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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 1, 2022
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  3. Global loss of biodiversity and its associated ecosystem services is occurring at an alarming rate and is predicted to accelerate in the future. Metacommunity theory provides a framework to investigate multi-scale processes that drive change in biodiversity across space and time. Short-term ecological studies across space have progressed our understanding of biodiversity through a metacommunity lens, however, such snapshots in time have been limited in their ability to explain which processes, at which scales, generate observed spatial patterns. Temporal dynamics of metacommunities have been understudied, and large gaps in theory and empirical data have hindered progress in our understanding ofmore »underlying metacommunity processes that give rise to biodiversity patterns. Fortunately, we are at an important point in the history of ecology, where long-term studies with cross-scale spatial replication provide a means to gain a deeper understanding of the multiscale processes driving biodiversity patterns in time and space to inform metacommunity theory. The maturation of coordinated research and observation networks, such as the United States Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program, provides an opportunity to advance explanation and prediction of biodiversity change with observational and experimental data at spatial and temporal scales greater than any single research group could accomplish. Synthesis of LTER network community datasets illustrates that long-term studies with spatial replication present an under-utilized resource for advancing spatio-temporal metacommunity research. We identify challenges towards synthesizing these data and present recommendations for addressing these challenges. We conclude with insights about how future monitoring efforts by coordinated research and observation networks could further the development of metacommunity theory and its applications aimed at improving conservation efforts.« less
  4. Disturbances fundamentally alter ecosystem functions, yet predicting their impacts remains a key scientific challenge. While the study of disturbances is ubiquitous across many ecological disciplines, there is no agreed-upon, cross-disciplinary foundation for discussing or quantifying the complexity of disturbances, and no consistent terminology or methodologies exist. This inconsistency presents an increasingly urgent challenge due to accelerating global change and the threat of interacting disturbances that can destabilize ecosystem responses. By harvesting the expertise of an interdisciplinary cohort of contributors spanning 42 institutions across 15 countries, we identified an essential limitation in disturbance ecology: the word ‘disturbance’ is used interchangeably tomore »refer to both the events that cause, and the consequences of, ecological change, despite fundamental distinctions between the two meanings. In response, we developed a generalizable framework of ecosystem disturbances, providing a well-defined lexicon for understanding disturbances across perspectives and scales. The framework results from ideas that resonate across multiple scientific disciplines and provides a baseline standard to compare disturbances across fields. This framework can be supplemented by discipline-specific variables to provide maximum benefit to both inter- and intra-disciplinary research. To support future syntheses and meta-analyses of disturbance research, we also encourage researchers to be explicit in how they define disturbance drivers and impacts, and we recommend minimum reporting standards that are applicable regardless of scale. Finally, we discuss the primary factors we considered when developing a baseline framework and propose four future directions to advance our interdisciplinary understanding of disturbances and their social-ecological impacts: integrating across ecological scales, understanding disturbance interactions, establishing baselines and trajectories, and developing process-based models and ecological forecasting initiatives. Our experience through this process motivates us to encourage the wider scientific community to continue to explore new approaches for leveraging Open Science principles in generating creative and multidisciplinary ideas.« less
  5. River ecosystems receive and process vast quantities of terrestrial organic carbon, the fate of which depends strongly on microbial activity. Variation in and controls of processing rates, however, are poorly characterized at the global scale. In response, we used a peer-sourced research network and a highly standardized carbon processing assay to conduct a global-scale field experiment in greater than 1000 river and riparian sites. We found that Earth’s biomes have distinct carbon processing signatures. Slow processing is evident across latitudes, whereas rapid rates are restricted to lower latitudes. Both the mean rate and variability decline with latitude, suggesting temperature constraintsmore »toward the poles and greater roles for other environmental drivers (e.g., nutrient loading) toward the equator. These results and data set the stage for unprecedented “next-generation biomonitoring” by establishing baselines to help quantify environmental impacts to the functioning of ecosystems at a global scale.« less