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Coweeta Long Term Ecological Research Site

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Southern Appalachia on the Edge - Exurbanization & Climate Interaction in the Southeast  (University of Georgia Research Foundation Inc)

Research Focus 

One of the oldest continuous environmental studies in North America, the Coweeta LTER is based in the eastern deciduous forest of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Its current research program, entitled "Southern Appalachia on the Edge" focuses on the impacts that exurbanization and climate change are having on water quality, water quantity and other ecosystem services across 60,000 square km of Southern Appalachia. 

Research Outcomes

The Coweeta LTER Program depends on coordinated study of landscapes that range from mountain to valley within watersheds of varying sizes. To assure a thorough examination of how land-use decisions and climate change affect ecosystem services at multiple scales, the program integrates disciplinary approaches from anthropology, ecology, economics, forestry and geography. 

One Coweeta LTER study showed that declines in Eastern hemlocks are altering river or stream-edge tree community composition in eastern U.S. forests. Scientists predicted losses of the trees will result in increases in rhododendron abundance and an overall decrease in tree species diversity.

In another study, a team led by Coweeta principal investigator James Clarke demonstrated the varying ways in which climate change affects viable seed production and mortality among trees. The study involved measurements on growth, mortality and fecundity from 27,000 trees taken over an 18-year period. The findings may help scientists and policymakers better predict which species are vulnerable to climate change and why.

Education & Outreach

Coweeta LTER scientists and staff provide middle school, high school and community college students hands-on experience. Coweeta's Schoolyard program provides formal instruction, field research and data summary and analysis experiences to students and instructors using Coweeta LTER research projects as examples.

Since 2001, Coweeta scientists have been engaged as mentors for undergraduates enrolled in the UNC Institute for the Environment of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

In addition, Coweeta staff members conduct guided scientific site tours for groups including primary and secondary school students, undergraduates, visiting regional and international scientists, forest and watershed managers and others.

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Images (1 of )

  • photo of evergreen and other trees in forest
  • two scientists collecting stream water samples
One Coweeta LTER study showed that declines in Eastern hemlocks are altering river or stream-edge tree community composition in eastern U.S. forests. Scientists predicted losses of the trees will result in increases in rhododendron abundance and an overall decrease in tree species diversity.
James Clark
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Field work at the Coweeta Long Term Ecological Research Site
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