William Schlesinger

William Schlesinger
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies | CIES

Doctor of Philosophy

About

187
Publications
93,725
Reads
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32,902
Citations
Citations since 2016
3 Research Items
12498 Citations
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201620172018201920202021202205001,0001,500
201620172018201920202021202205001,0001,500
201620172018201920202021202205001,0001,500
Additional affiliations
September 2001 - May 2007
Duke University
Position
  • James B. Duke Professor
September 1980 - May 2001
Duke University
Position
  • Professor
Education
August 1972 - May 1976
Cornell University
Field of study
  • Ecology
September 1968 - June 1972
Dartmouth College
Field of study
  • Biology

Publications

Publications (187)
Article
Full-text available
This review suggests that most of the management practices associated with regenerative agriculture are not likely to lead to a large net sequestration of organic carbon in soils. Some improved management practices, such as increased fertilizer use, manuring, and applications of biochar, are constrained by biogeochemical stoichiometry and the avail...
Article
Full-text available
Potassium presents a conundrum for biogeochemists. Potassium is cycled wastefully at the plant level, but it appears to be conserved in the nutrient budgets of entire ecosystems, where it sometimes limits net primary productivity. An increasing demand for K fertilizer may accompany the expansion of agriculture into highly weathered tropical soils,...
Article
Full-text available
Improved soil management is increasingly pursued to ensure food security for the world's rising global population, with the ancillary benefit of storing carbon in soils to lower the threat of climate change. While all increments to soil organic matter are laudable, we suggest caution in ascribing large, potential climate change mitigation to enhanc...
Article
Full-text available
Trees alter their use and allocation of nutrients in response to drought, and changes in soil nutrient cycling and trace gas flux (N2O and CH4) are observed when experimental drought is imposed on forests. In extreme droughts trees are increasingly susceptible to attack by pests and pathogens, which can lead to major changes in nutrient flux to the...
Article
Santín et al. (2014) report the conversion of different boreal forest biomass pools to pyrogenic organic matter (PyOM) during a forest fire, and suggest that ~100 Tg C y−1 may be converted to PyOM in boreal forests globally. They further suggest that PyOM formation represents a missing C sink. The phrase ‘missing C sink’ derives from a lack of clos...
Article
A compilation of 81 studies that have partitioned evapotranspiration (ET) into its components—transpiration (T) and evaporation (E)—at the ecosystem scale indicates that T accounts for 61% (±15% s.d.) of ET and returns approximately 39 ± 10% of incident precipitation (P) to the atmosphere, creating a dominant force in the global water cycle. T as a...
Chapter
Full-text available
Key Messages 1. Human activities have increased atmospheric carbon dioxide by about 40% over pre-industrial levels and more than doubled the amount of nitrogen available to ecosystems. Similar trends have been observed for phosphorus and other elements, and these changes have major consequences for biogeochemical cycles and climate change. 2. In t...
Chapter
Nitrogen often limits the rate of net primary production on land and in the sea. The most abundant form of nitrogen at the surface of the Earth, N 2 , is the least reactive species. Nitrogen fixation converts atmospheric N 2 to one of the forms of reactive nitrogen that can be used by biota. Denitrifying bacteria return N 2 to the atmosphere, lower...
Chapter
The oceans dominate the Earth's hydrosphere. Density differences isolate surface waters from deep waters, which contain 95% of the ocean's volume. Circulation of the surface waters is primarily driven by atmospheric winds. Deep-water circulation is derived from increases in surface water density in polar regions, which lead to the formation of deep...
Chapter
Rocks exposed at the surface of the Earth break down (weather) at rates determined by topography, climate, and plant growth, releasing elements important to plant nutrition. Carbonic acid, derived from the reaction of CO 2 with rainwater, dominates the rate of chemical weathering in most circumstances. The weathering process also results in the for...
