The forests and wildland ecosystems of California, Hawai'i, and the US Affiliated Pacific Islands are exceedingly diverse and provide a wide array of societal goods and services. From clean water, timber and non-timber products, and carbon sequestration to recreational use, aesthetic beauty, and native biodiversity, these ecosystems are national treasures that contribute to the prosperity of current and future generations. However, a growing list of environmental pressures, including climate and land-use change, water scarcity, and an increasing human population, threaten the health and integrity of these ecosystems.
The Ecosystem Function and Health Program's research focuses on the poorly understood interactions among changes in or brought about by biotic and abiotic factors such as temperature and precipitation, invasive species, air pollution, insects, pathogens, and past and current land management actions.
This Program is chartered for 10 years (2011 through 2021) with a mid-term review and potential charter revision after five years (in 2016).
Research Problem Areas
- Determine how biophysical factors influence the function and productivity of tropical, subtropical and temperate ecosystems.
Past harvesting practices, extensive fire suppression, and forest fragmentation have reduced forest ecosystem resiliency and health across much of California, Hawai'i and the Pacific Islands.
- Quantify and predict ecosystem responses and adaptation to environmental stressors.
The ability of land managers and policymakers to provide sustainable flows of goods and services from forests and watersheds has been significantly diminished, due to unprecedented stresses on forest ecosystems, including wildland fire, outbreaks of native and invasive species, as well as changes in climate and land use.
- Define and measure the impacts of biotic and abiotic stresses on hydrological and atmospheric systems.
Our water and air resources are both at serious risk across the Pacific Southwest region due to multiple environmental impacts and increased societal demands.
- Develop models and tools, and evaluate management options for restoring, sustaining and enhancing ecosystem function and productivity.
Land managers are accountable to the public to show that their actions effectively achieve management goals while maintaining or restoring properly functioning terrestrial, aquatic, and riparian ecosystems.