Climate-sensitive, Insular Ecosystems of the Southeast U.S.
This webinar is presented by Jennifer Cartwright and Bill Wolfe of the USGS Tennessee Water Science Center. In the Southeastern U.S., "insular ecosystems" may be particularly vulnerable to ecological effects from climate change. These insular ecosystems are characterized by (1) occurrences that are spatially discrete, (2) relatively small geographic footprints, and (3) steep ecological and environmental gradients at their boundaries. Such insular ecosystems tend to support concentrations of endemic and disjunct species; thus their contributions to regional biodiversity are often disproportionate to their small geographic sizes. Components of this project included a systematic literature review to document the biodiversity of selected insular ecosystems and to evaluate their potential vulnerability to climate change; a conceptual model for ecosystem integrity based on abiotic stress regimes and application of this model to generate hypotheses for ecological alteration based on changes in temperature or precipitation; and a 2-year field investigation in Limestone Cedar Glades to explore links between hydrology, soil physical and chemical properties, and ecological outcomes such as soil microbial community structure. This case study serves as an example of the type of empirical research that researchers argue is necessary to better evaluate the climate-change vulnerability of this class of ecosystems.