Coastal ecosystems exist at a dynamic interface between continents, oceans and the atmosphere. The increasing human use of coastal watersheds, coupled with climate change and sea-level rise, alters the ways in which materials and energy are transformed and transported within these systems. Changes in the functioning of coastal ecosystems will have important consequences for the people who value them for food, recreation, storm protection, and other ecosystem services.
We seek to understand the complex array of forces that shape coastal ecosystems and their ecological processes in order to better evaluate the effects of stresses to these systems and provide information for effective management.
The cartoon shown provides the current conceptual model that guides our overall research themes. It illustrates the components of the landscapes and linkages between them (blue arrows), and depicts how the components are spatially connected in three dimensions (orange arrows).
Our current research focuses on geomorphologic connectivity between the landscapes, riverscapes, and seascapes of the PIE coastal ecosystem. It builds on the integrated system-level approach that has characterized PIE research. This approach led to key findings about the importance of scale in evaluating interactions between humans and the landscape, for example, or about the importance of understanding fish movement between habitats as indicators of ecosystem function. Other research highlights have shown the importance of the hydrologic drivers at PIE, and have connected those drivers to biogeochemical cycles and thence to system productivity and food webs. Experimental approaches are underpinned by long-term monitoring of fundamental ecosystem processes and physical drivers, and are guided by modeling efforts that aim to synthesize the knowledge we gain.