Synergies among environmental science research and monitoring networks: a research agenda

Publications Type: 
Journal Article
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Jones, Julia A.; Groffman, P.M.; Blair, J.; Davis, F.W.; Dugan, H.; Euskirchen, E.E.; Frey, S.D.; et. al. 2021. Synergies among environmental science research and monitoring networks: a research agenda. Earth's Future. 9(3): e2020EF001631. doi:


Many research and monitoring networks in recent decades have provided publicly available data documenting environmental and ecological change, but little is known about the status of efforts to synthesize this information across networks. We convened a working group to assess ongoing and potential cross-network synthesis research and outline opportunities and challenges for the future, focusing on the US-based research network (the US Long-Term Ecological Research network, LTER) and monitoring network (the National Ecological Observatory Network, NEON). LTER-NEON cross-network research synergies arise from the potentials for LTER measurements, experiments, models, and observational studies to provide context and mechanisms for interpreting NEON data, and for NEON measurements to provide standardization and broad scale coverage that complement LTER studies. Initial cross-network syntheses at co-located sites in the LTER and NEON networks are addressing six broad topics: how long-term vegetation change influences C fluxes; how detailed remotely sensed data reveal vegetation structure and function; aquatic-terrestrial connections of nutrient cycling; ecosystem response to soil biogeochemistry and microbial processes; population and species responses to environmental change; and disturbance, stability and resilience. This initial study offers exciting potentials for expanded cross-network syntheses involving multiple long-term ecosystem processes at regional or continental scales. These potential syntheses could provide a pathway for the broader scientific community, beyond LTER and NEON, to engage in cross-network science. These examples also apply to many other research and monitoring networks in the US and globally, and can guide scientists and research administrators in promoting broad-scale research that supports resource management and environmental policy.