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Publications in VIVO

Rastetter, Edward Senior Scientist, Ecosystems Center


My research focuses on how ecosystems are regulated through the interactions among carbon, nutrient, energy, and water cycles and how this regulation maintains the life-support system of the Earth. The gatekeepers that undertake this regulation are the plants, animals, and microorganisms that make up ecosystems. These organisms themselves require carbon, nutrient, energy, and water from their environment in tightly constrained proportions and have evolved ways to balance their resource acquisition to meet their own metabolic needs. With many billions of organisms acting in concert, all acquiring carbon, nutrient, energy, and water from the environment in about the same proportions, the cycles of these resources become inextricably linked to one another. This tight linkage means that ecosystem responses to perturbations in one of the resource cycles are constrained by the dynamics of the other resource cycles and that perturbations will propagate from one resource cycle to all the others. I simulate these tightly coupled resource cycles using computer models and examine how ecosystems will respond to increasing carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere, changes in rainfall patterns, increases in man-made fertilizer use, and global warming. My work both relies upon data collected from observational and experimental studies in the field and provides the theoretical foundation for new field studies to help unravel the mechanisms underlying the global life-support system.

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