics and impacts of invasive species, understanding of the role of spatial location of lakes in landscape dynamics, the reflexive interactions of human and ecological processes, and the interactive effects of geomorphic setting, climate and human activity on long-term change in lake districts. The understanding of integrated landscape-lake-social systems developed through the NTL program will be useful for decision making by individuals and institutions concerned with the future of the western Great Lakes region and the welfare of its residents.

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