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  • The Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network is a collaborative effort involving more than 1800 scientists and students investigating ecological processes over long temporal and broad spatial scales.
  • The Network promotes synthesis and comparative research across sites and ecosystems and among other related national and international research programs.
  • The National Science Foundation established the LTER program in 1980 to support research on long-term ecological phenomena in the United States.
  • The 26 LTER Sites represent diverse ecosystems and research emphases
  • The LTER Network Office coordinates communication, network publications, and research-planning activities.

Featured Site: Konza Prairie LTER

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Konza Prairie LTER image 1 Konza Prairie LTER image 2 Konza Prairie LTER image 3

The Konza Prairie (KNZ) LTER program is a platform for comprehensive ecological research, education and outreach, all centered around the tallgrass prairie, a diverse and highly productive North American grassland. The interdisciplinary research program at Konza Prairie is providing a mechanistic and predictive understanding of ecological processes in mesic grassland ecosystems, and contributing to synthesis and conceptual and theoretical advances in the field of ecology in general.

Tallgrass prairie occurs at the transition zone between wetter deciduous forests and drier shortgrass steppe, and is influenced by regional-to-continental gradients in temperature and precipitation, as well as local variation in fire and grazing regimes. The interplay of these natural disturbances across a heterogeneous landscape leads to the high species diversity and complex, non-linear dynamics of these grasslands. In addition, because humans directly (management of grazing and fire) and indirectly (changes in atmospheric chemistry and climate) alter key drivers of ecological processes in these grasslands, Konza Prairie LTER studies are increasingly used to address critical issues related to global change, including the ecology of invasions, land-use and land-cover change, nutrient loading including effects on water quality, and ecosystem responses to climate change.

The Konza Prairie LTER research program began with a focus on fire, grazing and climatic variability, with research built around a unique replicated watershed-level fire and grazing experiment implemented in 1977. This long-term experiment provides new insights into the importance of historical disturbance regimes, as well as contemporary land-use practices. The site-based design includes permanent sampling locations for terrestrial and aquatic studies and is complemented by many long-term experiments that address the mechanisms underlying responses to fire and grazing regimes, and manipulate important drivers, such as rainfall and temperature in grassland plots and hydrology, nutrients and community structure in experimental streams. Current projects include research on climate change, causes and consequences of woody plant expansion into areas that were historically grassland, restoration ecology, and grassland stream ecology. Our LTER research also addresses the role of numerous biotic interactions (competition, mutualism, predation, herbivory) that shape grassland communities and ecosystems.

Cross Site and Network Level Activities
The Konza LTER program has matured to the point where syntheses of long-term datasets is contributing to a more in-depth understanding of grassland ecology, and to a broader understanding of ecological patterns and processes across biomes. Konza LTER researchers are active in many cross-site, network, and international collaborative activities. These include the cross-continental multi-site LINX II stream nitrogen experiment, and comparative studies in North American and southern African grasslands. The Konza LTER site also continues to be used by researchers from other sites and institutions for a variety of cross-site comparisons.

Konza Prairie Biological Station
The focal site for the Konza Prairie LTER program is the Konza Prairie Biological Station (KPBS), a 3,487 hectare native tallgrass prairie preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy and Kansas State University. KPBS is located in the Flint Hills region of northeastern Kansas (3905'N, 9635'W), and is operated as a field research station by the Division of Biology at KSU.

Education and Outreach Activities
The Konza LTER educational program includes opportunities for K-12, undergraduate and graduate level students, as well as teacher training and outreach activities for the public. For example, teachers from local schools attend a series of workshops about the research and management necessary to conserve the tallgrass prairie ecosystem . Participation also grants access to this LTER site and its personnel for the purpose of teaching the scientific process using methods unique to long-term research ecologists.

Undergraduate and graduate student training is an important component of our LTER program. In addition to providing support for local students, the Konza Prairie site is used by graduate students from many institutions around the U.S., and from other countries. The Konza LTER program also offers research experiences for a large number of undergraduate students through the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program, and has provided research experiences for minority students through the Strategies for Ecology Education Development and Sustainability (SEEDS) program of the Ecological Society of America. Increasingly, results from Konza studies are used in undergraduate and graduate ecology texts, as well as in extension and management related activities.

What's New

LTER and CSU awarded $12.5 million NSF grant for environmental literacy
Niwot Ridge captured in astronaut photograph
New grassland ecology book draws from Konza work
NSF gives go ahead to microbial biodiversity survey and inventory
Metadata for ecological genomics
Read More
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