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LTER Key Research Findings

Among the many research results from LTER sites, some findings stand out as being particularly important to achieve the LTER goal of providing information to conserve, protect, and manage the nation's ecosystems. Short descriptions of key findings at each site emphasize the importance of long-term data in understanding the pace and pattern of ecological change.

Importance of Household Decisions (CAP LTER)
Residential landscapes are a critical ecological feature of the urban ecosystem because they are widespread and are made up of highly designed and managed combinations of plants (e.g., landscaping) and animals (e.g., pets). For example, as Phoenix has urbanized, native Sonoran desert ecosystems have been replaced by an "urban oasis" that includes both lush, watered lawns and carefully managed...
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Urban Biodiversity (CAP LTER)
Most ecological theories are based on ecological patterns and processes in non-urban and less human-dominated environments. As cities grow and the global population becomes more urban, ecologists need to test their theories in urban settings and modify them, or even develop new ones, to reflect the ecology of cities. CAP scientists have used the special characteristics of urban food webs (i.e...
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Informing Urban Policy (CAP LTER)
Ecosystem services are the benefits that people receive from their life-supporting environment. These include the "goods" that nature provides to us (i.e. food, water, fiber, energy) as well as soil fertility, air and water quality, pest control, recreation, and aesthetics. Natural systems deliver these services, but humans have also designed or engineered ecosystems to deliver specific services...
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Urban Heat Island Effects (CAP LTER)
The Urban Heat Island Effect (UHI) is when a city is significantly warmer than the outlying rural area due to the preponderance of concrete and asphalt surfaces that store heat during the day and release it at night. While urban heat islands exist in most large cities, the Phoenix metropolitan area has presented a special case for the study of this phenomenon because of its rapid growth over the...
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New Ecological Theory (CAP LTER)
For most of ecology's history as a discipline, the focus of study was on pristine, wildland sites. Urban areas were seen as human-disturbed places less worthy of investigation. Urban ecology experienced a paradigm shift in the latter part of the 20th century, when it began to focus on the structure and function of cities as ecosystems. The establishment of two long-term ecological research sites...
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