News

  • Test of Ecological Theory Informs Stream Restoration Choices

    In the United States, society spends billions of dollars each year on stream restoration. Knowing where restoration efforts are likely to be most effective could help get more restoration-bang for those bucks. A recent study of 13 river restoration projects by investigators from the Baltimore Ecosystem Study LTER found that restoration appeared to be more effective at supporting increased biodiversity in isolated headwater streams than in more connected mainstem reaches.

  • Wildfire Ponzi Scheme? The continental carbon exchange

    If carbon is currency, wildfires are the brokers; that is, they distribute carbon between land and air. In the short-run, fire emits carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Over time, it also strengthens subsequent carbon uptake through plant regrowth. This exchange is like a natural Ponzi scheme - the carbon offsets from yesterday’s fires take up today’s emissions. As severity and frequency of wildfires in North America continue to grow, the big question on LTER researchers’ minds was: How do recent, intense fires affect this carbon exchange between land and atmosphere? Using a modeling tool and long-term wildfire data, researchers found that although fire activity has increased, the continental carbon inputs and outputs are still in balance - at least for now.

  • Striking a Balance Between Access and Privacy in Private Land Conservation

    Striking a balance between public access and privacy is often a challenge fraught with debate. In regards to private land conservation, the debate hinges on deferring to landowner privacy at the expense of  environmental stability, or vice-versa. Like all land, private land is essential for biodiversity, natural resource production, and water quality, yet landowners increasingly threaten environmental well-being with development and other unsustainable land uses.

  • A Changing Tide: How local human disturbances affect sandy beach ecosystems

    To maintain the image of a pristine beach—wide stretches of sand absent of fly-ridden piles of seaweed—managers often add sand to beaches and remove seaweed. This removal may lead to a more enjoyable experience for humans, but it constitutes a major loss of habitat for sandy beach critters, which use the piles of washed-up kelp for food and shelter. Revisiting sites that had been sampled in the 1970’s, researchers from the Santa Barbara Coastal LTER found that beaches with high human disturbances saw declines in species associated with wrack, or beached giant kelp.

  • LTER Is a Major Presence at 2017 ESA

  • New LTER Site Map

    In 2017, NSF funded three new LTER sites, bringing the total to 28. A new map of the sites is now available for download and use.

    Just the map - screen resolution  |  Just the map - print resolution

  • Fall leaves at Cedar Creek A Global Truth: Highly Diverse Forests are More Productive

    Recent research in Science concludes that high forest productivity relies on the presence of diverse tree species—a relationship that apparently hold true in biomes across the globe.

  • Partners in Crime: Woody Plants and Liana Delay Forest Succession in Temperate Coastal Ecosystems

    Barrier islands' harsh conditions, including nutrient and freshwater limitations and extremes of light and temperature, along with frequent large-scale disturbances, such as hurricanes, limit the number of plants species able to survive. As a result, successional trajectories can be convoluted.

  • Glacial Melt Drives Primary Production in Antarctic Dry Valley Lakes

    The ice-covered lakes in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, a polar desert, rely on glacial melt for almost all their inputs. A recent study of Lake Fryxell suggests that in this environment even small changes in climate can impact biological productivity in the lake.

  • Excess Nutrient Pollution Sends Salt Marsh Microbes into Dormancy

    A recent experiment examined the impacts of increased nitrogen on salt marshes—and the all-important microbes within them.

  • Changing Disturbance Regimes, Ecological Memory, and Forest Resilience

    Each forest reflects a legacy of past disturbances—from the literal detritus left behind a storm or fire to the prominence of particular species traits that enable species to bounce back after a specific type of disturbance.

  • A Glimpse into the Future: How Land Use Decisions Will Impact Forest Function

    How can researchers project the ways in which land-use changes will affect ecosystem services when they don't yet know what course development will take? Integrated scenario analysis models several possible trajectories to examine the interactive effects that land-use change could have on ecosystem structure and function.

  • Soil Type Strongly Influences Likelihood of Fire in Desert Grasslands

    What information is needed to predict where fires will start in desert grasslands and how big they will get? Soil type turns out to play a larger role than expected.

  • A Framework for Understanding How Nitrogen Drives Change in Plant Communities

    Nitrogen enrichment can dramatically change the existing environment for plants and typically leads to increased productivity, decresed diversity, and shifts plant community composition. But what mechanisms are responsible for these changes? Researchers designed a multi-site experiment to find out, experimentally manipulating each of three possible drivers across mesocosms of three ecosystem types (tall grass prairie, alpine tundra, and desert grassland).

  • Chronic Nitrogen Deposition Restructures Soil Fungal Communities

    New analyses demonstrate that long-term nitrogen enrichment substantially changes the community composition of soil fungi in a temperate hardwood forest. The mix of fungal taxa that emerges appears to be better able to tolerate high nitrogen but less able to break down the lignin in organic matter, which contributes to an overall accumulation of soil carbon.

  • Art and Humanities LTER Programs Build Empathy for Nature

    Do arts and humanities programs at LTER sites further the Network’s mission? Recent research posits that art-humanities-science collaborations generate empathy – and associated emotions like inspiration, awe, and wonder – for the natural world. This empathy then drives society to engage with and care more broadly about nature.

  • Winter Conditions Vital to Year-Round Lake Dynamics

    This month’s Ecology Letters features the first global quantitative synthesis of under-ice lake ecology. In their analysis of 36 abiotic and biotic variables across 101 lakes, the authors issue a call to arms for more winter lake research—currently the focus of only 2% of freshwater publications. As the climate warms, they warn, temperate ecosystems are losing ice, and limnologists remain unsure what ecological processes are at stake. Though winter has long been understood as an inactive period, some data suggests that winter foodwebs and physical processes remain vigorous and that winter ecology can drive subsequent summer conditions.

  • Growing Grass: A Story of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Leaf Size

    Ecologists know that nitrogen, phosphorus and leaf area play key roles in the productivity of plant communities. But how tightly are they tied together? And are those relationships sustained over different types of landscapes? A recent study of tallgrass prairie communities, building on a previous study of arctic tundra, found leaf area index (LAI) to be strongly correlated to both total foliar nitrogen and total foliar phosphorus in several plant functional types (grass, forb, woody, and sedge) and grazing treatments (cattle, bison, and ungrazed).

  • Coastal Everglades in the Cold: Mapping Ecological Sensitivity

    How sensitive are coastal ecosystems to sharp changes in temperature? Using a detailed spatial analysis in the Florida Everglades, researchers found that cold snaps reduced ecosystem productivity most dramatically in areas with low water levels that were located away from the coast. With more extreme weather events predicted in the future, knowing the likely effects of low temperature events on subtropical wetlands systems can inform management of these important ecosystems.

  • Demystifying Governance for Ecologists

    There are certain events, such as severe storms or a crash in financial markets, that catalyze transitions in social-ecological systems, in a process that is akin to the way a hurricane or insect outbreak might catalyze an ecological transition. To understand the patterns that emerge in social-ecological systems, ecologists must understand governance, a process rooted in the key social science concepts of power and networks.

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