Report from the Annual ILTER Meeting

Network News Fall 2001, Vol. 14 No. 2

The annual meeting of the International LTER Network was held in conjunction with a meeting on Detecting Environmental Change: Science and Society organized by the United Kingdom's Environmental Change Network (ECN) from July 17-20 2001. The ILTER meeting was held in Senate House, University of London, on July 16 and was attended by representatives of all seven regional networks and 12 of the existing 24 national networks. Bob Waide, John Vande Castle, and John Porter represented the U.S. LTER Network.

Highlights from Regional Reports

The African regional network comprises one official national network (Namibia) and five other countries that are in the process of developing networks (Zambia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Botswana, and South Africa). Conditions for research are somewhat different in this region. There are no national science councils except in South Africa), and therefore government support is mostly in terms of recognition rather than funding. Interactions with researchers elsewhere are highly relevant to these networks.

The Central and Eastern European regional network held a meeting in Prague in April. Topics included organization of regional networking, development of joint projects for coordination, a web page, perspectives of cooperation within common projects, and funding problems. A series of cross site activities were discussed, including the effects of forest health on biodiversity, ecosystem processes in alpine systems, effects of disturbances on semiarid grassland dynamics, detritus input, removal and transfer (DIRT) project, and GTOS. The next CEE regional meeting will be in Zvolen, Slovakia in 2002, linked to the IUFRO conference (International Union of Forest Research Organizations).

The biannual meeting of the East Asia-Pacific region discussed a multinational experiment focusing on decomposition processes. The Taiwanese Ecological Research Network will organize, host and conduct additional meetings to coordinate this cross-site experiment. An information management workshop was just completed in Mongolia, and focused on building an information managers network in association with LTER and the San Diego Supercomputer Center.

The web site for the Latin American Regional Network is at: Meetings will be held annually, and an executive committee will govern the regional network. Topics currently under consideration include connectivity, educational programs, student exchanges, standardization of data bank, minimum standard installation, and creation of the Americas Regional Network. The Latin American Pilot Project is moving forward, with possibilities including a decomposition project in terrestrial ecosystems and possible relations between productivity and biological diversity.

The Middle Eastern regional network participated in a workshop on information management held in Bonn along with scientists from a number of Middle Eastern countries. Israeli and Palestinian colleagues are cooperating to collect meteorological data along ecological gradient in rainfall.

The North American Regional network is working on establishing listserv for all of North America. Next year the ILTER annual meeting will be at the annual meeting of EMAN in Ottawa and will provide a focus for training in information management and international scientific cooperation.

Only two countries in Western Europe have LTER networks, but it is a fashionable idea and there is interest in a number of countries. There is a proposal in the offing for an EU-LTERNET with a strong social dimension. Strong links need to be established with Central and Eastern European network. There may be a need for a meeting to set guidelines to identify partners in each country.

The U.S. Network Office (NET) reported on several accomplishments of interest to the ILTER Network. Dr. Sonia Ortega will join NET in September on detail from NSF. Her specialty is graduate education, but she will work both with educational and international programs at NET. NET has requested and received supplemental funds from NSF for regional meetings. Each region must decide when they will have their meeting and what countries will be invited. NET is working on developing liaison groups for regional networks. These groups consist of US LTER scientists who will participate in ILTER activities in each region. The purpose of these liaison groups is to on scientific activities by engaging a broader group of people.

Highlights from the Business Meeting

Four main issues were discussed at the business meeting:

  1. Application for membership by Zambia
  2. Possible interactions with ECOBAS
  3. Possible interactions with GBIF
  4. The GTNET-NPP project

Zambia - Dr. Harry Chabwela presented a petition by the University of Zambia for recognition as an LTER national network. Because the petition by Zambia represented a new national model for LTER, considerable discussion focused on the criteria for recognizing and organizing a national network, that is national or government institution sponsorship. The discussion recognized that other potential ILTER members could advance models similar to that proposed by Zambia, and therefore clear definitions and criteria were needed. In particular, the developing Western European network already faces the need to embrace a common strategy. After this discussion, a motion to accept Zambia as an ILTER network passed unanimously.

ECOBAS - ECOBAS is a modeling database that provides standard documentation for ecological models. Dr. Joachim Benz described ECOBAS aims as

  • Complete, consistent and correct documentation
  • Standardized documentation
  • Improve availability of the documentations
  • Coupling reliable documentation and source code
  • Improve transferability

The ECOBAS WWW server provides two major information services, a registry of ecological models (REM), in which 600 models are documented and there are 200-300 users a day, and the ECOBAS database. The ECOBAS modeling assistant (EMA) can manage models and modules, check completeness, syntax and consistency, make database queries, is easily transferable to text documents and simulation systems (MATLAB, SCILAB, SIMUL), and provides for import and export of models. ECOBAS has asked for affiliation with LTER. Since ECOBAS is clearly not the same thing as a national network, the central question was whether we wanted to stretch our criteria to accommodate them or perhaps to develop a new category for affiliation. A motion was made and accepted to table the application of ECOBAS until criteria for a new class of affiliation could be developed.

GBIF - GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility ( & is based on a memorandum of understanding between governments and international organizations to develop a federation of biodiversity databases, in which individual members retain control. Criteria for member ship include:

  1. Signing the MOU
  2. Making a financial commitment
  3. Sharing scientific biodiversity data with GBIF
  4. Having at least one GBIF node

Dr. C.L. Hauser invited ILTER and national networks to join GBIF. Further discussion was postponed until more information could be obtained.

GTNET - John Vande Castle gave a presentation on the current status of the GTNET-NPP project. MODIS data products have been available since June of 2000. Several recent workshops have addressed issues important to the GTNET project. A workshop on carbon flux scaling addressed issues of scaling from ground observations to 1 km cells. A MODIS LAI validation workshop was also held recently. The BIGFOOT project has also developed a spatial sampling strategy for scaling up measurements ( Next steps include:

  1. Get precise coordinates for each site
  2. Potential for FAO purchase of LANDSAT data for each sites
  3. Get additional measurements from sites of LCC, LAI, NPP, and
  4. Do peer-reviewed publication