Dr. Monica G.Turner
Department of Integrative Biology
University of Wisconsin
430 Lincoln Dr.
Madison, WI 53706
Ecosystem and
Landscape Ecology Lab

Land-water interactions in Wisconsin Landscapes


Monica Turner


riparian, wetlands, watershed, shoreline development, terrestrial-aquatic interactions, long-term ecological research (LTER), eutrophication, carbon cycling, land-use change

Research Overview

NTL mapThe North Temperate Lakes Long-Term Ecological Research (NTL-LTER) program seeks to understand the long-term ecology of lakes and their interactions with a range of important landscape, atmospheric, and human processes. Freshwater lakes are a nexus of ecological, economic and social processes on many landscapes throughout the world. Small, inland lakes are particularly prominent throughout the Upper Great Lakes region of North America. Thousands of inland lakes play a central role in regional hydrologic and biogeochemical cycles, in biological processes influencing the area's diversity of aquatic and terrestrial life, and in a wide range of human activities. Over the past two centuries, deforestation, fire suppression, agriculture, industrialization, and urbanization have transformed landscapes within the region and fundamentally altered the interactions between lakes and their surroundings. For the next century and beyond, the quality of life and the economies of the region will depend upon the quality of the lakes. The overarching question of NTL-LTER is: How do biophysical setting, climate, and changing land use and cover interact to shape lake dynamics and organization in the past, present and future?

One of our recent areas of emphasis was to understand carbon and nutrient cycles for a landscape on which terrestrial and freshwater systems are intimately connected in multiple and reciprocal ways. In the Northern Highlands region of Wisconsin, we study a spatially complex landscape in which water features make up almost half of the land area, with wetlands (27% of land surface) and lakes (13%) both prevalent throughout the region, interspersed in upland forests (52%). We hypothesized that reciprocal interactions of terrestrial vegetation and lakes, through flows of water, organic carbon, and nutrients, are more complex than previously thought. Improved understanding of these interactions demands a combination of terrestrial and aquatic expertise, in an appropriately integrated research plan.

NTL mapTerrestrial ecologists have made great strides in understanding the geophysical template, climate, disturbance regimes, and vegetation dynamics that control groundwater, surface water, carbon and nutrient fluxes in the Northern Highlands and other landscapes.Despite these advances, there are considerable gaps in understanding the magnitude and spatial patterns of biogeochemical fluxes. For example, terrestrial ecologists have found important imbalances in the carbon cycle. These gaps may be closed by studies that consider the complete landscape - that is, the integrated behavior of terrestrial upland vegetation, wetlands and surface waters. The goal of our project is to understand how the extent of surface water and wetlands affects ecosystem production, respiration, and spatial flow of organic carbon on complex, heterogeneous landscapes. The approach centers on simulation modeling of hydrology and biogeochemistry, with ground-truthing and calibration data provided by field measurements. We focus on the Northern Highland Lake District (NHLD) of northern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, a complex landscape with over 7500 lakes and diverse forested and wetland ecosystems. Our research team developed a new integrated spatial simulation model for hydrology and carbon cycling of the entire NHLD (Cardille et al. 2007), explored the consequences of climate scenarios using the simulation model (2009), and developed a full regional carbon budget for this lake-rich landscape (Buffam et al. 2011).

Funding Source

National Science Foundation; Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Selected publications:

Buffam, I., S. R. Carpenter, W. Yeck, P. C. Hanson and M. G. Turner. 2010. Filling holes in regional carbon budgets: predicting peat depth in a north-temperate lake district. Journal of Geophysical Research 115, G01005, doi:10.1029/2009JG001034.

Buffam, I., M. G. Turner, A. Desai, P. J. Hanson, J. Rusak, N. Lottig and S. R. Carpenter. 2011. Integrating aquatic and terrestrial components to construct a complete carbon budget for a north temperate lake district. Global Change Biology 17:1193-1211.

Cardille, J. A., Coe, M. T., and J. A. Vano. 2004. Impacts of climate variation and catchment area on water balance and lake hydrologic type in groundwater-dominated systems: a generic lake model. Earth Interactions 8(13): 1-24.

Cardille, J. A., S. R. Carpenter, M. T. Coe, J. A. Foley, P. C. Hanson, M. G. Turner, and J. A. Vano. 2007. Carbon and water cycling in lake-rich landscapes: Landscape connections, lake hydrology, and biogeochemistry. J. Geophys. Res.-Biogeosciences 112, doi:10.1029/2006JG000200.

Cardille, J. A., S. R. Carpenter, J. A. Foley, P. C. Hanson, M. G. Turner and J. A. Vano. 2009. Climate change and lakes: Estimating sensitivities of water and carbon budgets, Journal of Geophysical Research 114:G03011, doi:10.1029/2008JG000891.

