This month, the Ecological Society of America’s open-access journal Ecosphere highlights work done at Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites across the country. Scientists from the Marine Biological Laboratory’s Ecosystems Center manage the research at two such sites —Arctic Long Term Ecological Research site in Alaska and Plum Island Ecosystems LTER in Massachusetts.
Edward Rastetter and Gaius Shaver, both of the MBL Ecosystems Center, are authors on one of the studies in the series: Time Lags: Insights from the U.S. Long Term Ecological Research Network.
By: Heidi Swanson
In a world that’s changing fast, the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network can seem almost an anachronism. Yet the patience and persistence that have generated 40 years of careful, reliable science about the Earth’s changing ecosystems may prove to be just what’s needed in this rapidly shifting world. We can’t wait for a crystal ball — and we don’t have to. By harnessing decades of rich data, scientists are beginning to forecast future conditions and plan ways to manage, mitigate, or adapt to likely changes in ecosystems that will impact human economies, health and wellbeing.
The National Science Foundation established the LTER Network more than 40 years ago to provide an alternative to funding models that favored constant innovation over continuity. The model has proven to be extraordinarily successful at both.
This month, in the Ecological Society of America’s open-access journal Ecosphere, LTER researchers present examples of how changing populations — of fish, herbs, trees, kelp, birds and more — both reflect and influence the structure and resilience of ecosystems. The research collection contains 25 vignettes of the unexpected lessons drawn from long term research on populations of plants, animals and microbes — just one small slice of the usable knowledge being generated by this program. Learn more…