LTER Network Communications Office

Long Term Ecological Research Network Communications Office


“We want the Network Communications Office to be the linchpin that nourishes and strengthens the LTER network both nationally and internationally.”

- Frank Davis, Executive Director, LTER Network Communications Office


NCEAS operates the Network Communications Office for the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network, serving as a hub for the research synthesis, education, and outreach activities of the Network as a whole. Research in the LTER Network seeks to understand ecological processes that play out over decades and at continental scales. The resulting knowledge and understanding informs effective conservation and management of the nation's ecosystems, their biodiversity, and the services they provide.

Programs at the Network Communications Office (NCO) engage LTER investigators in integrating the observations, experiments, and models developed at individual sites into a robust understanding of ecosystem functioning across multiple scales and biomes. Synthesis working groups expand the scope of LTER science by applying insights from a few systems or organisms to build and test more general (and more broadly applicable) results.

The NCO amplifies the voice and extends the reach of LTER site-based communication activities and takes a leadership role on Network-wide communications with the scientific community and other stakeholders. By building a broader awareness of LTER science, experts, and outcomes, the NCO aims to ensure that scientists, educators, resource managers, and decision-makers have the maximum possible access to this extraordinary resource.

Housed at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), the Network Communications Office benefits from NCEAS’ expertise in data science and open science for synthesis. NCEAS also brings 20 years of experience in managing synthesis working groups. With more than 600 scientists visiting NCEAS in an average year, the potential for cross-site and cross-disciplinary collaboration is extraordinary.

For additional information, please visit the LTER NCO website and the LTER Network website.


“Over the past 20 years, NCEAS has had a transformative effect on the way that ecological information is organized, synthesized and applied. It is exciting to now apply their experience and expertise to the LTER network.”  

- Peter Groffman, Chair LTER Science Council and Executive Board



One strength of the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network is that it reveals patterns and connections that are only apparent over years and decades. As a national network, it also offers extraordinary opportunities to make comparisons among ecosystems. The Network Communications Office has funded three initial LTER synthesis working groups, which combine existing data to yield fresh insights into how ecological systems work.


2016 Spring LTER Synthesis Working Groups


Stream Elemental Cycling


Global Patterns in Stream Energy and Nutrient Cycling
The working group will compare stream chemistry data from 19 sites, representing far-ranging biomes including tundra, desert, and tall-grass prairies, as well as boreal, temperate, and tropical rainforests. They aim to identify what factors affect the coupled breakdown and use of carbon and nitrogen in streams. While carbon and nitrogen are inextricably linked, scientists remain stymied by the considerable spatial and temporal variation in the relationships between the two. The unprecedented global database being assembled by the project will allow the team to examine energy and nutrient cycling across seasons and environmental and management gradients.


LTER Metacommunities


A Synthesis to Identify How Metacommunity Dynamics Mediate Community Responses to Disturbance Across the Ecosystems Represented in the LTER Network
What factors impact the stability of ecosystems? Previous research has identified dispersal, niche differentiation, and habitat heterogeneity as crucial parameters that determine metacommunity dynamics and stability in response to disturbance. Researchers do not know, however, whether these factors confer stability over long time scales or across ecosystem types. Using LTER datasets, the working group will assess how well these parameters estimate stability across time and space–and in the process, identify the major predictors of metacommunity stability.




Integrating Plant Community and Ecosystem Responses to Chronic Global Change Drivers: Toward an Explanation of Patterns and Improved Global Predictions
Many global change drivers (GCDs) lead to chronic alterations in resource availability, and scientists anticipate that the magnitude and direction of ecosystem responses to these changes will be non-linear. To predict responses to GCDs across a wide variety of ecosystems, the working group will take advantage of 101 similar experiments done across 17 LTER sites, all of which have examined plant community responses to changes in resource availability. The group aims to discover whether changes in plant community structure, productivity, and carbon storage are predictive of shifts in ecosystem function.



2017 LTER Synthesis Working Groups

LTER Synchrony


Synthesizing population and community synchrony to understand drivers of ecological stability across LTER sites
Populations of plants, animals, and microbes fluctuate all the time. Whether populations rise and fall in tandem, independently or alternately can affect ecological stability. Offset fluctuations between species can enhance ecosystem stability. Or alternate fluctuations of the same species in different regions can support species stability. Building on many sources of long-term data, the LTER Synchrony working group aims to understand the drivers and timescales of synchrony and its effect on ecological stability.


Biodiversity & Productivity


Scaling-Up Productivity Responses to Changes in Biodiversity
It seems like a simple question. Does biodiversity loss cause productivity loss? Most experiments to test the question are done on small plots. Scaling up to natural ecosystems introduces complications that could tip the balance toward a stronger—or a weaker—relationship. Drawing on data from biodiversity experiments at multiple LTERs and global observational and experimental networks, the Biodiversity and Productivity working group asks what role time scales, spatial scales, type of experiment, and ecosystem type have on the strength of this key relationship.


LTER Network Communications Office Team:

Frank Davis (PI)
Marty Downs (Communications Lead)
Sam Norlin (Education Lead)
Jenn Caselle (Research Coordination)
Matt Jones (Informatics Training)
Stacy Rebich Hespanha (Training, Program Evaluation)
Mark Schildhauer (Computing, Informatics Training)

For more information on the Long Term Ecological Research Network and the Network Communications Office