Striking a Balance in Private Land Conservation

Credit: Rutebega. CC BY-SA 3.0.In the digital age, while public access to information about parks and public land conservation is readily available, records on private-land conservation remain incomplete and inconsistent. To reveal the reasons behind the gaps in data on private-land conservation, LTER-funded researchers analyzed maps and documents, and conducted interviews focused on four major… Read more »

A “Landscape of Fear” May Offer Alternative Pest Control

Credit: Jim, the photographer. CC Y 2.0To reduce the risk of being eaten, prey animals may change their behavior (by staying hidden during certain hours, for example) and adapt physiologically. Although these responses help prey survive in the short-term, they also suppress their ability to move and reproduce. By studying insect responses to the risk… Read more »

The landscaping culture behind ecological change

suburban neighborhood

Credit: Henk Sijgers. CC BY-NC 2.0The American residential landscape is a product of culture, reflecting social practices through its managed plant composition. As a result of urbanization and globalization, residential ecosystems are increasingly homogeneous, with the potential to impact ecological dynamics at ever-expanding scales over the next 50 to 100 years. Despite this trend, researchers… Read more »

Species shrinkage in America’s national suburban ecosystem

Mown Lawn

Although the modern “American Dream” is no longer defined by white picket fences, this perception of the “ideal” homestead still holds some influence on cultural norms: cookie-cutter houses lining a cul-de-sac, each with a pristinely manicured green lawn. A collaborative study of residential lawns near several LTER sites found that the quest for this suburban… Read more »

Art and Humanities LTER Programs Build Empathy for Nature

Winged dancer leaps over a field of milkweed

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.

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).

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.

What (and when) is the point-of-no-return?

How-and when-do ecosystems change character? Are those shifts reversible? And what signs might precede them? Such questions are hard enough to answer in a single place. One might think that incorporating different kinds of ecosystems would only complicate the problem. But a group of scientists in the Long-Term Ecological Research Network is finding a remarkably consistent pattern by combining models and data across several long-term ecological experiments.