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CENTENNIAL SPECIAL: NOTABLE PAPERS: Ecological Applications: Archive

 

[also see Notable papers for Ecology, Ecological Monographs, Frontiers and Ecosphere]

As part of ESA’s Centennial celebration we are looking back at some of the most notable papers published in ESA journals, since Ecology first rolled out the presses in 1920. All these papers will be available freely available until the end of 2016.

Only “objective” measures were used to make these selections. The listed articles for each journal are weighted 90% by their number of citations. Since newer papers have not had the opportunity to gather as many citations, 10% of the weight is given to the relative number of times an article has been accessed online. Those with a very high number of downloads are likely to be more cited in the future, and thus adding the 10% weighting helps to bring in some of the relatively more recent standouts. After applying this metric, the papers are listed in chronological order for each journal. The total number on the list for each journal is roughly in proportion to the number of papers published in the lifetime of that journal.

Citations and downloads are not guaranteed measures of quality, but the high-scorers are likely to be articles which have had significant impact on the science of ecology. The lists are a starting point for reflection and discussion. We’d like to invite your observations on the value of these papers, whether it’s an observation on the impact of the article, or how things have evolved in that field, to a personal reflection, or even an explanation on why a particular article has been over-rated/over-cited. The lists were first sent to past and present presidents and editors of the journals who were invited to submit commentaries, some of which are accompanying the lists. Now is your opportunity. We invite members to submit short commentaries on these articles. We will publish as many as we can in a rotating fashion, and hope to also keep a list of previous entries. Send your contributions (one short paragraph please) related to a particular article to esa_pubs@cornell.edu with the subject line “Centennial special”. If there happens to be a figure or other image associated with the paper, or even an image evocative of the paper, or your commentary, please send that along as well. We have space for one image per journal, and it can be switched out periodically. It’s not necessary to suggest an image though.

Hope you can find something among these to comment on, as we reflect on where we have been in ecology and where we are going.

 



Effects of Climate Change on Plant Respiration
Michael G. Ryan
Ecological Applications, Volume 1, Issue 2 (May 1991) pp. 157-167
Abstract | Full Text at JSTOR

Northern Peatlands: Role in the Carbon Cycle and Probable Responses to Climatic Warming
Eville Gorham
Ecological Applications, Volume 1, Issue 2 (May 1991) pp. 182-195
Abstract | Full Text at JSTOR

Eville Gorham’s seminal paper on the world’s peatlands has inspired generations of researchers to don their boots and mosquito net and head into the wetlands of the world to understand how climate and the vast stores of ancient peat contained there will interact in a future climate. The world’s peatlands, located mainly at high latitudes, contain a large fraction of the land’s stored carbon, but this carbon is not contained in stable forms and so could be released back to the atmosphere. Gorham’s paper combined geographic, paleoclimatic and ecological perspectives to provide the first global view of these ecosystems and their significance. This paper, cited a staggering >2500 times, is one of my personal inspirations and on my list of great papers not only in ecology, but in the study of the earth itself.

~~ David S. Schimel, California Institute of Technology. December 6, 2015

Biological Integrity: A Long-Neglected Aspect of Water Resource Management
James R. Karr
Ecological Applications, Volume 1, Issue 1 (February 1991) pp. 66-84
Abstract | Full Text at JSTOR

Preserving Biodiversity: Species, Ecosystems, or Landscapes?
Jerry F. Franklin
Ecological Applications, Volume 3, Issue 2 (May 1993) pp. 202-205
Abstract | Full Text at JSTOR

Jerry Franklin argues that in order to preserve critical species, managers need to focus on sustaining intact ecosystems and landscapes. This was written at a time when much conservation emphasis, partly as a result of the wording of the Endangered Species Act, focused on the preservation of a small number of species, and was narrowly focused on these species requirements. He argued presciently that this approach would fail for two reasons, one the immense number of species would eventually make a species-by-species approach unworkable, and second, that the long-term survival of threatened species required intact and functioning ecosystems and landscapes for them to inhabit. This paper critically informed endangered species management by governmental and non-governmental organizations and its current citation count of nearly 1200 almost certainly understates its impact outside academia.

