Cross-site Synthesis Activities Continue Dialogues Begun at All Scientists Meeting

Network News Spring 2001, Vol. 14 No. 1
Top Stories

View complete list of Post-ASM 2000 Cross-site Research and Synthesis activities.

Several cross-site, cross-agency and cross-national research activities are in the works as a direct result of activities and discussions at the LTER All Scientist's Meeting, August 2000 in Snowbird, Utah (LTER ASM 2000). The following are descriptions of a few of these workshops being organized by LTER researchers around LTER principals.

Integration of the natural and social sciences at LTER sites (and beyond): the graduate student perspective

This workshop is sponsored by NTL-LTER and the Univ. of Wisconsin natural-social science IGERT program. For more information, contact Karen Wilson, co-organizer, NTL-LTER ( This workshop will occur at the Ecological Society of America Meeting on Sunday August 5 in Madison, Wisconsin. For information about registering for and attending the ESA 2001 meeting, see the Web site: on the workshop, including a tentative schedule, is available at our website:

Human and natural systems are intrinsically linked, and there are few ecosystems that have not been altered by anthropogenic action. For this reason, it has become increasingly important for social and natural scientists to work together. True interdisciplinary work goes beyond a natural scientist asking a social scientist to collect some data (or vice versa)-rather it involves developing questions and designing ways to answer them together. This workshop will begin building those bridges for graduate students who will determine the nature of integrative science in the years to come. Our goal for this workshop is to identify strategies for more successful social-ecological research collaborations and stimulate more social-ecological research, especially among graduate students. We've also extended this invitation to graduate students in social-natural science Integrative Graduate Education Research and Training programs (IGERT) to bring their experiences in integrative research to the LTER community.

Workshop participants will examine LTER for ways to apply these theories. The workshop will focus on work done at LTER sites in an effort to foster discussion around questions that could realistically be studied by graduate students who, outside LTER sites, often do not have access to long-term data.

Our goals for the workshop are: to share lessons in interdisciplinary research that integrate the social and natural sciences; to identify common research questions and approaches through interdisciplinary discussion, and; to identify potential interdisciplinary research questions that utilize LTER data and resources. The format of the workshop will facilitate small-group discussion rather than symposium-style presentations. Anticipated products might include proposals for collaborative research and/or a Bioscience-style article on interdisciplinary research from the graduate student perspective.

We encourage all LTER and IGERT affiliated graduate students to come, both those who have interdisciplinary experience, and those who are interested in working with scientists in other fields. In particular, the workshop will be focused on collaborations between natural and social scientists.

We are interested in hearing from LTER colleagues with long-term social and natural data from LTER sites (or elsewhere) that could be used, in graphical format, to stimulate interdisciplinary research questions during the workshop.

Scalable information systems: from laboratories to NEONs

This workshop will occur at the ESA Annual Meeting, August 2001, Madison WI. The workshop is sponsored by the Long Term Studies Section of ESA, the Organization of Biological Field Stations, the San Diego Supercomputer Center, and the LTER Network Office. For more information, contact organizers William Michener of the LTER Network Office and Art McKee of the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest. See the ESA Web site for registration information.

Interest in data- and information-related technologies has intensified in response to proposed plans for building a National Ecological Observatory Network. Despite interest in relevant technologies, most ecologists have not been able to keep pace with the rapid advances in computing, communications, and information management and analysis. This workshop is designed to make ecologists aware of new and appropriate information technologies as they consider upgrading individual laboratories or expanding field station capabilities to those needed for NEON-type facilities.

This one-day workshop will address computing, communications, data and information management at field stations. Workshop speakers and titles include:

  • James Brunt-Computing environments, communications and networking
  • Mark Schildauer-Metadata
  • Dick Olson-Archives and regional databases
  • John Porter-Database approaches
  • William Michener-QA/QC lCherri Pancake-Web interfaces and data & information portals lMatt Jones-Tools for data integration, analysis and synthesis
  • Warren Cohen-Approaches for scaling up from the site to broader scale
  • Robert Peet-Taxonomic and museum databases

Each speaker will present a broad overview of their topic in a 30-45 minute period. Specific material covered by each speaker will include basic to advanced approaches that can meet needs ranging from those of individual scientists to reasonably well-equipped field stations that are contemplating expansion to a more sophisticated observatory. For each topic, a range of possible solutions, as well as costs, personnel requirements, and other factors will be discussed. Reference materials will be provided to all participants and approximately one-fourth of the workshop agenda will be set aside for discussion and question/answer sessions.

Integration of Research on Biogeochemical Cycles at LTER Sites

This workshop is organized by Lawrence A. Baker, Central Arizona-Phoenix (CAP) LTER site ( Co-organizers are Charlie Driscoll (Hubbard Brook LTER), Diane Hope and Peter McCartney (CAP) , Kate Lajtha (Andrews LTER site), and Bruce Peterson (Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory) See the ESA Web site for information on registering for workshops.

As a follow-up to a workshop held at the LTER ASM 2000, this workshop is supported by a NSF-LTER workshop grant.

