The primary goal of the Novus RCN is to unify records of disturbance and ecosystem response over multiple timescales. Disturbances (discrete events that reduce biomass) are important components of almost all ecosystems on Earth. They have dramatic consequences for landscape function, plant composition, stream chemistry, and elemental cycling. In particular, disturbance is a critical component of carbon and nitrogen cycles on local to global scales. There is evidence that the type, magnitude, and frequency of disturbance events are changing in the 21st century. However, it has been surprisingly difficult to study the long-term biogeochemical consequences of disturbance. To address this, we integrate approaches and knowledge from two separate research groups: paleoecologists and ecosystem ecologists. Specifically, the Novus RCN addresses four goals:
- Compare existing datasets of post-disturbance biogeochemical change over time (synthesizing from decadal to multimillennial scales).
- Integrate these data with biogeochemical models.
- Coordinate new research by developing sustained connections among ecosystem ecologists, paleoecologists, and land managers.
- Provide training and mentorship to young scientists conducting research in the temporal aspects of ecosystem ecology.
The Novus RCN focus on five common disturbance agents:
- Mass movements
Each of these varies in severity (amount of biomass removed) and frequency (return interval). As a biogeochemical response, Novus primarily focuses on ecosystem nutrient availability, because it can be readily measured by both paleo- and neo-ecologists, but we also include measurements or modeling of productivity and carbon stocks. Timescales analyzed range from decadal to multi-millennial, with a few case studies of million-year-old ecosystems. Four main sources of data include:
- Sediment records
- Tree-ring records
- Long-term instrumental measurements.