US Long-Term Ecological Research Network

Our vision is to gain a predictive understanding of the ecology of lakes at longer and broader scales than has been traditional in limnology. Our conceptual framework uses a nested set of spatial scales, from individual lakes and their watersheds, to hydrologically-linked sets of lakes, entire lake districts, multiple lake districts within the Great Lakes region, and comparative studies of lakes and lake districts around the globe. Our research program is interdisciplinary and aims to understand the ecology of lakes in relation to relevant atmospheric, geochemical, landscape and human processes. Our overarching research question is: How do biophysical setting, climate, and changing land use and cover interact to shape lake characteristics and dynamics over time (past, present, future)? We address this question through four interrelated themes:


Perception of Long-Term Change
How and why have the lake districts changed, and how will they change in the future?

Climate as a driver of long-term change
What are the mechanisms of physical and ecological responses of lakes to a changing climate?

Dynamics of heterogeneity
What are the long-term patterns, causes, and consequences of spatial heterogeneity in lakes and landscapes?

Shocks, shifts, and multiple causation
How and when do extreme events and multiple drivers cause ecosystem transitions?

Carpenter and class

Research Highlights

The most important NTL research findings are summarized in these highlights.


Transformational Science

NTL is transforming our understanding of aquatic ecosystems by pioneering new approaches and perspectives.


NTL's research infrastructure, data, and knowledge advancements have been leveraged extensively with independently funded projects.