Thursday, August 11, 2011: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM
16A, Austin Convention Center
Organizer: Thomas H. Kunz
Moderator: Thomas H. KunzAeroecology is an emerging discipline that integrates diverse fields, such as atmospheric science, earth science, geography, ecology, computational biology, physics, and engineering to broaden understanding about the ecological function and biological importance of the aerosphere. The unifying concept of this new transdisciplinary field of study is a focus on the earth boundary layer and lower free atmosphere (i.e., the aerosphere), and the airborne organisms that inhabit and depend upon aerial environments. In marine biology, the importance of interactions between aqueous habitats and marine organisms has long been recognized. In contrast, the ecological significance of the aerosphere for aerial organisms has received very little attention. Because of their ability to move over large spatial areas, volant organisms such as birds, bats, and insects contribute to the ecological integrity of multiple ecosystems that span geopolitical boundaries linked by migration or dispersal through the aerosphere. The purpose of this organized session will be to assemble a diverse group of atmospheric scientists and ecologists to synthesize and review the ecological importance of aerial organisms and innovative tools needed for understanding their dynamics. Ecologists who study organisms that use the aerosphere face three important challenges: 1) discovering how best to detect the presence, diversity, and activity of airborne organisms, 2) identifying ways to quantify these variables, and 3) determining how best to understand and interpret responses of organisms in the context of complex meteorological events as well as natural and anthropogenic perturbations at varying temporal and spatial scales. Given global threats to biodiversity, emerging infectious diseases, and the need to sustain ecological integrity, pressing needs exist for scientists to identify and use creative technological and analytical solutions for understanding biological phenomena at broad spatial and temporal scales in the aerosphere. Aeroecology has great potential for transforming scientific investigations on a diversity of topics, such as movement ecology, migration, foraging behavior, distribution and quantification of aerial biomass, aerial biodiversity, phenological patterns related to climate change, impacts on land use policy, disease ecology, and so forth. In addition to basic scientific research, aeroecological research makes significant contributions to human society and earth stewardship by providing information on issues ranging from aviation safety, agricultural productivity, and siting of wind energy facilities. This session will show case the importance of crosscutting scientific research and outreach for advancing understanding of ecological phenomena that have relevance to global issues such as climate change and conservation.
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