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Special Feature: Science for Our National Parks' Second Century

21 November 2016
In this Special Feature, we celebrate 100 years of National Park Service science by highlighting contributions from the agency’s Inventory and Monitoring Division. This broad body of work coalesces into several themes, including the role of protected areas in understanding rapid global change and the growing interest in place-based ecological insights that contextualize scientific information from protected areas across broader scales. Finally, we illustrate progress on the long-sought integration of science into the resource management strategies implemented within “America’s Best Idea”—now more important than ever given the many challenges our nation’s parks face.

Special Feature: Air Quality and Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem Services is a construct increasingly used to make explicit the benefits that humans derive from land, air, soil, water, plants, fish, and wildlife. This Special Feature describes a framework developed to define direct and indirect links between environmental stressors and final ecosystem changes in response to atmospheric pollution as the stressor: aquatic acidfication (O'Dea et al. 2017), aquatic eutrophicaton (Rhodes et al. 2017), terrestrial acidification (Irvine et al. 2017), and terrestrial eutrophication (Clark et al. 2017). Cascading ecosystem responses, or ecological production functions, are used to trace the impact of stressors to multiple ecosystem endpoints and subsequently connect these to the human beneficiary groups that would ultimately be affected by changes in air quality. The framework allows characterization of multiple ecosystem services simultaneously, facilitation discussions about trade-offs or how to maximize simultaneous benefits from many services at once. The endpoints of this approach can be used for subsequent valuation analyses, whether quantitative (e.g., economic) or qualitative (e.g., cultural, ceremonial, or existence values), thereby providing a relatively comprehensive benefit assessment of an ecosystem. 

Special Feature: International LTER

Since the early 1990s, the US National Science Foundation and the US Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network have invested significantly in supporting the growth of the International Long Term Ecological Research (ILTER) Network from a loose confederation to a coordinated “network of LTER networks” with members in 40 countries. In this Special Feature, we reflect on this investment by illustrating how US scientists have leveraged the ILTER framework to produce generalizable science as well as tools to support international information sharing. The now-mature ILTER Network serves as a valuable platform for collaboration and for obtaining comparable data from multiple ecosystems with which to address global environmental challenges.

Special Feature: Biomarkers in Trophic Ecology

15 February 2017
Guest Editors: Brian Hayden, Chris Harrod, David X. Soto, and Seth Newsome
Biomarkers can provide the time-integrated characterizations of species interactions, food web dynamics, and ecosystem function that are integral to modern ecology. However, as most researchers specialize on a single method, many are unaware of the possibilities presented by alternate techniques. This Special Feature brings together work by researchers using a variety of biomarkers to tackle fundamental questions in ecology and eco-physiology. The research presented here addresses issues relating to the application, analysis, and interpretation of fatty acid profiles; stable isotopes of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen; and the rapidly growing field of compound-specific stable isotope analysis. In each case, the papers combine technical or methodological developments in their field with an effective application of the technique in an ecological setting.

Special Feature: Extreme Cold Spells

14 November 2016
Rare, extended periods of near-freezing weather hit Southern Florida in 2010 and Southern China in 2008. Long-term ecological monitoring projects captured the effects of the cold spells in both regions, providing a serendipitous natural experiment in subtropical ecosystem dynamics and the influence of geographic variation. Complimentary studies explore the resilience of species, native and non-native, to these 50- to 100-year extreme climate events.

Centennial Special: Notable Papers in ESA History

22 June 2016

ESA’s Centennial celebration included a reflection upon the most notable papers published in ESA journals. These papers made significant impacts on the science of ecology and are a starting point for contemplation, discussion, and future directions.

Special Feature: Sustainability on the U.S./Mexico Border

20 June 2016
In this Special Feature, we summarize the scientific knowledge related to climate change, the status of water resources, and the social and political framework governing water use in the Middle Rio Grande region of the U.S.–Mexico border.We use this platform of knowledge to identify key threats to water resources sustainability under climate and social change and propose an interdisciplinary research agenda focused on understanding the coupled human and natural dimensions of water resources sustainability in this fragile landscape.We have focused on: (1) the determinants of resilience and transformability in an ecological/social setting on an international border and how they can be measured and predicted; and (2) the drivers of change.

Special Feature: Isoscapes

17 June 2016
Guest Editors: Jason West, Texas A&M University; Gabe Bowen, University of Utah.

Increasing data availability, the development of new analytical tools, and a growing need to understand human impacts on ecosystems across a range of spatial scales has led to a rapid expansion of interest in spatially explicit measurement, modeling, and mapping of stable isotopes. These activities capitalize on information inherent in isoscapes: structured spatial variation in environmental isotope ratios. This Special Feature draws together papers that emerged from the “Isoscapes 2011” cross-disciplinary meeting organized by the National Science Foundation-funded IsoMAP project (; DBI #0743543) and held at Purdue University.

Centennial Special Feature: ESA Centennial Papers

11 November 2016
The ESA Centennial Special Feature for Ecosphere, entitled "The past, present, and future of ecological knowledge and its practice in a time of environmental and technological change”, is a collection of six invited papers that was selected by the Ecosphere Editorial Board to represent the current status and future goals of the journal. Individual authors were selected as experts in their field, and the suite of papers represent a broad range of topics that cross spatial and temporal scales and range from traditional ecological studies to multi- and inter-disciplinary science that includes ecology and intersects with other disciplines.