Each LTER site collects information to answer novel questions specific to their own systems. But there are also broad themes—and common kinds of analyses—that apply across many sites. Each site collects data in five thematic areas:
- Primary production
- Population studies
- Organic matter dynamics
- Mineral cycling
- Disturbance patterns and processes
These data offer an extraordinary level of context for site-based studies. When taken together, they also create a resource for answering questions about how ecosystems work at a larger, more integrated scale. The ability to predict how an ecosystem might behave under never-before-seen conditions depends heavily on such synthetic studies, and LTERs are especially well-positioned to lead and contribute to them.
Housed at NCEAS, the Network Office draws on two decades of experience facilitating ecological synthesis working groups. Over the years, dozens of NCEAS projects have involved hundreds of LTER researchers in the analysis and synthesis of LTER data. Past working groups have helped gain understanding of the relationship between productivity and species’ richness; the links between evolutionary history, plant traits, community structure and ecosystem processes, and managing dynamic ecosystem services, to name just a few.