~~ David S. Schimel, California Institute of Technology. December 6, 2015

The Role of Riparian Corridors in Maintaining Regional Biodiversity
Robert J. Naiman, Henri Decamps, Michael Pollock
Ecological Applications, Volume 3, Issue 2 (May 1993) pp. 209-212
Abstract | Full Text at JSTOR

On Beyond BACI: Sampling Designs that Might Reliably Detect Environmental Disturbances
A. J. Underwood
Ecological Applications, Volume 4, Issue 1 (February 1994) pp. 3-15
Abstract | Full Text at JSTOR

Juvenile Tree Survivorship as a Component of Shade Tolerance
Richard K. Kobe, Stephen W. Pacala, John A. Silander Jr., Charles D. Canham
Ecological Applications, Volume 5, Issue 2 (May 1995) pp. 517-532
Abstract | Full Text at JSTOR

Land Use and Avian Species Diversity Along an Urban Gradient
Robert B. Blair
Ecological Applications, Volume 6, Issue 2 (May 1996) pp. 506-519
Abstract | Full Text at JSTOR

Today, urban ecology is a growing field, but in the 1990s, ecologists were still mainly focused on the natural landscape, even if human-impacted, and had done very little work in cities. Robert Blair published an early study of bird community structure and diversity along a gradient from less to more intensively developed sites in Santa Clara, California. Blair’s study, cited nearly 1000 times, is a model for urban ecology, and took the gradient study concept and applied it to varying intensity of urbanization. Blair found clear patterns of community change along the gradient, with diversity peaking in the middle, native species dominating the less disturbed sites, and invasive and non-native species became increasingly important in the urban core. These general results have been supported and refined by a host of similar studies, that have extended the approach to many other taxa, including mammals, spiders and microbes. While urban ecologists pursue a widening range of questions about cities as ecosystems, and work far more closely now with social scientists, this paper established the credibility and importance of such studies, and remains a model for many other investigations.

~~ David S. Schimel, California Institute of Technology. December 6, 2015

The Report of the Ecological Society of America Committee on the Scientific Basis for Ecosystem Management
Norman L. Christensen, Ann M. Bartuska, James H. Brown, Stephen Carpenter, Carla D'Antonio, Rober Francis, Jerry F. Franklin, James A. MacMahon, Reed F. Noss, David J. Parsons, Charles H. Peterson, Monica G. Turner, Robert G. Woodmansee
Ecological Applications, Volume 6, Issue 3 (August 1996) pp. 665-691
Abstract | Full Text at JSTOR

HUMAN ALTERATION OF THE GLOBAL NITROGEN CYCLE: SOURCES AND CONSEQUENCES
Peter M. Vitousek, John D. Aber, Robert W. Howarth, Gene E. Likens, Pamela A. Matson, David W. Schindler, William H. Schlesinger, David G. Tilman
Ecological Applications, Volume 7, Issue 3 (August 1997) pp. 737-750
Abstract | Full Text | PDF (149 KB)

In a world obsessed with the carbon cycle (and rightly so), this paper led by Vitousek points out that the nitrogen cycle is, proportionately even more out of balance and affected by human processes. This paper points out that the inputs of reactive nitrogen from atmospheric N2 into more biologically available forms have doubled over the industrial revolution, due to fertilizer production, air pollution and other processes, and that there are consequences for terrestrial, aquatic and marine systems, including changes to carbon cycling, biodiversity, acidity, the balance of other nutrients, and through N2O production, back to climate itself. This paper, cited over 4000 times, is one of the landmarks defining the impact of humanity on the biosphere and takes its place with the Keeling record, the temperature record and other key descriptors of the anthropocene.

~~ David S. Schimel, California Institute of Technology. December 6, 2015

NONPOINT POLLUTION OF SURFACE WATERS WITH PHOSPHORUS AND NITROGEN
S. R. Carpenter, N. F. Caraco, D. L. Correll, R. W. Howarth, A. N. Sharpley, V. H. Smith
Ecological Applications, Volume 8, Issue 3 (August 1998) pp. 559-568
Abstract | Full Text | PDF (114 KB)

NITROGEN EXCESS IN NORTH AMERICAN ECOSYSTEMS: PREDISPOSING FACTORS, ECOSYSTEM RESPONSES, AND MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES
Mark E. Fenn, Mark A. Poth, John D. Aber, Jill S. Baron, Bernard T. Bormann, Dale W. Johnson, A. Dennis Lemly, Steven G. McNulty, Douglas F. Ryan, Robert Stottlemyer
Ecological Applications, Volume 8, Issue 3 (August 1998) pp. 706-733
Abstract | Full Text | PDF (242 KB)

Fenn et al. 1998 took a forest-eye view of how atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition was affecting ecosystems of the US and Canada. It was (and is still) a comprehensive, yet concise attempt to explain how N saturation played out in different forests (and alpine) across the country. Nitrogen saturation is defined in the paper, with credit to Allison Magill, as the long-term removal of N limitations on biotic activity, accompanied by a decrease in N retention capacity. The comprehensive review, with an elegant conceptual model (Figure 2) places forests in context of predisposing factors toward N saturation, ecosystem responses, and suggested management to mitigate the negative effects. The paper broke ground several ways: 1) it was the first to expand the conversation atmospheric deposition effects beyond eastern forests, but to do so; 2) we modified the original 1989 N saturation model by John Aber and colleagues. Due to edaphic and climatic conditions, not all forests (or alpine) respond the same; and 3) it attempted to strike a compromise between a forestry community that assumed N limitation, not N excess, restricted tree productivity, and a mostly acid rain-trained biogeochemical community quantifying impacts of air pollution to forests. Much credit for this paper goes to Doug Ryan of the US Forest Service, who had the vision to lock us all in a room until we produced a first draft.

