BioScience's retrospective look at the LTER network comes at a time when institutions charged with stewarding the nation's environmental health are increasingly being challenged to provide a basis for their decision making. A different article by a team led by Charles Driscoll from Syracuse University features several examples of how LTER research has informed important decisions over the past decade, including state and regional forest and watershed management policies. Driscoll observes, "LTER datasets and experiments help inform local- to national-scale decisions regarding climate change, pollution, fire, land conversion, and other pressing environmental challenges. This creates a crucial bridge between the scientific community and society."
There are other reasons the BioScience retrospective is timely. Demand for natural resources is increasing with global human population, which the United Nations projects to reach at least 9 billion by 2050. Another paper in the special issue shows how long-term ecosystem data can help researchers simulate a region's future based on a range of possible human actions. "For example, how might forest ecosystems change if more people begin to use wood to heat their homes?" poses Jonathan Thompson of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, the lead author of the paper.
Each year, nearly 2000 scientists and students carry out more than 200 large-scale LTER field experiments. The resulting datasets are made freely and publicly available online. "The LTER sites are providing transformative information about the causes and consequences of climate and environmental changes to ecosystems," says David Garrison, the NSF program director for coastal and ocean LTER sites. "These sites are some of our best hopes for providing the sound scienti
|Contact: Thomas O. McOwiti |
University of New Mexico, Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network