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Sci Total Environ. 2018 Jun 1;626:1439-1462. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.12.001. Epub 2018 Feb 19.

Genesis, goals and achievements of Long-Term Ecological Research at the global scale: A critical review of ILTER and future directions.

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Environment Agency Austria, Spittelauer Lände 5, 1090 Wien, Austria; Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ, Department of Community Ecology, Theodor-Lieser-Strasse 4, D-06120 Halle, Germany. Electronic address:
Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, 1987 Upper Buford Circle, Suite 100, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108, USA.
Environment Agency Austria, Spittelauer Lände 5, 1090 Wien, Austria.
Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, P.O.Box 140, FI-00251 Helsinki, Finland.
South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON) of the National Research Foundation (NRF), 41 De Havilland Crescent, The Woods, Persequor Park, PO Box 2600, Pretoria 0001, South Africa.
Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt, Department of River Ecology and Conservation, Clamecystraße 12, 63571 Gelnhausen, Germany.
Fenner School of Environment and Society, Frank Fenner Building (Bldg 141), The ANU College of Medicine, Biology & Environment, The Australian National University, Acton, ACT 2601, Australia.
Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of New Hampshire, Rudman Hall, 46 College Road, Durham, NH 03824, USA.
River Basin Research Center, Gifu University, 1-1 Yanagido, Gifu 501-1193, Japan.
Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, Technion City, Haifa 32000, Israel.
Field Science Center for Northern Biosphere, Hokkaido University, N9 W9, Kita-ku, Sapporo 060-0809, Japan.
Chinese Ecosystem Research Network (CERN), Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 11A Datun Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100101, China.
Senckenberg Research Institute and Natural History Museum Frankfurt, Department of River Ecology and Conservation, Clamecystraße 12, 63571 Gelnhausen, Germany; Faculty of Biology, University of Duisburg-Essen, 45141 Essen, Germany.


Since its founding in 1993 the International Long-term Ecological Research Network (ILTER) has gone through pronounced development phases. The current network comprises 44 active member LTER networks representing 700 LTER Sites and ~80 LTSER Platforms across all continents, active in the fields of ecosystem, critical zone and socio-ecological research. The critical challenges and most important achievements of the initial phase have now become state-of-the-art in networking for excellent science. At the same time increasing integration, accelerating technology, networking of resources and a strong pull for more socially relevant scientific information have been modifying the mission and goals of ILTER. This article provides a critical review of ILTER's mission, goals, development and impacts. Major characteristics, tools, services, partnerships and selected examples of relative strengths relevant for advancing ILTER are presented. We elaborate on the tradeoffs between the needs of the scientific community and stakeholder expectations. The embedding of ILTER in an increasingly collaborative landscape of global environmental observation and ecological research networks and infrastructures is also reflected by developments of pioneering regional and national LTER networks such as SAEON in South Africa, CERN/CEOBEX in China, TERN in Australia or eLTER RI in Europe. The primary role of ILTER is currently seen as a mechanism to investigate ecosystem structure, function, and services in response to a wide range of environmental forcings using long-term, place-based research. We suggest four main fields of activities and advancements for the next decade through development/delivery of a: (1) Global multi-disciplinary community of researchers and research institutes; (2) Strategic global framework and strong partnerships in ecosystem observation and research; (3) Global Research Infrastructure (GRI); and (4) a scientific knowledge factory for societally relevant information on sustainable use of natural resources.


Biodiversity; Data management; Ecosystems; Environment; Observation; Socio-ecology

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