Carpenter, S.R., B.J. Benson, R. Biggs, J.W. Chipman, J.A. Foley, S.A. Golding, R.B. Hammer, P.C. Hanson, P.T.J. Johnson, A.M. Kamarainen, T.K.

Kratz, R.C. Lathrop, K.D. McMahon, B. Provencher, J.A. Rusak, C.T. Solomon, E.H. Stanley, M. G. Turner, M.J. Vander Zanden, C.-H. Wu and H. Yuan. 2007. Understanding regional change: comparison of two lake districts. BioScience 57:323-335.

Carpenter, S.R., J.J. Cole, M. L. Pace, M. Van de Bogert, D.L. Bade, D. Bastviken, C.M. Gille, J. R. Hodgson, J. F. Kitchell, and E. S. Kritzberg. 2005. Ecosystem subsidies: terrestrial support of aquatic food webs from 13C addition to contrasting lakes. Ecology 86: 2737-2750.

Gergel, S. E., M. G. Turner, and T. K. Kratz. 1999. Scale-dependent landscape effects on north temperate lakes and rivers. Ecological Applications 9:1377-1390.

Hanson, P.C., S.R. Carpenter, J.A. Cardille, M.T. Coe, and L.A. Winslow. 2007. Small lakes dominate a random sample of regional lake characteristics. Freshwater Biology. 52:814-822.

Henning, B. M. and A. J. Remsburg. 2008. Lakeshore vegetation effects on avian and anuran populations. American Midland Naturalist 161:123-133.

Marburg, A. E., S. B. Bassak, T. K. Kratz and M. G. Turner. 2009. The demography of coarse wood in north-temperate lakes. Freshwater Biology 54:1110-1119

Marburg, A. E., M. G. Turner and T. K. Kratz. 2006. Natural and anthropogenic variation in coarse wood among and within lakes. Journal of Ecology 94:558-568.

Remsburg, A. J. and M. G. Turner. 2009. Aquatic and terrestrial drivers of dragonfly (order Odonata) assemblages within and among north-temperate lakes. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 28:44-56

Riera, J., P. R. Voss, S. R. Carpenter, T. K. Kratz, T. M. Lillesand, J. A. Schnaiberg, M. G. Turner, and M. W. Wegener. 2001. Nature, society and history in two contrasting landscapes in Wisconsin, USA: interactions between lakes and humans during the 20th century. Land Use Policy 18:41-51.

Roth, B. M., I. C. Kaplan, G. G. Sass, P. T. Johnson, A. E. Marburg, A. C. Yannarell, T. D. Havlicek, T. V. Willis, M. G. Turner and S. R. Carpenter. 2007. Linking terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems: the role of coarse wood in lake food webs. Ecological Modelling 203:439-452.

Sass, G. G., J. F. Kitchell, S. R. Carpenter, T. R. Hrabik, A. E. Marburg, and M. G. Turner. 2006. Fish community and food web responses to a whole-lake removal of coarse woody habitat. Fisheries 31:321-330.

Schnaiberg, J., J. Riera, M. G. Turner and P. R.Voss. 2002. Explaining human settlement patterns in a recreational lake district: Vilas County, Wisconsin, USA. Environmental Management 30:24-34.

Turner, M. G. 2003. Modeling for synthesis and integration: forests, people, and riparian coarse woody debris. Pp. 83-110 In: Canham, C.D., J.J. Cole, and W.K. Lauenroth, editors. Models in Ecosystem Science. Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press.

Turner, M. G., S. Collins, A. Lugo, J. Magnuson, S. Rupp and F. Swanson. 2003. Long-term ecological research on disturbance and ecological response. BioScience 53:46-56.

Turner, M. G. and S. R. Carpenter. 2005. Challenges for riparian science. Page 16 In: Naiman, R.J., H. Decamps, and M.C. McClain. Riparia. Academic Press, San Diego.

Turner, M. G. and J. A. Cardille. 2007. Spatial heterogeneity and ecosystem processes. Pages 62-77 in: J. Wu and R. J. Hobbs, editors. Key topics in landscape ecology. Cambridge University Press.

Van de Bogert, M.C., S.R. Carpenter, J.J. Cole and M.L. Pace. 2007. Assessing pelagic and benthic metabolism using free water measurements. Limnology and Oceanography Methods 5: 145-155.

Vano, J.A., Foley, J.A., Kucharik, C.J., and M.T. Coe, Evaluating the seasonal and interannual variations in water balance in northern Wisconsin, USA, using a land surface model. J. Geophys. Res., 111, G02025, doi:10.1029/2005JG000112.