Article
Life is composed primarily of carbon, so estimates of the global production and destruction of organic carbon give us an overall index of the health of the biosphere. Photosynthetic organisms capture sunlight energy in organic compounds that fuel the biosphere and account for the presence of molecular O 2 in our atmosphere. Thus, the carbon and oxy...
Chapter
Photosynthesis provides the energy that powers the biochemical reactions of life. That energy is captured form sunlight and stored in the carbon bonds of organic materials. Globally, plant production captures about 60 × 10 15 g C yr –1 , which is available to the terrestrial biosphere. In regions with adequate soil moisture, plant growth is determi...
Chapter
Wetlands form in low-lying points of landscapes where water accumulates near or above the soil surface. Because oxygen diffuses much more slowly through water than air, the saturated soils of wetlands are often anoxic. The productivity of many vascular plants is suppressed under low oxygen conditions, yet wetlands have very high rates of net ecosys...
Chapter
The atmosphere is composed of nitrogen, oxygen and argon, a variety of trace gases, and particles or aerosols from a variety of sources. Reactive, trace gases have short mean residence time in the atmosphere and large spatial and temporal variations in concentration. Many trace gases are removed by reaction with hydroxyl radical and deposition in r...
Chapter
Constraints on the biochemical composition of life derive from the relative abundance of elements in the Universe and at the surface of the Earth. Earth formed about 4.5 billion years ago (bya), and its atmosphere and oceans were derived from gaseous elements that were delivered as part of solid materials during the accretion process. Life arose 3....
Chapter
The essential constituent elements of land plants and animals move in biogeochemical cycles that begin with the uptake of nutrients from the soil, extending through allocations to plant biomass, especially photosynthetic tissues, and nutrient return to the soil in plant detritus. Decomposition of dead plant materials releases these nutrient element...
Chapter
Through evaporation and precipitation, the hydrologic cycle transfers water and heat throughout the global system. Receipt of water in precipitation is one of the primary factors controlling net primary production on land. Changes in the hydrologic cycle through geologic time are associated with changes in global temperature. All evidence suggests...
Chapter
There are strong similarities in the global cycles of N, S, and Hg. In each case, the major annual movement of the element is through the atmosphere, and under natural conditions a large portion of the movement is through the production of reduced gases by biological activity. These gases return N, S, and Hg to the atmosphere, providing a closed gl...
Article
Full-text available
While several thousand square kilometers of land area have been subject to surface mining in the Central Appalachians, no reliable estimate exists for how much coal is produced per unit landscape disturbance. We provide this estimate using regional satellite-derived mine delineations and historical county-level coal production data for the period 1...
Article
Full-text available
Nitrogen cycling processes affect radiative forcing directly through emissions of nitrous oxide (N 2 O) and indirectly because emissions of nitrogen oxide $$(\hbox{NO}_{x})$$ and ammonia (NH 3 ) affect atmospheric concentrations of methane (CH 4 ), carbon dioxide (CO 2 ), water vapor (H 2 O), ozone (O 3 ) and aerosols. The emissions of N 2 O are mo...
Article
A literature survey of studies reporting nitrous oxide uptake in the soils of natural ecosystems is used to suggest that the median uptake potential is 4 μg m(-2) hr(-1) . The highest values are nearly all associated with soils of wetland and peatland ecosystems. Globally, the consumption of nitrous oxide in soils is not likely to exceed 0.3 TgN/yr...
Article
Full-text available
Human mobilization and use of reactive nitrogen (Nr) has been one of the major aspects of global change over the past century. Nowhere has that change been more dramatic than in China, where annual net Nr creation increased from 9.2 to 56 Tg from 1910 to 2010. Since 1956, anthropogenic Nr creation exceeded natural Nr creation, contributing over 80%...
Article
Biogeochemistry-winner of a 2014 Textbook Excellence Award (Texty) from the Text and Academic Authors Association-considers how the basic chemical conditions of the Earth, from atmosphere to soil to seawater, have been and are being affected by the existence of life. Human activities in particular, from the rapid consumption of resources to the des...
