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Long-term research reveals causes and consequences of environmental change
Date:4/5/2012

sed more than 30 years of data on environmental recovery and change. In contrast to most grant-funded research, which spans only a few years, LTER studies are often sustained over decades, documenting gradual changes and long-term variability that often cannot be revealed by short-term studies. Scott Collins, Chair of the LTER Executive Board, observes that "each additional year of LTER data helps us to better understand how ecosystems respond to environmental change. Such understanding provides valuable information for federal agencies, land managers, and legislators who want to develop responsible policies to deal with a rapidly changing world."

The BioScience issue reveals how the network's diversity of long-term research approaches, including detailed observations and experiments, environmental gradient studies, and complex simulation models, can contribute to solutions in an era of unprecedented environmental change. "How can we evaluate the ability of natural ecosystems to sustain critical ecological processes and the human societies that depend on them?" asks Saran Twombly, NSF's program director for LTER. "The research reported here demonstrates the unique and powerful insights that emerge from long-term studies and the analysis of long term data. This research reaches beyond scientists to engage the public and decision-makers."

In addition to deciphering ecosystem-level clues, LTER research can identify the biological winners and losers in a changing climate. According to Andrew Fountain, lead author of another LTER study in the April issue of BioScience, "The cryosphere, or the part of the earth affected by snow and ice, has been shrinking. The populations of microbes, plants, and animals that depend on the snow and ice will decrease if they are unable to migrate to new areas with ice. But life that previously found the cryosphere too hostile should expand." In shallower snow, he explains, animals such as white-tailed deer
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Contact: Thomas O. McOwiti
tmcowiti@LTERnet.edu
505-277-2638
University of New Mexico, Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network
Source:Eurekalert  

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Long-term research reveals causes and consequences of environmental change
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