All ecosystems will be impacted to some extent by climate change, with forecasts for more frequent and severe drought likely to have the greatest impact on terrestrial ecosystems. Terrestrial ecosystems are known to vary dramatically in their responses to drought. However, the factors that may make some ecosystems respond more or less than others remains unknown, but such understanding is critical for predicting drought impacts at regional and continental scales. To effectively forecast terrestrial ecosystem responses to drought, ecologists must assess responses of a range of different ecosystems to drought, and then improve existing models by incorporating the factors that cause such variation in response. Traditional site-based research cannot provide this knowledge because experiments conducted at individual sites are often not directly comparable due to differences in methodologies employed. Coordinated experimental networks, with identical protocols and comparable measurements, are ideally suited for comparative studies at regional to global scales. The US National Science Foundation-funded Drought-Net Research Coordination Network (www.drought-net.org) will advance understanding of the determinants of terrestrial ecosystem responses to drought by bringing together an international group of scientists to conduct two key activities conducted over the next five years: 1) planning and coordinating new research using standardized measurements to leverage the value of existing drought experiments across the globe (Enhancing Existing Experiments, EEE), and 2) finalizing the design and facilitating the establishment of a new international network of coordinated drought experiments (the International Drought Experiment, IDE). The primary goals of these activities are to assess: (1) patterns of differential terrestrial ecosystem sensitivity to drought and (2) potential mechanisms underlying those patterns.
As a central activity of Drought-Net, IDE will significantly expand the scope of past drought experiments by including a greater range of ecosystem types (particularly forests), insuring that these experiments are accessible to as many investigators as possible, and overcoming the limitations of past drought experiments (i.e., lack of coordination, differences in approaches and methodologies, etc.). IDE will follow in the pioneering footsteps of the Nutrient Network (NutNet; http://www.nutnet.umn.edu/), in that: 1) network design will be hypothesis driven, 2) the experiment will be designed with simplicity in mind to minimize fiscal and logistical constraints, and 3) an important features of the network are a universal experimental design to be used at all sites, a clear set of guidelines for data sharing, intellectual participation in network-level data analyses, and authorship of manuscripts. To date, over 100 investigators from more than a dozen countries have agreed to participate in IDE, which will start experimental treatments in 2016.
The goals of this workshop are to inform the LTER community about Drought-Net and its associated activities and, in particular, to guage LTER network investigator/site interest in participating in IDE.