Research from around the globe is massing large volumes of data that span extended periods of time and come from a variety of different ecosystem settings. These long-term data are the focus of the EcoTrends Project, which began in 2004 as an informal discussion of how to promote such observations for use in broad-scale and significant synthesis projects. To date, over 50 research sites, mostly from within the United States, now participate and contribute data to the EcoTrends Project, including those sites that belong to the Long-Term Ecological Research Network (LTER), the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Geological Survey, the Department of Energy, and other state institutions.

The contribution of site-collected data invovled considerable management: all data were quality checked for accuracy and completeness, organized into a common data format, called “derived data”, and then loaded into the EcoTrends Project database for further analysis. The plan was to publish a compendium of plots and vignettes in a large-format book titled “Our Changing World: Long-Term Trends in Ecological Systems” that illustrated significant time-related trends of thederived data. Project organizers decided that the derived data should also be made available on the World Wide Web through a web-based portal application. The EcoTrends Web Portal would accompany the 2008 publication and later succeed the book as additional data and new sites join the project.