In the Barnes Lab, we aim to describe and quantify how disturbance alters the aggregate role of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems on carbon and nitrogen cycles. Ongoing environmental change continues to stress ecosystems. Energy and food production have dramatically altered carbon and nitrogen cycles; resulting in a myriad of problems, from rising temperatures and increased wildfires to eutrophication and soil acidification. As global populations grow, ecosystem stressors will increase and interact, threatening critical ecosystem services. A basic understanding of how C and N cycle through ecosystems is imperative to solve these critical natural resource challenges.
Much of our research focuses on the connections between terrestrial and aquatic systems and how nitrogen and carbon are processed along flow paths. To quantify these linkages, it is necessary to understand transport mechanisms at multiple scales, from hillslopes to the hyporheic zone, as well as how disturbance alters them. Therefore, our research utilizes multiple approaches from biogeochemistry (e.g. stable isotopes, characterization of organic matter) and ecosystem ecology (e.g. experiments and modeling) to address questions ranging from how tidal pumping affects nitrogen cycling within the tidal freshwater zone to how fire change carbon recovery and resilience in Rocky Mountain forests.
In order to understand the ecosystem today and predict how it will respond to future perturbations, we choose to conduct research in a collaborative, multi-scale, and interdisciplinary way, whenever possible. Acknowledging that in order to understand the ecological impacts of global change, we need to examine not only ecosystem drivers such as changes in temperature and hydrologic cycling but also policy decisions and cultural perceptions of the environment.