- 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
- The LTER Network Office coordinates communication, network
publications, and research-planning activities.
Featured Site Homepage: http://www.konza.ksu.edu/
Site Profile: http://www.lternet.edu/sites/knz
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
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
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 (39°05'N, 96°35'W), and is
operated as a field research station by the Division of Biology at
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.