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Integrated cross-scale and cross-disciplinary approach for the analysis of ecosystems and biodiversity
The Long-Term Ecosystem Research in Europe (eLTER) is a new distributed Research Infrastructure which aims at integrating traditional natural sciences and holistic ecosystem research approaches, including studies of the human component, to better understand ecosystems. Through research and monitoring, eLTER seeks to improve our knowledge of the structure and functions of ecosystems and their long-term response to environmental, societal and economic drivers.
eLTER will provide indispensable integrated data sets – abiotic, biotic, societal, covering all system structures and functions – for system model development and validation, hence supporting predictions and decision-making in an interdisciplinary framework and in collaboration with other in situ, domain specific RIs.
eLTER contributes to the knowledge base informing policy and to the development of management options in response to the Grand Challenges.
In a world of global Grand Challenges, multiple stressors act at different temporal and spatial scales with significant losses of biodiversity and ecosystem functions that eventually affect human life. While in the short-term such effects are well studied, little is known about long-term and systemic effects and cross-scale interactions. Closing these knowledge gaps requires a deep understanding of the multifaceted environmental system in order to develop appropriate mitigation measures. eLTER features a unique integrated system approach in a nested design, allowing for interdisciplinary natural science research as well as investigating human/environment/systems at landscape scales. The design of the eLTER is guided by two overarching scientific concepts, applicable from point to continental scales: the Press Pulse Dynamic Model as horizontal component, and the spatially-nested hierarchical feedback paradigm of Macrosystems Ecology as a vertical component.
eLTER comprises: in situ, long-term, cross-disciplinary, multiple-use, large-scale coverage of major European socio-ecological systems. The aim is to secure scientific excellence through the highest quality interoperable services in close interaction with related European and global RIs. This implies both increased research quality through scientific cross-disciplinary synthesis at the system level – including human-environment interactions – and quantity in terms of the number of appropriately designed and equipped research sites. eLTER will contribute to the European environmental RI landscape by building up a pan-European network of long-term ecological research sites.
The design at the European and national level secures full complementarity with the related environmental in situ RIs like ICOS ERIC, AnaEE, DANUBIUS-RI and ACTRIS, and e-RIs such as LifeWatch ERIC and DiSSCo.
eLTER has evolved via flagship projects – e.g. ALTER-Net NoE, EnvEurope, ExpeER, and eLTER H2020 – and was cited as emerging project in the ESFRI Roadmap 2016. Based on this results, the EU-funded Advance_eLTER project elaborated a design and implementation plan for the submission to the Roadmap 2018.
The first stage of eLTER will be implemented based on an existing very large network of LTER sites – about 400 formally acknowledged ecosystem research sites and 35 LTSER Platforms for socio-ecological research operated by about 150 institutions. The eLTER design defines a hierarchy of sites, with major nodes playing a main role in driving scientific innovation and other sites focussing on data-provisioning and pan-European coverage. This mixed mode of operation will allow eLTER to play an important integrating role for policy-makers. The most important milestones for the planned Preparatory Phase are locations of the Central Services and establishment of the legal entity which is expected in 2026.
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