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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.

Accessible Ecology (JRN LTER)
Large amounts of information have been collected, and software tools have been developed to understand and predict dynamics of ecological systems. However, much of the data and tools remain inaccessible to a broad audience beyond the initial scientists, data collectors, and software developers. The Jornada has been developing tools and activities designed to make scientific knowledge...
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Heterogeneity and Nonequilibrium Dynamics (JRN LTER)
Much of ecological research in terrestrial systems focuses on detailed understanding of local processes, such as competition for limiting resources, on fine-scale dynamics of individual plots that are extrapolated to broad-scale patterns of ecosystem types and biomes. Although this perspective can explain short-term dynamics at fine scales of plants and patches in drylands, landscape-scale...
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Expanding Deserts (JRN LTER)
Desertification is the shift from perennial grasslands to shrublands that occurs globally to impact nearly 40% of the Earth’s land surface and a fifth of the world’s human population. Desertification results from interactions between human activities (such as livestock overgrazing) and prolonged drought. However, these broad-scale drivers are insufficient to explain variability in dynamics at...
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Tipping Points (JRN LTER)
Tipping points resulting in state changes (or regime shifts) have been documented in many ecosystem types around the world, and are particularly important in dryland ecosystems, including those of the southwestern US. Dryland state changes include the conversion of agriculturally productive grasslands to unproductive shrublands, conversion to dominance by invasive species, or the loss of...
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Ability To Restore (JRN LTER)
Desertified shrublands on degraded soils are believed to be very persistent, yet the need for services from these systems has led to numerous attempts to restore them to grassland state, often with little success. Much of the early restoration research (pre-1970s) at the JRN focused on agronomic approaches for shrub control and grass recovery. Over the decades, numerous trials of various...
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