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ILTER and JaLTER: Their Missions and Linkage to Database Development in the Asia-Pacific Region

  • Nobuhito Ohte
  • Masahiro Nakaoka
  • Hideaki Shibata
Chapter
Part of the Ecological Research Monographs book series (ECOLOGICAL)

Abstract

A Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program was originally established in 1980 by the National Science Foundation to support research on long-term ecology in the United States. The LTER network was founded with the recognition that long-term and broad-scale research is necessary to understand various environmental phenomena. This necessity has become increasingly pressing with the increased human effects on populations, communities, ecosystems, and the biosphere (US Long Term Ecological Research Network 2011).

Keywords

Ecological Research Data Paper Global Biodiversity Information Facility Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency Executive Group 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Introduction

A Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) program was originally established in 1980 by the National Science Foundation to support research on long-term ecology in the United States. The LTER network was founded with the recognition that long-term and broad-scale research is necessary to understand various environmental phenomena. This necessity has become increasingly pressing with the increased human effects on populations, communities, ecosystems, and the biosphere (US Long Term Ecological Research Network 2011).

Following the activity by the US-LTER, in 1993 international LTER networks initiated global activities to develop mutual linkages and assemble knowledge among the world’s LTER networks (International Long Term Ecological Research Network 2011). The International Long-Term Ecological Research (ILTER) is a “network of networks,” a global network of research sites located in a wide array of ecosystems worldwide that is used to help understand environmental change across the globe. Currently, more than 40 countries (networks) are affiliated with ILTER (Africa 5; Central/South America 4; East Asia-Pacific 7; Europe 21; North America 3) (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1

Members of the International Long-Term Ecological Research Network (2010–present)

The focus of ILTER is on long-term, site-based research. Since it was founded in 1993, ILTER’s global long-term ecological research programs have expanded rapidly, reflecting the increased importance of long-term research for assessing and resolving complex environmental issues (Kim 2006). The ILTER Coordinating Committee, the governing body of the ILTER network, convenes annually at a meeting hosted by one of the member networks.

The Japan long-term ecological research network (JaLTER) was established in November 2006 and became an official member of the ILTER network in August 2007 with endorsement by the Biodiversity Center of Japan, Nature Conservation Bureau, Ministry of the Environment of Japan.

The JaLTER network is closely linked with the ILTER network. JaLTER’s mission is to provide appropriate scientific information and predictive understanding of ecological processes for the scientific community, policymakers, and the society at large through LTER activities in Japan (Shibata 2008; Japan Long-Term Ecological Research Network 2011).

JaLTER activities are guided by four scientific and educational aims.
  • Create general knowledge based on multidisciplinary long-term and large-scale research.

  • Develop a well-designed database to exchange and share original data to support scientific communities, the general public, and policymakers and to identify better solutions for critical ecological and environmental problems.

  • Promote education regarding long-term and large-scale ecosystem and environmental changes.

  • Facilitate collaboration and coordination among scientists for long-term ecological studies not only in Japan but worldwide.

JaLTER focuses on the following potentially important themes: (1) responses of ecosystem functioning under climate changes; (2) hydrobiogeochemical processes and ecosystem interaction between terrestrial and marine ecosystems; and (3) developing and establishing an ecosystem-monitoring network and techniques with multiple scales and dimensions.

JaLTER Activities

The JaLTER network currently consists of 54 field-monitoring sites including 20 core sites and 34 associated sites. All core sites have been endorsed by organizations (institute, research center, department of a university, or a higher entity) that support stable, long-term activities. There are 34 sites that are managed by universities and 20 managed by governmental institutions (Table 1).
Table 1

Japanese Long-Term Ecological Research Network (JaLTER) sites and their ecosystem types

Site name

Responsible organization

Ecosystem type

(a) Core sites

Akazu

University Forest, The University of Tokyo

Forest

Awajishima

Research Center for Inland Seas, Kobe University

Ocean

Aya

Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute

Forest

Chichibu

University Forest, The University of Tokyo

Forest

Kanumazawa

Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute

Forest

Kasumigaura

Center for Global Environmental Research, National Institute for Environmental Studies

Lake

Kasuya

University Forest, Kyushu University

Forest

Lake Shinji/Nakaumi

Research Center for Coastal Lagoon Environments, Shimane University

Lake/Brackish water

Sugadaira

Sugadaira Montane Research Center, University of Tsukuba

Forest/Grassland

North Hokkaido

Northern Forestry and Development Office, Field Science Center for Northern Biosphere, Hokkaido University