Article
In many desert ecosystems, vegetation is both patchy and dynamic: vegetated areas are interspersed with patches of bare ground, and both the positioning and the species composition of the vegetated areas exhibit change through time. These characteristics lead to the emergence of multi-scale patterns in vegetation that arise from complex relationshi...
Article
Biogeochemistry considers how the basic chemical conditions of the Earth-from atmosphere to soil to seawater-have been and are being affected by the existence of life. Human activities in particular, from the rapid consumption of resources to the destruction of the rainforests and the expansion of smog-covered cities, are leading to rapid changes i...
Article
Burgeoning global demand for products derived from seaweeds is driving the increased removal of wild coastal seaweed biomass, an emerging low trophic level industry. These products are marketed as organic and "sustainable." Brown macroalgae, such as kelps (Laminariales) and rockweeds (Fucales), are foundational species that form underwater forests...
Article
Full-text available
Recent research has highlighted the valuable role that coastal and marine ecosystems play in sequestering carbon dioxide (CO2). The carbon (C) sequestered in vegetated coastal ecosystems, specifically mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and salt marshes, has been termed "blue carbon". Although their global area is one to two orders of magnitude smalle...
Article
Atmospheric physicists show us that rising concentrations of certain greenhouse gases in Earth's atmosphere should raise the temperature of the planet at rates, times, and places that are consistent with recent observations of ongoing climate change—that is, global warming. The unfolding impacts of this climate change will affect human habitation,...
Conference Paper
Background/Question/Methods Ecosystem scientists tend to equate importance with high net primary productivity, so much attention is focused on tropical forests and the upwelling zones of the global ocean. But, low productivity systems—in polar regions and subtropical deserts—leave a critical imprint on the Earth’s biogeochemistry. Hot dry deserts...
Article
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Nations around the world are considering strategies to mitigate the severe impacts of climate change predicted to occur in the twenty-first century. Many countries, however, lack the wealth, technology, and government institutions to effectively cope with climate change. This study investigates the varying degrees to which developing and developed...
Article
Ecology Letters (2011) 14: 349–357 The earth’s future climate state is highly dependent upon changes in terrestrial C storage in response to rising concentrations of atmospheric CO2. Here we show that consistently enhanced rates of net primary production (NPP) are sustained by a C-cascade through the root-microbe-soil system; increases in the flux...
Article
Many of today's most pressing environmental problems have a basis in chemistry---that is human disruption of global biogeochemical cycles. Humans have enhanced the movement of C, N, P, and S in the global cycle of these elements, with widespread consequences such as climate change, hypoxia and acid rain. Recent attempts to calculate thresholds of g...
Article
Ecology is well into its second century as an organized scientific discipline, rich with observations, experiments, and a general understanding of how the natural world works. Today's environmental scientists have a powerful array of tools and techniques to measure and monitor the environment and to interpret vast and diverse data. Yet despite prod...
Conference Paper
Background/Question/Methods The extensive conversion of forested land to mineland resulting from coal mining in the Central Appalachian ecoregion has important ramifications for ecosystem services at multiple spatial scales. Previous research has demonstrated that important components of ecosystem structure and function (e.g., vegetation density a...
Conference Paper
Background/Question/Methods Most ecologists are inherently interested in preserving the natural environment and developing a sustainable future for human activities within it. Nevertheless, most ecologists have isolated themselves from an active role in determining government policy associated with environment. Often we are worried that our resul...
Article
Despite a growing recognition that the solutions to current environmental problems will be developed through collaborations between scientists and stakeholders, substantial challenges stifle such cooperation and slow the transfer of knowledge. Challenges occur at several levels, including individual, disciplinary, and institutional. All of these ha...
Article
Full-text available
Rules for applying the Kyoto Protocol and national cap and trade laws contain a major, but fixable, carbon accounting flaw in assessing bioenergy. The accounting now used for assessing compliance with carbon limits in the Kyoto Protocol and in climate legislation contains a far-reaching but fixable flaw that will severely undermine greenhouse gas r...