~~ Jill S. Baron, US Geological Survey/Colorado State University. December 14, 2015

OVERVIEW OF THE USE OF NATURAL VARIABILITY CONCEPTS IN MANAGING ECOLOGICAL SYSTEMS
Peter B. Landres, Penelope Morgan, Frederick J. Swanson
Ecological Applications, Volume 9, Issue 4 (November 1999) pp. 1179-1188
Abstract | Full Text | PDF (88 KB)

APPLIED HISTORICAL ECOLOGY: USING THE PAST TO MANAGE FOR THE FUTURE
Thomas W. Swetnam, Craig D. Allen, Julio L. Betancourt
Ecological Applications, Volume 9, Issue 4 (November 1999) pp. 1189-1206
Abstract | Full Text | PDF (503 KB)

REDISCOVERY OF TRADITIONAL ECOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE AS ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT
Fikret Berkes, Johan Colding, Carl Folke
Ecological Applications, Volume 10, Issue 5 (October 2000) pp. 1251-1262
Abstract | Full Text | PDF (99 KB)

In our fast-paced modern world, it is sometimes good to pause and reflect on how far we’ve come and whether our science and management systems have improved along the way. The Berkes et al. (2000) article published in Ecological Applications on the Rediscovery of Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) as a form of adaptive management provides an example of the insights to be gained from such reflections. As the authors explain, traditional knowledge has often accumulated over generations, and been tested through trial-and-error by observers whose lives depended on it. It should thus come as no surprise that TEK can and has played an important role in monitoring, responding to, and managing ecosystem processes and functions. What I particularly enjoy about the Berkes et al. (2000) review is that it highlights the sophistication of traditional practices for ecosystem management implemented in some regions. These include concepts, which although labeled differently, include management methods that the scientific community likes to consider modern solutions to managing natural resources – for example, multiple species management, rotational harvest, landscape patchiness management and management responses to ecological surprises. Other similarities include the resemblance to modern adaptive management principles based on feedback learning and consideration of uncertainty. And in the same way not all of our modern methods have met with success, some traditional practices became maladaptive over time too. There is an urgent need for improved resource management systems globally, coupled with a groundswell of support for more holistic socio-ecological and collaborative frameworks to inform decision making. Towards these goals, the article by Berkes and colleagues provided a useful and objective basis for advancing the science of natural resource management without losing sight of the lessons learnt along the way; in particular, the long history of resource management practiced by local communities.

~~ Éva Plagányi, CSIRO. July 15, 2015

USING TRADITIONAL ECOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE IN SCIENCE: METHODS AND APPLICATIONS
Henry P. Huntington
Ecological Applications, Volume 10, Issue 5 (October 2000) pp. 1270-1274
Abstract | Full Text | PDF (49 KB)

AGE OF SOIL ORGANIC MATTER AND SOIL RESPIRATION: RADIOCARBON CONSTRAINTS ON BELOWGROUND C DYNAMICS
Susan Trumbore
Ecological Applications, Volume 10, Issue 2 (April 2000) pp. 399-411
Abstract | Full Text | PDF (167 KB)

Trumbore (2000) brought radiocarbon to the masses. Ecosystem ecology is not famous for its advanced techniques—think litterbags (let’s watch plants rot), or chloroform fumigation (kill an unknown fraction of cells and measure the resulting ooze). This paper is a classic because Susan Trumbore brought a new tool to bear on the carbon cycle. Radiocarbon acts as both a timer and a tracer of carbon atoms—it decays with a half-life of 5700 years, allowing us to carbon-date soil pools that are hundreds to thousands of years old. Thanks to nuclear weapons testing during the Cold War, we can also trace the “bomb spike” of radiocarbon through decades-old soil and vegetation pools. By combining these principles with accelerator mass spectrometry, Trumbore showed that ecosystems contain pools of carbon with vastly different, but quantifiable, ages. This variation is ignored by box models, which assume all carbon in a single conceptual box is the same age. Adding more boxes with different ages to a carbon model can improve agreement with radiocarbon data. Such agreement is critical for model predictions, especially when ecosystems respond to perturbations like climate warming and CO2 fertilization. Going forward, radiocarbon measurements will play a key role in constraining and improving carbon cycle models at ecosystem to global scales.