Forest

Ogawa

Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute

Forest

Shirahama

Seto Marine Biological Laboratory, Field Science Education and Research Center, Kyoto University

Ocean

Takayama

Institute for Basin Ecosystem Studies, Gifu University

Forest

Tomakomai

Tomakomai Research Station, Field Science Center for Northern Biosphere, Hokkaido University

Forest

Wakayama

Wakayama Research Forest, Field Science Education and Research Center, Kyoto University

Forest

Yona

Yona Field, Subtropical Field Science Center, University of the Ryukyus

Forest

Akkeshi

Akkeshi Marine Station, Field Science Center for Northern Biosphere, Hokkaido University

Ocean

Western Seto Inland Sea

Tidal Zone Environment Section, National Research Institute of Fisheries and Environment of Inland Sea, Fisheries Research Agency

Ocean

Sagami Bay

Institute of Biogeoscience, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology

Ocean

Sezoko

Sezoko Field, Subtropical Field Science Center, University of the Ryukyus

Ocean

(b) Associate sites

Ashoro

University Forest, Kyushu University

Forest

Aso

Grassland Dynamics Research Group

Grassland

Choshi

Choshi Marine Laboratory, Marine Biosystems Research Center, Chiba University

Ocean

Fuji Hokuroku

Center for Global Environmental Research, National Institute for Environmental Studies

Forest

Fujinitayama

Grassland Dynamics Research Group

Grassland

Fukuroyama

University Forest, The University of Tokyo

Forest

Hinanohara

Grassland Dynamics Research Group

Grassland

Kanamegawa

Laboratory of Forest Ecology and Silviculture, Department of Forest Science, Utsunomiya University

Forest

Kawatabi

Grassland Dynamics Research Group

Grassland

Kiryu

Laboratory of Forest Hydrology, Kyoto University

Forest

Kominato

Kominato Marine Laboratory, Marine Biosystems Research Center, Chiba University

Ocean

Kouzu

Grassland Dynamics Research Group

Grassland

Kusaki

Field Museum Kusaki, Field Science Center, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology

Forest

Toyako

Toya Lake Station, Field Science Center for Northern Biosphere, Hokkaido University

Lake

Maizuru

Field Science Education and Research Center, Kyoto University

Ocean

Nobeyama

Yatsugatake Forest, University of Tsukuba

Forest

North Tomakomai

Hokkaido Research Center, Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute

Forest

Ohyamazawa

Ohyamazawa Riparian Forest Project

Forest

Otsuchi Bay

International Coastal Research Center, Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, The University of Tokyo

Ocean

Reihoku

Education and Research Center for Subtropical Field Science, Kochi University

Forest

Sado

Field Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry, Faculty of Agriculture, Niigata University

Forest

Sanbe-san

Grassland Dynamics Research Group

Grassland

Shiiba

University Forest, Kyushu University

Forest

Takahara-yama

Laboratory of Forest Ecology and Silviculture, Department of Forest Science, Utsunomiya University

Forest

Tama

Field Museum Tama-Kyuryo, Field Science Center, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology

Forest

Tano

Tano Forest Science Station, Filed Science Center, Miyazaki University

Forest

Nagaura

Aitsu Marine Station, Center for Marine Environmental Studies, Kumamoto University

Ocean

Kagoshima Bay

Education and Research Center for Marine Resources and Environment, Kagoshima University

Ocean

Lake Biwa

Center for Ecological Research, Kyoto University/Lake Biwa Environmental Research Institute

Lake

Kiso River

Center for Ecological Research, Kyoto University

River

Kenmaruo

Yamanashi Institute of Environmental Sciences

Forest

Mase

National Institute for Agro-Environmental Sciences

Paddy field

Yamashiro

Kansai Research Center, Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute

Forest

Hitsujigaoka

Hokkaido Research Center, Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute

Forest

These sites (core and associate sites) are distributed over a geographically wide area in Japan ranging from subarctic (North Hokkaido forest site at 45°N) to subtropical zones (Sezoko coastal site at 26°N) in Japan (Fig. 2). A wide variety of ecosystem types are available, including 30 forests, 7 grasslands, 3 lakes, 12 marine sites, 1 paddy field, and 1 river. This variation in site types is one of JaLTER’s unique and distinctive characteristics among the world’s LTER networks.
Fig. 2

Locations of the Japanese Long-Term Ecological Research Network (JaLTER) sites in April 2010

Monitoring items also vary broadly depending on the geographic features of the sites and institutions involved. For example, monitoring plant community structure and dynamics is conducted at more than 20 forest sites. Catchment hydrological observations are conducted at seven sites located from subarctic to subtropical regions. There are also seven CO2/H2O gas-flux observation sites covering ecosystems such as forest, grassland, and paddy field.

