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Terrestrial Ecology Program   


NASA Terrestrial Ecology research addresses Earth's carbon cycle and ecosystems using space-based observations. The focus is on land-based ecosystems, changes in their structure and functioning, and their roles in supporting human life and maintaining planet Earth's habitability.

The goal of NASA's Terrestrial Ecology research is to improve understanding of the structure and function of global terrestrial ecosystems, their interactions with the atmosphere and hydrosphere, and their role in the cycling of the major biogeochemical elements and water.

This program of research addresses variability in terrestrial ecosystems, how terrestrial ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles respond to and affect global environmental change (including changes in biodiversity), and future changes in carbon-cycle dynamics and terrestrial ecosystems. The research approach combines:

  • use of remote sensing to observe terrestrial ecosystems and their responses;
  • field campaigns and related process studies to elucidate ecosystem function; and
  • ecosystem and biogeochemical cycle modeling to analyze and predict responses.

Research to establish a theoretical basis for measuring Earth surface properties using reflected, emitted, and scattered electromagnetic radiation and to develop the methodologies and technical approaches to analyze and interpret such measurements – especially in support of new measurement capabilities and satellite missions – is an important component of the Terrestrial Ecology program.

NASA Science Questions Primarily Addressed in Terrestrial Ecology Research:

  • How are global ecosystems changing?
  • How do ecosystems, land cover and biogeochemical cycles respond to and affect global environmental change?
  • How will carbon cycle dynamics and terrestrial and marine ecosystems change in the future?

Annual Budget for Terrestrial Ecology Research & Analysis:

  • ~ $15 million

Major Activities:

  • Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE)
  • Carbon Monitoring Systems (CMS)
  • Large Scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia (LBA)
  • North American Carbon Program (NACP)
  • Carbon Cycle Science
  • Remote Sensing Science
  • Biogeochemical and Ecological Modeling
  • High Latitude Ecosystem and Carbon Dynamics Research
  • Biodiversity (in collaboration with NASA Biodiversity Theme)

Major Partnerships and Collaborations:

  • With U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) Carbon Cycle Interagency Working Group (CCIWG) on NACP and Carbon Cycle Science
  • With USGCRP Ecosystems Interagency Working Group and the Subcommittee on Ecological Systems of the National Science and Technology Council
  • With Brazil in LBA
  • With Canada and Mexico in NACP

Points of Contact for NASA Terrestrial Ecology Program: