Research networks offer a powerful way to scale the discoveries made in one location into broader, potentially more useful, insights about how our planet’s ecosystems operate. Which principles and relationships are universal and which apply only at a few sites — or within a particular biome? Without collecting comparable information across many sites, these are questions that would go unanswered.
The LTER Network is complementary to, and cooperates with, a number of other research networks, each of which has its own particular strength and focus.
The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) is designed to collect and share high-quality, standardized data from field sites across the U.S. for 30 years. Data collection methods are standardized across sites and include in situ instrument measurements, field sampling, and airborne remote sensing. NEON is particularly focused on detecting environmental changes at the continental scale.
Critical Zone Observatory Network (CZO). The critical zone is Earth’s permeable near-surface layer, from the tops of the trees to the bottom of the groundwater. The nine CZO sites focus their observations on this constantly evolving boundary layer and strive to strike a balance between standardized measurements using in situ sensors and hypothesis driven science.
The International LTER Network (ILTER) was formed in 1993 and modeled after the U.S. LTER Network, with a focus on long-term, place-based, process-oriented research. In 2007, ILTER became an independent association of national networks, comprising 44 networks and over 800 sites as of 2017. The US LTER Network is a member of ILTER and collaborates actively in many educational and research initiatives.
The Smithsonian Institute operates two environmental research networks that are of particular interest to LTER researchers. The Marine Global Earth Observatory (MarineGEO), directed by the Smithsonian’s Tennenbaum Marine Observatories Network (TMON), is a worldwide research program focused on understanding coastal marine life and its role in maintaining resilient ecosystems around the world.
The Center for Tropical Forest Science and Forest Global Earth Observatories (CTFS-ForestGEO) is a unified, global network of over 60 research plots spanning the world’s forests, with a strong focus on tropical regions. LTER researchers in forest ecosystems frequently draw on ForestGEO data and methods when conducting cross-site synthesis.
Organization of Biological Field Stations (OBFS). Biological field stations provide living libraries and outdoor laboratories for students, researchers, and the general public interested in the environment. They vary greatly in form and purpose, and include both marine laboratories whose focus is offshore, as well as terrestrial reserves dedicated to protecting key ecosystems. Many field stations that conduct LTER research are also members of OBFS.