The JaLTER also has 12 marine and estuary sites (6 core sites and 6 associated sites) that cover various types of representative marine habitats in Japan, including coral reef, sea grass and algal beds, rocky shores, tidal flats, brackish estuaries, and a 400 m deep basin. In addition to field research by each institution, some integrated projects are ongoing through a network of several coastal sites. For example, most of the coastal sites have been selected as permanent census stations for Monitoring Sites 1000, a nationwide ecosystem-monitoring program (described below). Furthermore, some of the coastal sites also participate in global biodiversity research programs such as NaGISA (a nearshore biodiversity monitoring program administered by Census of Marine Life) and the Zostera Experimental Network (a research program funded by the NSF).

The structure of the JaLTER administrative organization consists of an executive group and four committees, including a representative committee, a steering committee, an information-management committee, and an advisory committee (Fig. 3). The representative and steering committees are run by representatives of the member sites and members of the executive group. The information-management committee consists of an information manager at each site who manages and organizes the data obtained at the field sites. The relations among these groups and their responsibilities are shown in Fig. 2. The executive group is responsible for the links and communication with the networks of other countries through the ILTER network.
Fig. 3

Structure of JaLTER activities

JaLTER Database

The open database is the most important function of the LTER network activities, as sharing data and information is an indispensable strategy for network-type research activities. Not only for scientific communities but also for serving policymakers and general societies, the data represent the outcomes of LTER activities executed using public financial resources and should be open without limitations.

The JaLTER database has been developed to archive various kinds of ecological and related data in open metadata catalogues to promote further long-term and interdisciplinary network studies in Japan. The JaLTER Information Management Committee plans, discusses, and establishes the data-management strategy, data policy, and technical development.

The JaLTER database uses ecological metadata language (EML) and the metadata and data management (Metacat) system. EML and Metacat have been developed and updated by the Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity (KNB) in the United States. The EML and Metacat system is used by other LTER networks as well, in the United States, Taiwan, and South Africa within the ILTER community (Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity 2011b).

Metadata for the JaLTER database are described in EML. EML is a metadata specification developed by and for the field of ecology. It is based on prior work done by the Ecological Society of America and associated efforts (Michener et al. 1997). EML is implemented as a series of XML document types that can be used in a modular and extensible manner to document ecological data. Each EML module is designed to describe one logical part of the total metadata set that should be included with any ecological data set (Knowledge Network for Biocomplexity 2011a).

The international LTER community has created definitions for the levels of metadata descriptions to standardize metadata quality. The levels of metadata are described by the following five steps:
  1. 1.

    Identification: minimum information on the data

     
  2. 2.

    Discovery: (1)  +  region, taxonomic group, and time

     
  3. 3.

    Evaluation: (2)  +  method, attribute, and summary

     
  4. 4.

    Access: (3)  +  way to access

     
  5. 5.

    Integration: (4)  +  detailed attribute description

     

The minimum requirements for “identification level” metadata are title, creator, contact, publisher, publication date, keywords, abstract, and distribution (i.e., URL for data set information).

The hardware for the JaLTER-Metacat server has been installed and maintained in the Center for Global Environmental Research, National Institute of Environmental Studies. The JaLTER Information Management Committee (IMC) established the data policy for the data owners and users in 2009 to implement the JaLTER-Metacat server and develop the database.

As shown at the entrance to the JaLTER database (http://db.cger.nies.go.jp/JaLTER/metacat/style/skins/jalter-en/index.jsp) in Fig. 4, the JaLTER database archives data sets of five ecosystem types (forest, grassland, lake, marine, river) and 13 member sites. Although the current contents are not always sufficient for examining all Japanese sites, they include forest and coastal biome community structure data sets and some long-term hydrological data sets from forested watersheds.
Fig. 4

Front page of the JaLTER database

Current Efforts and Future Direction

The JaLTER database is still in a developmental stage to a complete system, but it has been implemented sufficiently to serve as a comprehensive data source of Japanese ecological information. Several attempts are currently being made to encourage JaLTER community members to input their data sets into the database.

