US Long-Term Ecological Research Network
Lands for long-term research in conservation biology
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Success in conservation biology depends upon a synergistic combination of short-term tactics and long-term strategies. Although the former are often necessary to forestall immediate habitat losses, the latter provide the critical framework of understanding needed to develop effective short-term priorities. Although many conservation biologists now emphasize short-term tactics, prudence dictates the concomitant establishment of long-term research projects aimed at answering fundamental ecological questions. One deterrent to amassing such long-term data bases, aside from time and funding, is a lack of suitable sites where such studies can be conducted on a large scale. We describe two established major land-holding networks in the United States that could serve as appropriate places to develop long-term studies: the National Science Foundation’s Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites, and the US. Department of Energy’s National Environmental Research Parks (NERPs). Because they consist of established research facilities, both networks can provide conservation biologists with “low-cost baseline information on ecological processes, as well as access to a number of representative terrestrial and aquatic habitats under more or less “controlled conditions suitable for long-term studies. We recommend that conservation biologists explore the possibility of using these or similarly available sites in their research programs.