Twenty-years of long-term ecological research: National Science Foundation releases review report

The National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program must forge ahead to a bold decade of synthesis science that will lead to a better understanding of complex environmental problems, and result in knowledge that serves science and society, according to the authors of the just released NSF report, "Long-Term Ecological Research Program: Twenty-Year Review."

At the same time, "achievements of the LTER program in the past 20 years are impressive," states the report. The program's first decade was devoted to long-term data collection and analysis in five core areas: primary production, nutrient flux, trophic structures, disturbances (such as fires and hurricanes) and organic matter accumulation and decomposition. In its second decade, the LTER program incorporated the advice of NSF's 10-year review report, and dealt with large-scale and cross-site ecological patterns and processes as well as anthropogenic influences on ecological systems.

"Twenty years of research at LTER sites have yielded major synthetic and theoretical advances in ecological knowledge, and have served society by informing solutions to environmental problems," write the 20-year review report's authors.

Says Mary Clutter, NSF's assistant director for biological sciences, "This report comes at a critical time in the history of the LTER program, and will help guide the development of the program over the next 10 years. The scientific vision in the report is clear, appropriate, and consistent with the current state of LTER science. The next ten years should be the 'Decade of Synthesis.'"

The LTER program has evolved from five sites with an annual budget of $1.2 million into a network comprising 24 ecologically diverse sites--including two urban sites, a network office, an annual budget of $17.8 million in FY 2002 across four NSF directorates, and some 1,100 scientists and students who generate approximately $44 million in LTER-relate

Contact: Cheryl Dybas
National Science Foundation

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