The Niwot Ridge LTER (NWT) program is an interdisciplinary research program with the long-term goals of building a predictive understanding of ecological processes in high-elevation mountain ecosystems and contributing to broad conceptual advances in ecology. NWT also provides education, outreach, and knowledge to inform alpine resource management and conservation. Our program is built on a foundation of more than 35 years of research that includes decades-long experiments and monitoring designed to understand ecological dynamics and trajectories of change.
Mountain ecosystems are among the most vulnerable to environmental change. In this high-elevation, resource-poor environment, changes in temperature and precipitation alter snowpack, growing season length, and water flow dynamics and high levels of atmospheric deposition shift nutrient limitations. However, vulnerability to such environmental changes is difficult to predict in a system characterized by spatial complexity and temporal variability. Both terrain and biota modulate climate effects spatially and temporally in mountain ecosystems by dictating the wind-driven redistribution of snow and the onset and speed of snowmelt. The downhill flow of water from snowmelt links terrestrial habitats and connects them with alpine lakes and streams. Long-term observations at NWT suggest that this complexity can lead to both rapid change and stability. Our research at NWT is aimed at gaining a better understanding of where and when environmental changes lead to ecological changes, and elucidating the mechanisms driving ecological responsiveness and stability.
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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Cooperative Agreement #DEB-1637686. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necesarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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