A five-year, $4.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation will empower researchers from multiple institutions in the U.S. and Mongolia to develop wide-ranging scientific knowledge of river systems spanning two continents. Of that grant, half of the funds will support work at the University of Kansas, the lead institution on the project.
It’s hard to exaggerate the importance of rivers to sustaining life for animals and people. Rivers provide drinking water, food, crop irrigation, recreation and even regulation of air temperatures.
But until recently, much scientific inquiry into river systems has focused on the small scale: looking at water quality in specific river areas or investigating populations of individual river species, for instance. As the influence of climate change takes hold, however, understanding the condition of large riverine “macrosystems” that support life across entire regions is increasingly important.
“River macrosystems represent larger spatial areas than studied in the typical ecosystem or landscape study,” said James Thorp, KU professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and senior scientist with the Kansas Biological Survey, who is the lead principal investigator on the new grant. “In our case, we’re studying river macrosystems within ecoregions — mountain steppes, grasslands, desert shrub-forests — enclosed within temperate steppe biomes distributed in the U.S. in North America and Mongolia in Asia.”
Researchers will sample nine rivers spread between the U.S. Great Plains, Great Basin and Mountain Steppes. These include the Platte, Niobrara, Humboldt, Bear and Snake rivers, among others. In Mongolia, they’ll investigate nine rivers within similar ecoregions as those in the U.S.
To see the full article, visit the Kansas University website.