Contributions of the long-term ecological research program

TitleContributions of the long-term ecological research program
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1990
AuthorsFranklin, JF, Bledsoe, CS, Callahan, JT
Pagination509 -523
Accession NumberKNZ00275

The importance of long-term phenomena in ecology is well documented. Transient responses that extend over decades, or even centuries, are common, such as the gradual changes associated with community succession, soil development, and population of large vertebrates. Other ecological phenomena are infrequent (rare or episodic) events, including such disturbances as floods, hurricanes, wildfires, or volcanic eruptions, and the reproduction of long-lived plant species. Long-term studies are essential to understand such phenomena, as well as for the formation and testing of ecological theory. Research with an extended time perspective is crucial if one accepts the premise that long-term phenomena have a central role in ecological science. Such studies are uncommon despite this obvious need and repeated evidence of the misleading nature of short-term research. Factors contributing to the rarity of long-term studies include difficulties in obtaining sustained financial support and in providing continuing leadership. The National Science Foundation (NSF), responding to this need for support of long-term studies in ecology, initiated a program in Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) in 1980. This initiative followed an extended planning period involving ecological scientists of varied interests. The LTER now has 17 sites with more than 400 associated scientific personnel