Resilience: insights from the U.S. Long Term Ecological Research Network

Year: 
2021
Publications Type: 
Journal Article
Publication Number: 
5171
Citation: 

Cowles, Jane; Templeton, Laura; Battles, John J.; Edmunds, Peter J.; Carpenter, Robert C.; Carpenter, Stephen R.; Paul Nelson, Michael; et. al. 2021. Resilience: insights from the U.S. Long Term Ecological Research Network. Ecosphere. 12(5): e03434. doi:https://doi.org/doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.3434

Abstract: 

Ecosystems are changing in complex and unpredictable ways, and analysis of these changes is facilitated by coordinated, long-term research. Meeting diverse societal needs requires an understanding of what populations and communities will be dominant in 20, 50, and 100 yr. This paper is a product of a synthesis effort of the U.S. National Science Foundation funded Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) network addressing the LTER core research area of populations and communities. This analysis revealed that each LTER site had at least one compelling story about what their site would look like in 50 or 100 yr. As the stories were prepared, themes emerged, and the stories were grouped into papers along five themes for this special issue: state change, connectivity, resilience, time lags, and cascading effects. This paper addresses the resilience theme and includes stories from the Baltimore (urban), Hubbard Brook (northern hardwood forest), Andrews (temperate rain forest), Moorea (coral reef), Cedar Creek (grassland), and North Temperate Lakes (lakes) sites. The concept of resilience (the capacity of a system to maintain structure and processes in the face of disturbance) is an old topic that has seen a resurgence of interest as the nature and extent of global environmental change have intensified. The stories we present here show the power of long-term manipulation experiments (Cedar Creek), the value of long-term monitoring of forests in both natural (Andrews, Hubbard Brook) and urban settings (Baltimore), and insights that can be gained from modeling and/or experimental approaches paired with long-term observations (North Temperate Lakes, Moorea). Three main conclusions emerge from the analysis: (1) Resilience research has matured over the past 40 yr of the LTER program; (2) there are many examples of high resilience among the ecosystems in the LTER network; (3) there are also many warning signs of declining resilience of the ecosystems we study. These stories highlight the need for long-term studies to address this complex topic and show how the diversity of sites within the LTER network facilitates the emergence of overarching concepts about this important driver of ecosystem structure, function, services, and futures.