Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 309–311 | Cite as

Contemporary International Long-Term Ecological Research (ILTER)—from biogeosciences to socio-ecology and biodiversity research

  • Thomas DirnböckEmail author
  • Peter Haase
  • Michael Mirtl
  • Johan Pauw
  • Pamela H. Templer


Long-term ecological research (LTER) has a strong foundation in the fields of biogeosciences and ecosystem research with infrastructures established in the nineteenth (e.g., 1891—Plön, Germany; 1840—Rothamsted, England) and twentieth centuries (e.g., 1906—Lunz, Austria; 1925—Trout Lake Station, WI, USA; 1955—Hubbard Brook, NH, USA; 1960—Solling, Germany). Over time, it has been repeatedly shown that the long-term study of processes has the potential to significantly improve ecological understanding at the ecosystem or larger scales. The international network of LTER sites (ILTER) was established in 1993 and included 28 countries by the turn of the millennium. The geographical spread of LTER sites across the globe has significantly increased since then, and by 2016, 44 countries have established formal LTER programs with approximately 800 LTER sites and 70 Long-term Socio-ecological Research (LTSER) platforms as part of the international network. Stimulated by the World Summit on Sustainable Development and the UN Convention on Biodiversity, research topics at ILTER sites have diversified considerably. Scientists started to address societal processes driving environmental change, as well as feedbacks of environmental changes on society. Furthermore, biodiversity research became an intrinsic part of LTER in many countries initializing the establishment of research infrastructures in ecosystems not yet included (e.g., caves, marine habitats). In October 2016, the ILTER Open Science Meeting in the Kruger National Park, South Africa, gave an impressive overview of the diversity of LTER across the globe today. With this special issue, we aim to present the broad range of research currently conducted across the ILTER network with a collection of papers from different continents and with research topics both classical to LTER and emerging fields of contemporary LTER.


ILTER LTSER Long-term ecological research Biodiversity Socio-ecology 



We would like to thank all those who made this special issue possible: the authors and their funders, the Editor in Chief of Regional Environmental Change, and the reviewers.


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  11. Pipan T, Petrič M, Šebela S, Culver DC (2018) Analyzing climate change and surface-subsurface interactions using the Postojna Planina cave system (Slovenia) as a model system. Reg Environ Chang.
  12. Swemmer AM, Mashele M, Ndhlovu PD (2018) Evidence for ecological sustainability of fuelwood harvesting at a rural village in South Africa. Reg Environ Chang.
  13. Thomas Z, Rousseau-Gueutin P, Abbott BW, Kolbe T, Le Lay H, Marçais J, Rouault F, Petton C, Pichelin P, Le Hennaff G, Squividant H, Labasque T, de Dreuzy J-R, Aquilina L, Baudry J, Pinay G (2018) Long-term ecological observatories needed to understand ecohydrological systems in the Anthropocene: a catchment-scale case study in Brittany, France. Reg Environ Chang.
  14. Trajanov A, Spiegel H, Debeljak M, Sandén T (2018) Using data mining techniques to model primary productivity from international long-term ecological research (ILTER) agricultural experiments in Austria. Reg Environ Chang.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ecosystem Research and Environmental Information ManagementEnvironment Agency AustriaViennaAustria
  2. 2.Department of River Ecology and ConservationSenckenberg Research Institute and Natural History MuseumFrankfurtGermany
  3. 3.Faculty of BiologyUniversity of Duisburg-EssenEssenGermany
  4. 4.Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZHalleGermany
  5. 5.National Research Foundation (NRF)—South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON)PretoriaSouth Africa
  6. 6.Department of BiologyBoston UniversityBostonUSA

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