For the potential data supplier, the JaLTER IMC holds workshops several times per year to teach investigators how to make and organize metadata using the metadata creating and managing software “Morpho” developed by the KNB. At the same time, a “Data Camp” has been held under tutorials by the IMC staff for users to understand the execution of actual metadata creation and data organization operations. The JaLTER IMC has also provided the Metacat server with a Japanese user interface for local data managers at each site. At the same time, the ILTER has started to implement a multilingual metadata catalog (Vanderbilt et al. 2010).

In March 2011, the JaLTER IMC established a new project called “Data Papers on Ecological Research” to facilitate data-sharing by field scientists and data owners. Ecological Research is an international journal edited by the Ecological Society of Japan and is a well-established, globally recognized journal on ecological sciences (http://www.springer.com/life+sciences/ecology/journal/11284).

The aim of Data Papers is to contribute significantly to the development of ecology by electronically archiving excellent research data and accompanying metadata for any ecological process. The abstract and keywords are published in Ecological Research. The JaLTER database and its website archives and publish these data and metadata.

The JaLTER database accepts and makes available data sets not only from the JaLTER member sites but also from authors who publish a Data Paper in Ecological Research. In the latter case, the authors do not have to be a JaLTER member. Moreover, given the increasing number of manuscripts from the Asia-Pacific region being submitted to Ecological Research, it is expected that submissions of Data Papers from ecological communities in the Asian-Pacific region will also increase in the near future. Thus, the JaLTER database will actively contribute by archiving and publishing ecological data sets from the Asia-Pacific region. Furthermore, the JaLTER database is now preparing to serve as a proxy database server for Asia-Pacific LTER networks that do not have their own database servers.

JaLTER has started linking with several other nationwide projects focusing on long-term and/or widespread ecological phenomena and preparing data for sharing. For example, the Monitoring Sites 1000 project is being conducted by the Biodiversity Center of Japan, Nature Conservation Bureau, Ministry of the Environment of Japan (Biodiversity Center of Japan 2011). Ecological dynamics of various plants and animals are monitored at more than 1,000 field sites authorized by this project, which include natural and suburban forests, lakes, wetlands, coasts, estuaries, and small islands. As many of these sites are also JaLTER member sites, the data from these sites are accessible at the database of both the Monitoring Sites 1000 project and JaLTER.

JaLTER is also conducting cooperative activities with the JapanFlux community. The JapanFlux consists of 29 CO2/H2O monitoring sites located from Hokkaido to Kyushu Islands, including natural and planted forests, grasslands, and agricultural fields, similar to the JaLTER network (JapanFlux 2011). The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) are also important partners in the JaLTER network. JAXA and JAMSTEC have been conducting several projects focusing on large-spatial-scale ecological monitoring. Currently JAXA and JaLTER are preparing a cooperative project related to the Global Change Observation Mission project using several earth-observation satellites (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency 2011).

The JaLTER-IMC is planning to establish links to other international biological databases such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. A unified interface for these databases is currently under development by a research group of the University of Tokyo.

JaLTER encourages the Japanese ecological community to plan a large-scale monitoring project using the JaLTER sites and its database. To help start these projects, JaLTER holds an all-scientist meeting each year. JaLTER is willing to expand this activity to Asia-Pacific LTER communities in the near future.

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank H. Kamauchi of Hokkaido University for his help collecting materials for this manuscript. We also thank E. Maita and T. Matsunaga of the National Institute of Environmental Studies, A. Ogawa of The University of Tokyo, and the executive group of the Japan Long-Term Ecological Research Network for their contributions to the JaLTER network and database activities. Thanks are also due to Professor M. Ito for his invitation to write this chapter for the JaLTER network. The present JaLTER activities were partly supported by the Global Environment Research Fund (D-0909, D-1102) from the Ministry of the Environment and by the Green Network of Excellence, Environmental Information from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan.

References

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Copyright information

© Springer 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nobuhito Ohte
    • 1
  • Masahiro Nakaoka
    • 2
  • Hideaki Shibata
    • 3
  1. 1.Graduate School of Agricultural and Life SciencesUniversity of TokyoBunkyo City, TokyoJapan
  2. 2.Akkesi Marine Station, Field Science Center for Northern BiosphereHokkaido UniversityHokkaidoJapan
  3. 3.Field Science Center for Northern BiosphereHokkaido UniversitySapporo, HokkaidoJapan

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