Conference Paper
Background/Question/Methods Estimates of global net primary production suggest that nearly all the C, N, P, and S in the Earth’s crust has spent at least some time in the biosphere, highlighting the importance of life in controlling surface geochemistry on Earth. Two axioms link the biogeochemical cycles of the important elements of life: the char...
Article
Full-text available
This article provides a synthesis of literature values to trace the fate of 150 Tg/yr anthropogenic nitrogen applied by humans to the Earth's land surface. Approximately 9 TgN/yr may be accumulating in the terrestrial biosphere in pools with residence times of ten to several hundred years. Enhanced fluvial transport of nitrogen in rivers and percol...
Article
Ecological models have been used to probe the causes of spatial complexity and predict specific responses of desert ecosystems. However, many models have been limited in their focus: models of dynamics have been developed with no consideration of the inherent patchiness or patterns in the vegetation, or else models have been developed to generate p...
Chapter
Full-text available
Unless action is taken, the developing world will face recurrent problems of food security and conflict. This volume provides a summary and perspective of the field of land resources and suggests improvements needed to conserve resources for future generations. Coverage provides an authoritative review of the resources of soils, water, climate, for...
Article
An experiment was designed to further the empirical understanding of the effects of scale on fluxes of water and dissolved nitrogen from hillslopes in semi-arid shrubland. It was hypothesised that the behaviour of dissolved nitrogen is related to the scale of the contributing hillslope/catchment area and dynamics of the overland flow as has been de...
Article
From Pigou and Coase to the Kyoto Protocol, carbon trading has resulted in pricing of the negative externalities emanating from pollution. At the request of Duisenberg school of finance, this report highlights leading literature and empirical findings on ‘carbon trading’, amongst others addressing the relevant carbon and related markets, the (lack...
Chapter
The long history of research at the Jornada Basin (through the Agricultural Research Service [ARS] since 1912, New Mexico State University in the late 1920s, and joined by the Long-Term Ecological Research [LTER] program in 1981) has provided a wealth of information on the dynamics of arid and semiarid ecosystems. However, gaps in our knowledge sti...
Chapter
The Jornada Basin of southern New Mexico has long been an important location for the study of productivity in desert ecosystems. Researchers have studied the magnitude and sustainability of plant production since the founding of the USDA Jornada Experimental Range (JER) in 1912. The consistent administration and research focus of the JER and of the...
Article
The Jornada Basin LTER is located in the Chihuahuan Desert, the largest in North America. This region of south central New Mexico has a history of nearly 100 years as the basis for scientific research. This work gives a thorough, encompassing review of the tremendous array of observations resulting from experiments conducted in this ecosystem. Begi...
Article
A variety of gases, including water vapor (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), add to the radiative forcing of Earth's atmosphere, meaning that they absorb certain wavelengths of infrared radiation (heat) that is leaving the Earth and thus raise the temperature of its atmosphere. Since glass has the same effect on th...
Chapter
Full-text available
Abstract Extrapolation of information from sites to landscapes or regions is especially problematic in spatially and temporally heterogeneous,ecosystems. Although linear extrapolations are the easiest and most cost-effective, other approaches are necessary when spatial location and contagious or neighborhood processes are important. Because landsca...
Article
Carbon sequestration programs are gaining attention globally as a means to offset increasing fossil fuel emissions and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. We are examining scenarios of C sequestration in four regions of the world: the U.S., South America, China, and Australia. The analysis uses economic models to predict where the plantation...
Article
We performed an assay of nutrient limitations to soil microbial biomass in forest floor material and intact cores of mineral soil collected from three North Carolina loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) forests. We added solutions containing C, N or P alone and in all possible combinations, and we measured the effects of these treatments on microbial biomas...
