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Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER)

prepared by Sean Perry

What is LTER?

LTER stands for “long term ecological research” and involves research and analysis conducted on ecological issues that exist for large periods of time and occupy vast geographical areas. A network of 6 LTER sites was created by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 1980 to help document and analyze ecological change over an extensive amount of time. The number of LTER sites has now grown to 26, spanning from Alaska to the Caribbean, with two additional sites in Antarctica.

LTER Sites

Andrews Experimental Forest:USDA USFS, Oregon State University
Arctic LTER site: University of Alaska
Baltimore Ecosystem Study: USDA USFS, University of Maryland
Bonanza Creek: USDA USFS, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Boreal Ecology Cooperative Research Unit
California Current: University of California, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve: University of Minnesota
Central Arizona-Phoenix: Arizona State University
Coweeta: USDA USFS, University of Georgia
Florida CoastalEverglades: Florida International University
Georgia Coastal Ecosystems: University of Georgia Marine Institute
Harvard Forest: USDA USFS, US Environmental Protection Agency, Harvard University
Hubbard Brook: USDA USFS
Jornada Basin: USDA ARS, New Mexico State University
Kellogg Biological Station: Michigan State University
Konza Prairie: The Nature Conservancy, Kansas State University
McMurdo Dry Valleys:
Moorea Coral Reef: University of California Santa Barbara, California State University Northridge
Niwot Ridge: University of Colorado at Boulder
North Temperate Lakes: Center for Limnology
Palmer Antarctica: Columbia University
Santa Barbara Coastal LTER: University of California Santa Barbara, Marine Science Institute
Sevilleta: The University of New Mexico, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Shortgrass Steppe: USDA USFS Pawnee National Grassland, USDA ARS, Colorado State University, Central Plains Experimental Range, Colorado Agricultural Experiment Station
Virginia Coast Reserve: University of Virginia, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, the Nature Conservancy

All sites are supported by the National Science Foundation.


The information gained from LTER research can benefit the health, productivity, and well-being of the global environment. Specifically, the information helps predict future biological responses to change, provide additional data on important issues such as climate change, and makes evaluation of the pace on ecological change possible. Examples would include data about human impacts on land, such as with the research being done in the Andrews Forest LTER in the Pacific Northwest, where thousands of acres of old-growth forest were cut down in the past for timber production. At this site, data is being collected on how the forest is recovering from the cutdown by looking at the stages of tree structure, vegetation composition and spatial heterogeneity of the forest. Another example is of the research being done in Alaska at the Arctic LTER site. At this site, data is being collected on the shrinking amount of permafrost due to rising global temperatures and how this affects the global atmosphere, since permafrost holds massive amounts of carbon.

Unique Components of LTER

1) The research is located at specific sites chosen to represent major ecosystem types or natural biomes
2) It emphasizes the study of phenomena over long periods of time, based upon data collection in five core areas: primary production, population studies, movement of organic matter, and movement of inorganic matter
3) Projects include significant integrative, cross-site, network-wide research

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protocols/long-term_ecological_research_lter.1396462205.txt.gz · Last modified: 2014/04/02 12:10 by sfperry