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Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 15, issue 15 | Copyright
Biogeosciences, 15, 4815-4832, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Ideas and perspectives 15 Aug 2018

Ideas and perspectives | 15 Aug 2018

Ideas and perspectives: Strengthening the biogeosciences in environmental research networks

Daniel D. Richter1, Sharon A. Billings2, Peter M. Groffman3, Eugene F. Kelly4, Kathleen A. Lohse5, William H. McDowell6, Timothy S. White7, Suzanne Anderson8, Dennis D. Baldocchi9, Steve Banwart10, Susan Brantley11, Jean J. Braun12, Zachary S. Brecheisen1, Charles W. Cook1, Hilairy E. Hartnett13, Sarah E. Hobbie14, Jerome Gaillardet15, Esteban Jobbagy16, Hermann F. Jungkunst17, Clare E. Kazanski18, Jagdish Krishnaswamy19, Daniel Markewitz20, Katherine O'Neill21, Clifford S. Riebe22, Paul Schroeder23, Christina Siebe24, Whendee L. Silver25, Aaron Thompson26, Anne Verhoef27, and Ganlin Zhang28 Daniel D. Richter et al.
  • 1Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA
  • 2Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Kansas Biological Survey, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, USA
  • 3City University of New York, Advanced Science Research Center and Brooklyn College, Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, New York, NY, USA
  • 4Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO, USA
  • 5Department of Biological Sciences, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID, USA
  • 6Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH, USA
  • 7Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA
  • 8Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and Dept. of Geography, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 9Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California at Berkeley, CA, USA
  • 10School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
  • 11Earth and Environmental Systems Institute, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA
  • 12Geosciences Environment Toulouse, Universite de Toulouse, Toulouse, FR and University of Yaounide, LIM DYCOFAC, IRD, Yaounde, Cameroon
  • 13School of Earth and Space Exploration and School of Molecular Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA
  • 14Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, USA
  • 15Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, Institut Universitaire de France, Paris, France
  • 16Grupo de Estudios Ambientales – IMASL, CONICET, and Universidad Nacional de San Luis, Argentina
  • 17Institute for Environmental Sciences, University of Koblenz-Landau, Landau, Germany
  • 18Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, USA
  • 19Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Bangalore, India
  • 20Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA
  • 21Environmental Studies, Roanoke College, Salem, VA, USA
  • 22Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY, USA
  • 23Department of Geology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA
  • 24Instituto de Geologia, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Mexico City, Mexico
  • 25Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA
  • 26Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA
  • 27Department of Geography and Environmental Science, The University of Reading, Reading, UK
  • 28State Key Laboratory of Soil and Sustainable Agriculture, Institute of Soil Science, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Nanjing 210008, China

Abstract. Long-term environmental research networks are one approach to advancing local, regional, and global environmental science and education. A remarkable number and wide variety of environmental research networks operate around the world today. These are diverse in funding, infrastructure, motivating questions, scientific strengths, and the sciences that birthed and maintain the networks. Some networks have individual sites that were selected because they had produced invaluable long-term data, while other networks have new sites selected to span ecological gradients. However, all long-term environmental networks share two challenges. Networks must keep pace with scientific advances and interact with both the scientific community and society at large. If networks fall short of successfully addressing these challenges, they risk becoming irrelevant. The objective of this paper is to assert that the biogeosciences offer environmental research networks a number of opportunities to expand scientific impact and public engagement. We explore some of these opportunities with four networks: the International Long-Term Ecological Research Network programs (ILTERs), critical zone observatories (CZOs), Earth and ecological observatory networks (EONs), and the FLUXNET program of eddy flux sites. While these networks were founded and expanded by interdisciplinary scientists, the preponderance of expertise and funding has gravitated activities of ILTERs and EONs toward ecology and biology, CZOs toward the Earth sciences and geology, and FLUXNET toward ecophysiology and micrometeorology. Our point is not to homogenize networks, nor to diminish disciplinary science. Rather, we argue that by more fully incorporating the integration of biology and geology in long-term environmental research networks, scientists can better leverage network assets, keep pace with the ever-changing science of the environment, and engage with larger scientific and public audiences.

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Short summary
As knowledge in biology and geology explodes, science becomes increasingly specialized. Given the overlap of the environmental sciences, however, the explosion in knowledge inevitably creates opportunities for interconnecting the biogeosciences. Here, 30 scientists emphasize the opportunities for biogeoscience collaborations across the world’s remarkable long-term environmental research networks that can advance science and engage larger scientific and public audiences.
As knowledge in biology and geology explodes, science becomes increasingly specialized. Given...