Article
Rainfall-simulation experiments have proved invaluable in developing our understanding of ecohydrological processes relating to grassland-shrubland transitions in the American Southwest and elsewhere. Grassland communities are effective at buffering the runoff and erosional response, whereas shrublands accelerate runoff and erosion rates leading to...
Article
Full-text available
Encroachment of the shrub Prosopis glandulosa Torr. (honey mesquite) into semi-arid grasslands is a serious concern in the south-western United States, yet little is known about the long-term dynamics of the invasion process. We used ten high-resolution aerial and satellite images taken from 1936 to 1996 to track the population dynamics and spatial...
Article
Rainfall-simulation experiments were conducted within the Jornada Experimental Range, southern New Mexico, on small plots located on mesquite nabkha and interdune spaces. Data from these experiments were used to determine runoff, sediment and nitrogen losses, and to measure the effect of soil crusts in interdune spaces on these quantities. Results...
Article
Although forests can be large terrestrial carbon sinks, soil fertility can limit carbon sequestration in response to increased atmospheric CO2. During five years of CO2 fertilization (ambient + 200ppm) at the Duke Free-Air CO2 Enrichment (FACE) site, net primary production increased significantly by an average of 25% in treatment plots. Total nitro...
Article
Full-text available
The global Boron (B) cycle is primarily driven by a large flux (1.44 Tg B/yr) through the atmosphere derived from seasalt aerosols. Other significant sources of atmospheric boron include emissions during the combustion of biomass (0.26-0.43 Tg B/yr) and coal, which adds 0.20 Tg B/yr as an anthropogenic contribution. These known inputs to the atmosp...
Article
Forested soils in the tropics contain a large carbon pool that may respond to global environmental changes such as climate warming and land-use change. A better understanding of the distribution of tropical soil carbon (C) pools is necessary in order to manage soil C as well as to predict its potential responses to global change. The goals of this...
Article
Understanding the natural variability in the stable carbon isotope composition of vegetation and soils can aid studies of soil carbon dynamics, and is a prerequisite for using 13C as a natural tracer when vegetation communities change from one photosynthetic pathway to another (e.g. C4 pasture grasses replacing C3 forests). To examine the geographi...
Article
Flows on a bajada surface in the Chihuahuan Desert of New Mexico show a discontinuous pattern, with alternating areas of channelization and deposition. Based on their planform appearance, we have termed the depositional areas ‘beads’. Instrumented catchments demonstrated that in comparison to ‘normal’ dendritic catchments, the beads show net infilt...
Article
We investigated the long-term effects of shfiting cultivation on soil nutrient stocks to understand the effects of repeated, intense disturbance on nutrient cycling in rainforests and to assess the sustainability of this widespread tropical agricultural system. Near a village in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, where long-fallow shifting cultivation has...
Article
Full-text available
Free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) technology was used to expose a loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.) forest to elevated atmospheric CO2 (ambient + 200 µl l–1). After 4 years, basal area of pine trees was 9.2% larger in elevated than in ambient CO2 plots. During the first 3 years the growth rate of pine was stimulated by ~26%. In the fourth year this stimu...
Article
The Chihuahuan desert of New Mexico, USA, has changed in historical times from semiarid grassland to desert shrublands dominated by Larrea tridentata and Prosopis glandulosa. Similar displacement of perennial grasslands by shrubs typifies desertification in many regions. Such structural vegetation change could alter average values of net primary pr...
Article
Full-text available
Root dynamics are important for plant, ecosystem and global carbon cycling. Changes in root dynamics caused by rising atmospheric CO2 not only have the potential to moderate further CO2 increases, but will likely affect forest function. We used FACE (Free-Air CO2 Enrichment) to expose three 30-m diameter plots in a 13-year-old loblolly pine (Pinus...
Article
Field remote sensing, and modelling observations from a degraded Mojave Desert shrubland were used to develop a model of the progressive degradation of areas adjacent to sites of direct anthropogenic disturbance. Aeolian removal and transport and dust, sand, and litter are the primary mechanisms of degradation, killing plants by burial and abrasion...