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Long-Term Ecosystem Research in Europe

How long-term ecosystem studies can benefit research on biodiversity, ecosystem service trade-offs and human well-being

A new paper sets out how the international LTER community could collaborate effectively with the global ICSU Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS)
How long-term ecosystem studies can benefit research on biodiversity, ecosystem service trade-offs and human well-being

Forestry is a sector in which trade-offs are often made. Image: Ian Simpson

Members of the International Long-Term Ecological Research (ILTER) community have published a paper exploring the contribution that their research can make to understanding changes in biodiversity and trade-offs among ecosystem services, stakeholders and components of well-being.

The ILTER network covers a wide range of social-ecological conditions and - the authors assert - is well-aligned with the International Council for Science (ICSU) Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS). They propose that the ILTER network and the Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS) are natural partners that can work synergistically toward their shared objectives and goals. In their paper, the authors examine and develop a conceptual basis for such collaboration, linking ecosystem integrity, ecosystem services, and stakeholder well-being as a way to analyze trade-offs among ecosystem services inherent in diverse management options.

"ILTER’s distinctive strength is the long-term research and monitoring of key ecosystem patterns and processes in a large set of sites across the planet. This approach allows assessment of slow, unexpected, as well as abrupt changes in ecosystems."
- Maass, M. et al.

The researchers also outline a methodological approach that includes: (i) site-based monitoring and synthesis activities to determine spatial and temporal trends and changes and to document cross-scale interactions; (ii) developing analytical tools for integration; (iii) promoting site comparisons and (iv) developing conceptual tools to aid the design of policies and management interventions dealing with trade-offs.

The lead author is Manuel Maass of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, a leading figure in the establishment of the Mexican LTER network. Among the co-authors are several representatives of the European LTER community.

The paper is published in the journal Ecology and Society as an invited contribution to a Special Feature on the “Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS): Knowledge for Sustainable Stewardship of Social-ecological Systems”.

Full reference

Maass, M., P. Balvanera, P. Bourgeron, M. Equihua, J. Baudry, J. Dick, M. Forsius, L. Halada, K. Krauze, M. Nakaoka, D. E. Orenstein, T. W. Parr, C. L. Redman, R. Rozzi, M. Santos-Reis, A. M. Swemmer, and A. Vădineanu. 2016. Changes in biodiversity and trade-offs among ecosystem services, stakeholders, and components of well-being: the contribution of the International Long-Term Ecological Research network (ILTER) to Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS). Ecology and Society 21(3):31.
http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-08587-210331

Abstract

The International Long-Term Ecological Research (ILTER) network comprises > 600 scientific groups conducting site-based research within 40 countries. Its mission includes improving the understanding of global ecosystems and informs solutions to current and future environmental problems at the global scales. The ILTER network covers a wide range of social-ecological conditions and is aligned with the Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS) goals and approach. Our aim is to examine and develop the conceptual basis for proposed collaboration between ILTER and PECS. We describe how a coordinated effort of several contrasting LTER site-based research groups contributes to the understanding of how policies and technologies drive either toward or away from the sustainable delivery of ecosystem services. This effort is based on three tenets: transdisciplinary research; cross-scale interactions and subsequent dynamics; and an ecological stewardship orientation. The overarching goal is to design management practices taking into account trade-offs between using and conserving ecosystems toward more sustainable solutions. To that end, we propose a conceptual approach linking ecosystem integrity, ecosystem services, and stakeholder well-being, and as a way to analyze trade-offs among ecosystem services inherent in diverse management options. We also outline our methodological approach that includes: (i) monitoring and synthesis activities following spatial and temporal trends and changes on each site and by documenting cross-scale interactions; (ii) developing analytical tools for integration; (iii) promoting trans-site comparison; and (iv) developing conceptual tools to design adequate policies and management interventions to deal with trade-offs. Finally, we highlight the heterogeneity in the social-ecological setting encountered in a subset of 15 ILTER sites. These study cases are diverse enough to provide a broad cross-section of contrasting ecosystems with different policy and management drivers of ecosystem conversion; distinct trends of biodiversity change; different stakeholders’ preferences for ecosystem services; and diverse components of well-being issues.

Further information