Long-term ecological research in a human-dominated world
The US Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network enters its fourth decade with a distinguished record of achievement in ecological science. The value of long-term observations and experiments has never been more important for testing ecological theory and for addressing today’s most difficult environmental challenges. The network’s potential for tackling emergent continent-scale questions such as cryosphere loss and landscape change is becoming increasingly apparent on the basis of a capacity to combine long-term observations and experimental results with new observatory-based measurements, to study socioecological systems, to advance the use of environmental cyberinfrastructure, to promote environmental science literacy, and to engage with decisionmakers in framing major directions for research. The long-term context of network science, from understanding the past to forecasting the future, provides a valuable perspective for helping to solve many of the crucial environmental problems facing society today.