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LTER Key Research Findings

Among the many research results from LTER sites, some findings stand out as being particularly important to achieve the LTER goal of providing information to conserve, protect, and manage the nation's ecosystems. Short descriptions of key findings at each site emphasize the importance of long-term data in understanding the pace and pattern of ecological change.

Biodiversity Matters (CDR LTER)
Cedar Creek scientists discovered that the number of plant species in an ecosystem – its biodiversity – has a profound effect on ecosystem function. Long-term experiments show ecosystems with greater plant biodiversity are more productive and stable, and better able to soak up more of our carbon dioxide emissions as well. Moreover, the value of diversity grew over time in two long-term...
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Ecological Homogenization (CDR LTER)
Neighborhoods across biophysically different regions have similar patterns of development leading to ecological homogenization of basic neighborhood structure and residential yards more ecologically similar to yards across the nation than to their respective nearby natural areas. Fewer lineages of plants occur spontaneously in urban environments than in natural areas, and urban plants are...
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Enriched Atmosphere (CDR LTER)
Cedar Creek research demonstrates that anticipated atmospheric CO2 levels predicted for 2075 will increase plant growth and carbon sequestration in grasslands in fertile areas, but only weakly in arid ecosystems with low nitrogen. These results suggest that ultimately atmospheric CO2 levels will rise faster than predicted by leading models. BioCON (Biodiversity, CO2, and Nitrogen) is an...
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Plants and Fuel (CDR LTER)
Experimental studies by Cedar Creek scientists revealed that high-diversity mixtures of perennial prairie plants grown on nutrient-poor lands with no fertilization or irrigation have potential for use as a biofuel crop. Such a crop could offers many advantages over food-crop based biofuels, including net carbon storage, lower land use requirements, and reduced particulate emissions. The search...
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Too Much Of A Good Thing (CDR LTER)
An ongoing experiment now in its third decade at Cedar Creek has shown that even very low levels of nitrogen fertilization can reduce plant diversity. Cedar Creek is supporting a global experimental network (The Nutrient Network, or NutNet) testing the generality of these results at 70 sites on 5 continents. Established in 2005, this collaborative experimental network was established to...
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