Past, Present, and Future Roles of Long-Term Experiments in the LTER Network
The US National Science Foundation–funded Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network supports a large (around 240) and diverse portfolio of long-term ecological experiments. Collectively, these long-term experiments have (a) provided unique insights into ecological patterns and processes, although such insight often became apparent only after many years of study; (b) influenced management and policy decisions; and (c) evolved into research platforms supporting studies and involving investigators who were not part of the original design. Furthermore, this suite of long-term experiments addresses, at the site level, all of the US National Research Council's Grand Challenges in Environmental Sciences. Despite these contributions, we argue that the scale and scope of global environmental change requires a more-coordinated multisite approach to long-term experiments. Ideally, such an approach would include a network of spatially extensive multifactor experiments, designed in collabora- tion with ecological modelers that would build on and extend the unique context provided by the LTER Network.