GCE Research Program

Program Overview

The Georgia Coastal Ecosystems (GCE) LTER project was established in 2000 to understand estuarine and intertidal wetland ecosystems and how they respond to long-term change. We are now in our fourth funding cycle (GCE-IV). During GCE-I and II we established our long-term monitoring programs and focused on spatial variability in the landscape. We learned that freshwater is an important forcing function, creating both latitudinal and lateral gradients in habitat distribution. During GCE-III we investigated salinity and inundation as major structuring variables and initiated long-term manipulations to evaluate the ecological consequences of variation in these external drivers. Now, during GCE-IV, we are building on the major programmatic elements from the first three funding cycles to develop a deeper understanding of driver-response relationships and how perturbations affect the domain.

GCE-IV Focus Areas

The research activities in GCE-IV are designed to characterize perturbation patterns and their relationships to external drivers, to develop an understanding of disturbance responses to perturbations, and to evaluate the consequences of these responses at the landscape scale.

We divide our research into four inter-related programmatic areas:

External drivers of change (Area 1): We characterize external drivers such as climate change, sea-level rise, and human alterations of the landscape in terms of long-term trends, spatio-temporal variability, and occurrence of extreme events (e.g., storms, droughts) so that we can investigate the links between external drivers and ecosystem response. (more information)

Long-term patterns of estuary and intertidal variation (Area 2): We track the temporal and spatial variability of the habitats within the GCE study area through a combination of field monitoring and remote sensing in order to evaluate ecosystem responses to long-term change and domain perturbations. (more information)

Process studies (Area 3): We conduct long-term manipulations as well as focused investigations designed to develop a mechanistic understanding of ecosystem function and responses to both long-term and episodic changes. (more information)

Integration and scaling up (Area 4): We use a combination of remote sensing, field investigations, and modeling to document and evaluate the consequences of long-term change and disturbance at the landscape scale. (more information)

Conceptual Model Guiding GCE Research

Conceptual Diagram
Conceptual Model of Disturbance. Domain perturbations can be caused by external drivers and internal processes. Ecological responses to these events can be persistence, recovery, or a state change, and are a function (ƒ) of the interaction between domain perturbations and the system state (biophysical template).

GCE-IV Research Portfolio

Research Portfolio
GCE-IV Research Portfolio, showing major components in each of the program areas

Signature Publications



This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grants OCE-9982133, OCE-0620959, OCE-1237140 and OCE-1832178. 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.