GCE-LTER Transformational Science

Since the GCE-LTER project began in 2000, our research has contributed significantly to understanding patterns and processes that shape estuarine and marsh environments. Some examples of transformational findings resulting from GCE research are:

leaf beetle photo
  1. Salt Marsh Herbivores – GCE scientists discovered that herbivores such as grasshoppers are more abundant and do more damage to plants in salt marshes at low versus high latitudes. This finding helps explain geographic variation in the palatability of coastal plants and in herbivore body size. (more information)
  2. Sea Level Rise – GCE scientists predict significant declines in wetland area in response to sea level rise. However, because different types of wetlands provide varying levels of ecosystem services, the loss of services due to sea level rise is actually less than forecast based on losses of total wetland area alone. (more information)
  3. Nitrogen to the Coast – GCE scientists determined that only 9% of the nitrogen that enters watersheds in the southeastern US is transported to the coast, compared to 25% in the northeast. They suggest that the difference is due to increased temperatures in the south, and that global estimates of nitrogen export are too high. (more information)
  4. Microbes & Nitrogen – GCE scientists are studying a novel group of microbes that appear to convert nitrogen from ammonium to nitrate. Very little is known about these organisms, but their potential importance has implications for both understanding nitrogen cycling and controlling nitrogen pollution. (more information)
  5. To be or not to be–The density of marine organisms varies tremendously among and within habitats, leading to very different communities. GCE scientists combined ecological approaches with modern genetic analyses to reveal how abundance and genetic diversity of larvae vary from inland to offshore, with important implications for populations of snails, barnacles, and other organisms. (more information)
  6. Controls on Marsh Productivity Salt marshes are highly productive. Their vigorous growth takes up nutrients from the water and stores large amounts of nutrients and carbon in the soil. The plant growth supports a productive food web both in marshes and in adjacent habitats where plant biomass is exported. In addition, the structure provided by vigorous plant growth provides habitat for many species and helps protect coastlines from erosion and storms. But what determines how productive the marshes are? (more information)

Examples of Signature Publications that address the broader goals of the GCE-LTER program are:


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grants OCE-9982133, OCE-0620959 and OCE-1237140. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.