USGCRP-Affiliated US Agencies
Principal Areas of Focus
Within the Smithsonian Institution, global change research is conducted at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the National Air and Space Museum, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, the National Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and the National Zoological Park. Research is organized around themes of atmospheric processes, ecosystem dynamics, observing natural and anthropogenic environmental change on daily to decadal time scales, and defining longer term climate proxies present in the historical artifacts and records of the museums as well as in the geologic record at field sites. The Smithsonian Institution program strives to improve knowledge of the natural processes involved in global climate change, to provide a long-term repository of climate-relevant research materials for present and future studies, and to bring this knowledge to various audiences, ranging from scholarly to the lay public. The unique contribution of the Smithsonian Institution is a long-term perspective—for example, undertaking investigations that may require extended study before producing useful results and conducting observations on sufficiently long (e.g., decadal) time scales to resolve human-caused modification of natural variability.
Program Highlights for FY 2009
Climate Variability and Change
Terrestrial and Marine Ecosystems
Human Dimensions of Global Change
Much of the global change research performed at the Smithsonian is not supported by direct Federal appropriation (i.e., CCSP cross-cut funding) and instead is supported by other public and private sources (including other CCSP-participating agencies). These projects are nonetheless organized around CCSP program elements, thus amplifying the scope and impact of research supported directly by CCSP. At SAO, there are extensive measurement programs for stratospheric and tropospheric composition. These include pollution measurement from space and its eventual development into continuous global monitoring. This work contributes to global climate observations, enhances climate modeling systems, quantifies greenhouse gas sources and sinks, and reduces scientific uncertainties of aerosol effects. There are continuing studies on solar activity and its relationship to climate. SERC and STRI receive agency support via competitive grants programs to perform studies of ecosystem responses to increased carbon dioxide, UV-B, and invasive species. Other contributing activities include research conducted by several units within the Smithsonian in a variety of habitats concerning natural and human-induced variations in species, populations-communities, and ecosystems. These studies help clarify the relative importance of global change effects as one of several agents of ecological change. Studies of environmental change over long time periods are aided by the Institution’s collections. Used by researchers around the world, these materials provide raw data for evaluating changes in the physical and biological environment that occurred before human influences.