Biogeochemical processes have been the focus of many studies at LTER and LTER-like sites over the past 20 years or more. These studies have varied on spatial scales from small plots to whole-ecosystems and on temporal scales ranging from hours to decades. With a few notable exceptions, little effort has been made to synthesize and integrate this knowledge. Cross-site integration would likely reveal considerable insights regarding the operation of biogeochemical cycles and would greatly enhance our ability to predict how ecosystems respond to climate change, human development, and other influences.

An outcome of our workshop Ecosystem-level Nutrient Dynamics: Cross-comparisons held at the LTER ASM 2000 was the desire to continue toward the development of a major integration project on this topic. The focus would be on N, C, and P. A preliminary list of questions that could be answered from a concerted integration effort follows:

  1. How does one link plot-scale process studies, watershed-scale mass balances, direct accumulation studies (e.g., sediment coring), manipulation experiments, and other methods together to develop a coherent picture of biogeochemical processes across various ecosystems?
  2. How do inputs of nutrients vary across ecosystems, and what is the relative importance of fixed nutrients (for N and C) versus within-ecosystem fixation?
  3. What factors determine the fate of N, C, and P that enter the ecosystem? What controls the apportionment between accumulation and export?
  4. How does the absolute (kg/ha-yr) and relative (% of input) magnitude of various processes vary among ecosystems, and what environmental factors control this magnitude? For example, it would be reasonable to postulate that system-wide denitrification rates increase as a function of carbon supply, temperature, and some measure of anaerobisis, such as the ratio of precipitation to evaporation.
  5. At the whole-system level, how do fluxes of nutrients vary with time, at spatial temporal scales from hours ("catastrophic events", such as landslides and hurricanes) to decades?
  6. What is the influence of humans on biogeochemical cycles, and how is this influence exerted? By overloading inputs? Through hydrologic alteration? By disruption of key processes?
  7. Do we have sufficient knowledge to predict the general aspects of biogeochemical cycles for an ecosystem given only a knowledge of inputs (water, N,C,P), its edaphic and climatic features and biota, and human activities? In other words, have we learned enough to make meaningful predictions?

The workshop at ESA 2001 will extend this discussion. A key goal is to learn, from site investigators, what types of biogeochemical studies are being conducted at each LTER site. Discussion topics will include development of an integrated database for constructing mass balances, cross-site experiments, the use isotopic data, and other approaches that might be used to achieve this integration.

GCTE/LTER Collaboration on Removal Experiments on the Role of Biodiversity in Ecosystem Functioning

Supported by GCTE-IGBP, IAI, and LTER, lead organizers Sandra Díaz and F. Stuart Chapin recognized that the goal many current research initiatives is understanding the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem processes. This workshop was organized to analyze the potential of experimental removals of species or functional types from already established, natural or semi-natural communities for investigating these effects.

The removal approach, despite its drawbacks (less control of environmental "noise", large disturbance effects, etc.) is considered useful to answer some questions unlikely to be tackled by the synthetic-community approach. Obvious examples are questions related to the effects of large, woody, and/or slow-growing plants at the ecosystem level, and assemblages consisting of a large number of species. Since 1999, an ample network of researchers performing such kind of experiments, or interested in the approach, has been built. This network is now formalized as a GCTE Core Project. The workshop held during the LTER ASM was the Network's first major activity.

The workshop represented the widest possible spectrum of approaches, methods, and experiences concerning removal experiments on the role of biodiversity in ecosystem functioning, based on the assumption that removal experiments are a fruitful way of exploring ideas in ecology, and may offer the opportunity discover new relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Eighteen individuals presented results from their removal experiments, based on very different approaches, answering different questions.

Experiments on a wide range of systems (e.g., lakes, deserts, tundra, semiarid shrublands, grasslands, tropical forests) were represented, and the participants included plant, animal and soil ecologists. Substantial progress was made during the workshop in developing

  1. A common conceptual framework for removal experiments on the role of biodiversity on ecosystem function
  2. A list of lessons learnt from past and on-going experiments
  3. Some agreements on what conceptual and methodological aspects to consider in future experiments in order to maximize their comparability

The products of the workshop included:

  1. A document with a compilation of guidelines and recommendations, aimed to researchers carrying out removal experiments or trying to set up new experiments. This document, entitled "A Practical Guidelines for Removal Experiments" is now available to all interested individuals and will be posted in GCTE Focus 4 Web page ( It is conceived as a "living" document, which can be periodically updated on the basis of the feedback by interested individuals.
  2. A synthesis article on the general conceptual issues involved in removal experiments and its role in understanding links between biodiversity and ecosystem functions. A subgroup of participants in now developing an outline.
  3. A 3-yr work plan for the future of the Network. In that plan, two main lines of action were identified, which should converge into a Closing Workshop. These two lines are:
  • Comparison of results of on-going or new removal experiments
  • Comparisons/integration with results obtained using complementary approaches, such as long-term experiments designed for other purposes.

For more information, contact Sandra Diaz and Pablo Inchausti.

Global Change and Terrestrial Ecosystem (GCTE) is a Core Project of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP), an international scientific research programme established in 1986 by the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU). The IAI is an intergovernmental organization supported by 18 countries in the Americas dedicated understanding global change phenomena and their socio-economic consequences in the Americas.