zone observatories should be sustained, asthese provide an integrative framework for understanding faulting and associateddeformation processes. The relatedEarthScope project is exploring the struc-ture and evolution of the North Americancontinent, using thousands of coordinatedgeophysical instruments. There is great
scientic value to be gained in completing
this project, as envisioned, through 2018.
4. Interactions Among Climate, Surface Processes, Tectonics, and Deep Earth Processes
Over geologic spans of time, Earth’sshifting tectonic plates, atmosphere,
freezing water, thawing ice, owing rivers,
and evolving life have shaped Earth’ssurface features. These surface and deep Earth processesform a complex network of interactions and feedbacksthat currently are not well understood. A more complete
understanding of the inuence of deep Earth processes
that shape Earth’s surface will require new developmentsin technologies such as satellite imagery, modeling
capabilities, and eld instrumentation and studies.
The Division of Earth Sciencesshould take appropriate steps to encourage work oninteractions among climate, surface processes, tectonics,and deeper Earth processes either through a new interdis-ciplinary program, or perhaps by expanding the focus of
the Continental Dynamics program to accommodate the
broader research agenda of these interdisciplinarysubthemes.
5. Co-evolution of Life, Environment, and Climate
The deep-time geological record provides a narrative of changes in Earth’s climate, environment, and the evolu-tion of life. This record provides analogs, insight, andcontext for understanding the role of people in the Earthsystem and the impacts of human-caused change on the planet. New analytic tools are now allowing scientists to put changes in Earth’s landscapes in context withchanges in other parameters such as temperature, atmo-spheric conditions, and the chemical composition of the
ocean. These ndings could provide new insight on the
co-evolution of life, the environment, and climate.
The Division of Earth Scienceshould develop a mechanism to enable interdisciplinaryscience-driven projects involving stratigraphy, sedimen-tology, paleontology, proxy development, calibration andapplication studies, geochronology, and climate modelingat appropriates resolves scales of time and space, in order to understand the major linked events of environmental,climate, and biotic change at a mechanistic level. Such projects could be expected to be cross program, and crossdirectorate.
6. Coupled Hydrogeomorphic-Ecosystem Response to Natural and Human-caused Change
It is now widely recognized that climate change anddisturbance, both natural and human-caused, can havefar-reaching consequences for landscapes and ecosys-tems. Building the ability to anticipate the response of landscapes and ecosystems to change will require a better understanding of the mechanisms of interactionsand feedbacks among landscapes, ecosystems, and the
ux and ow of water. Coastal environments are particu
-larly important areas in which to understand thesecoupled responses due to their location at the interface of major terrestrial and oceanic systems. This will requiremonitoring of landscape processes, and the developmentof new instrumentation and data archives to support andtest models—work that could take advantage of large-scale restoration efforts and documented historicalchange as controlled experiments.
The Division of Earth Scienceshould facilitate research on coupled hydrogeomorphic-ecosystem response to natural and human-caused changeand disturbance. In particular, the committee recom-mends that the Division of Earth Science targetinterdisciplinary research on coastal environments. Thisinitiative would lay the groundwork for understandingand forecasting the response of coastal landscapes tosea-level rise, climate change, and human and natural
disturbance, which will ll an existing gap at the
National Science Foundation, and should involve coordi-nation with the Division of Ocean Sciences, the UnitedStates Geological Survey, and the National Oceanic andAtmospheric Administration.
Aerial photocomparison of developedand undeveloped sections of barrier island response toHurricane Katrina. Areas
covered in vegetation (left)
appear less impacted than
developed areas (right).
Understanding if this wasdue to the vegetation or tothe prescence of higher coastal dunes built throughvegetal interactions withsediment has signifcantenvironmental managementimplications.
Source: Feagin et al, 2010.