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Baltimore Ecosystem Study Long Term Ecological Research Site

Research Focus

The Baltimore Ecosystem Study (BES) aims to understand metropolitan Baltimore as an ecological system. The program brings together researchers from the biological, physical and social sciences to collect new data and synthesize existing information related to how both the ecological and engineered systems of Baltimore work. 

Using watershed function as a synthetic indicator and target for model development, the project seeks to answer three questions:

  • What are the fluxes of energy and matter in the Baltimore metropolitan ecosystem, and how do they change over the long term?

  • How does the spatial structure of ecological, physical, infrastructural, and socio-economic factors in the metropolis affect ecological processes?

  • How can urban residents develop and use an understanding of the metropolis as an ecological system to improve the quality of their environment and their daily lives?

Research Outcomes

Urban Watersheds: BES scientists discovered that urban watersheds retain substantial amounts of nitrogen, an important water pollutant, and prevent it from flowing into downstream waters. This finding underscores the valuable service that green spaces in cities and suburbs provide by safeguarding water quality and protecting coastal waters.

River Corridors: Streamside ecosystems in urban areas do not function like those in wild and rural areas because they are often disconnected from adjacent streams by pavement and other barriers that alter the flow of water. As a consequence, urban streams are not as protected from nitrate and other pollution draining cities and suburbs.

Community Concern: By exploring human values and attitudes, BES scientists have found that residents in poorer, ethnically mixed communities are as concerned with environmental problems as those in wealthier neighborhoods. This is contrary to long-held assumptions about which groups care about the urban environment and are most likely to be change agents for environmental rehabilitation and stewardship.

Education & Outreach

The ecological knowledge the BES creates helps support educational and community-based activities, and interactions between the project and the Baltimore community are important components of the project. Such an integrative project includes many disciplines and many research and educational institutions, both in Baltimore and beyond.

Outreach efforts include many tools, including a summer program for K-12 students in Baltimore County, modules, kits and materials for educators, a Research Experiences for Undergraduates program and a Pathways to Environmental Literacy Program.

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Images (1 of )

  • Man with garden hose watering plants in a community garden
  • Distant view of Baltimore's Inner Harbor
  • Urban stream under city bridge in Baltimore
Community garden in an abandoned lot, Baltimore Ecosystem study LTER. Researchers here will inform residents of the research processes and results.
LTER/Baltimore Ecosystem
Baltimore's Inner Harbor
LTER/Bonanza Creek
Urban stream ecosystem, Baltimore Ecosystem Studies LTER
LTER/Baltimore Ecosystem LTER