Terrestrial Ecosystem Science

Program Mission

The Terrestrial Ecosystem Science (TES) program within the Department of Energy (DOE); Office of Science; Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER); Earth and Environmental Systems Sciences Division (EESSD) seeks to improve the representation of terrestrial ecosystem processes in Earth system models thereby improving the robustness of model projections and providing the scientific foundation for solutions to DOE’s most pressing energy and environmental challenges.

Why the Program's Research is Important

A significant fraction of the CO2 released to the atmosphere during energy production is taken up by terrestrial ecosystems.  This “sink” for anthropogenic carbon represents an important buffer, offsetting the greenhouse gas effects of CO2 emissions.  The details of these processes, the role of climate variability and change on that uptake and the effects of related processes such as nutrient, water and energy cycling remain a mystery.  Uncertainties about how terrestrial ecosystems will function in a changing climate dramatically limit efforts to quantify and project long-term impacts and stability of carbon in the biosphere.  Understanding ecosystem functions is essential if we are to improve our ability to predictively model terrestrial ecosystems and their feedbacks to the Earth system. TES research navigates the forefront of interactions between terrestrial ecosystems and a changing climate with the ultimate goal of capturing the state of the science in coupled Earth system models.

TES contributes to EESSD Strategic Goal #2; "Develop, test and simulate process-level understanding of atmospheric systems and of terrestrial ecosystems extending from the bedrock to the top of the vegetative canopy."  The need to understand ecosystem responses to changes such as warming, increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration, changes in nutrient cycling and altered precipitation timing and amount, is essential to improving projections of both the ecological effects of climate change and feedbacks between the terrestrial ecosystem and the rest of the Earth system.  Through hypothesis-driven observations; experimental manipulations; and large-scale, long-term field studies, TES focuses on foundational research, including studies in critical and potentially sensitive ecosystems.  The goals are to understand and explain mechanisms and processes controlling primary production and carbon cycling, biogeochemistry, and the impacts of disturbance on terrestrial ecosystems.  This information is required to enhance model-based projections of climate change.

TES research focuses on ecosystems and ecological processes that are globally or regionally significant, expected to be sensitive to climate change, and are insufficiently understood or inadequately represented in models.  TES coordinates with BER’s climate modeling program (and research from other Federal agencies), ensuring that experimental and observational results are incorporated into Earth system models to enhance climate projections. The program is a leader among U.S. and international agencies in the design, construction, and operation of pioneering, long-term, large-scale field experiments that are critical to understanding the response of ecosystems to a changing climate.

Current and future investments include BER’s innovative concept for coupling models with experimental and observational campaigns, the Next Generation Ecosystem Experiment (NGEE).  The NGEE concept is highlighted in globally important, climatically sensitive and poorly understood ecosystems, currently, the Arctic and tropics.  Additional investments in large-scale ecosystem manipulations are supported in the Spruce and Peatland Responses Under Climatic and Environmental Change (SPRUCE) project being conducted in the Marcell Experimental forest in northern Minnesota.  BER investments also provide management and support infrastructure for AmeriFlux the interagency activity coordinating long-term CO2 (and energy) flux measurements across North America.

Program Funding Opportunity Announcements

TES supports BER mission-oriented ecosystem research at universities, national laboratories, and other research institutions through regular peer-reviewed, hypothesis-driven competitions.  Funding Opportunity Announcements are posted on the DOE Office of Science Grants and Contracts Web Site and at grants.gov Information about preparing and submitting applications, as well as the DOE Office of Science merit review process, is available at the DOE Office of Science Grants and Contracts Web Site.  For current announcements visit BER Funding Opportunities


More Information

TES Program website


Program Manager

Daniel Stover, Ph.D.
Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, SC-23.1
Department of Energy, GTN Bldg.
1000 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20585-1290
Phone: (301) 903-0289
Fax: (301) 903-8519
Email: Daniel.Stover@science.doe.gov