~~ Steven D. Allison, University of California - Irvine. July 15, 2015

THE VERTICAL DISTRIBUTION OF SOIL ORGANIC CARBON AND ITS RELATION TO CLIMATE AND VEGETATION
Esteban G. Jobbágy, Robert B. Jackson
Ecological Applications, Volume 10, Issue 2 (April 2000) pp. 423-436
Abstract | Full Text | PDF (221 KB)

BIOTIC INVASIONS: CAUSES, EPIDEMIOLOGY, GLOBAL CONSEQUENCES, AND CONTROL
Richard N. Mack, Daniel Simberloff, W. Mark Lonsdale, Harry Evans, Michael Clout, Fakhri A. Bazzaz
Ecological Applications, Volume 10, Issue 3 (June 2000) pp. 689-710
Abstract | Full Text | PDF (404 KB)

WATER IN A CHANGING WORLD
Robert B. Jackson, Stephen R. Carpenter, Clifford N. Dahm, Diane M. McKnight, Robert J. Naiman, Sandra L. Postel, Steven W. Running
Ecological Applications, Volume 11, Issue 4 (August 2001) pp. 1027-1045
Abstract | Full Text | PDF (2109 KB)

GRASSLAND MANAGEMENT AND CONVERSION INTO GRASSLAND: EFFECTS ON SOIL CARBON
Richard T. Conant, Keith Paustian, Edward T. Elliott
Ecological Applications, Volume 11, Issue 2 (April 2001) pp. 343-355
Abstract | Full Text | PDF (435 KB)

Grasslands are one of the most extensive ecosystem types globally, and are almost entirely used for production, either by grazing or by conversion to agriculture. In many grasslands, conversion to cropland causes substantial losses of soil carbon to the atmosphere, while innovative management may cause some or all of the carbon storage to eventually be recovered. The interaction of agricultural management and soil carbon has led to many interdisciplinary collaborations between soil, crop and ecological scientists, and this team of authors brings together those perspectives. This paper by three leading scientists, including the late, great soil scientist Ted Elliott—himself responsible for reintroducing the now dominant soil aggregation paradigm for carbon stabilization—has been cited over 800 times, testifying to this paper’s foundational role in agricultural sustainability science.

~~ David S. Schimel, California Institute of Technology. December 6, 2015

THE IMPACT OF MARINE RESERVES: DO RESERVES WORK AND DOES RESERVE SIZE MATTER?
Benjamin S. Halpern
Ecological Applications, Volume 13, Issue sp1 (February 2003) pp. 117-137
Abstract | Full Text | PDF (427 KB)

DENITRIFICATION ACROSS LANDSCAPES AND WATERSCAPES: A SYNTHESIS
S. Seitzinger, J. A. Harrison, J. K. Böhlke, A. F. Bouwman, R. Lowrance, B. Peterson, C. Tobias, G. Van Drecht
Ecological Applications, Volume 16, Issue 6 (December 2006) pp. 2064-2090
Abstract | Full Text | PDF (646 KB)

CLIMATE CHANGE AND FORESTS OF THE FUTURE: MANAGING IN THE FACE OF UNCERTAINTY
Constance I. Millar, Nathan L. Stephenson, Scott L. Stephens
Ecological Applications, Volume 17, Issue 8 (December 2007) pp. 2145-2151
Abstract | Full Text | PDF (143 KB)

In this timely and important paper, Millar et al proposed a paradigm shift with regard to management of forested ecosystems in the USA. They suggested that the recent approach of restoring historical conditions as a management target will not maximize forested ecosystem services in a rapidly changing world. Climate change as well as novel stressors (pollution, altered disturbance regimes, habitat fragmentation, invasive species including pathogens) create no-analog conditions for the future. They recommend a toolbox of strategies, informed by historical ecology, that enhance ecosystem short-term resistance and long-term resilience in the face of future uncertainty and variability. Their suggestions include adaptation strategies that enable forests to respond to change such as assisting forest transitions, using redundancy to spread risk, carrying out forest restoration with expected future conditions in mind, managing the establishment phase following large scale disturbance to promote forest heterogeneity, promoting landscape connectivity, and experimenting with topoclimatic refugia. The strong contribution of this often-cited paper is the clear articulation of design concepts for scientifically informed forest management in an era of rapid global change.

~~ Janet Franklin, Arizona State University. July 15, 2015

Global assessment of nitrogen deposition effects on terrestrial plant diversity: a synthesis
R. Bobbink, K. Hicks, J. Galloway, T. Spranger, R. Alkemade, M. Ashmore, M. Bustamante, S. Cinderby, E. Davidson, F. Dentener, B. Emmett, J-W. Erisman, M. Fenn, F. Gilliam, A. Nordin, L. Pardo, W. De Vries
Ecological Applications, Volume 20, Issue 1 (January 2010) pp. 30-59
Abstract | Full Text | PDF (1572 KB)

 

 

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