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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.

Climate variability and change (KNZ LTER)
Climate is a critical driver of grassland structure and function. Grasslands occur in areas that are prone to occasional drought and are characterized by highly variable patterns of rainfall, both between (inter-annually) and within (intra-annually) years. North American grasslands were formed by climate changes originating during the Miocene-Pliocene transition, and their present day...
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Fire and Grazing (KNZ LTER)
Understanding the ecological effects of fire and grazing in grasslands is an important aspect of research at the Konza Prairie (KNZ) LTER site. The tallgrass prairies of North America were shaped by natural disturbances that included periodic fires and the activities of ungulate grazers, and these remain important processes in tallgrass prairie and other grasslands around the world. In order to...
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Grassland stream ecology (KNZ LTER)
Grasslands and wooded grasslands cover around 40% of the Earth’s terrestrial surface and more than ¼ of global runoff originates from these systems. Yet, surprisingly little is known about the ecology and unique properties of streams that link grasslands to downstream habitats. Understanding the ecology and ecosystem services provided by small headwater streams in the Great Plains region is...
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Restoring Grasslands (KNZ LTER)
Restoration ecology seeks to repair the diversity and dynamics of ecosystems degraded by human activities. Restoration studies in tallgrass prairie have become a core part of the Konza Prairie LTER (KNZ) program over the last decade, and are particularly timely because human activities have resulted in widespread loss and degradation of tallgrass prairie and other temperate grasslands. Here we...
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Woody plant encroachment (KNZ LTER)
Predicting how ecosystems will respond to forecast environmental changes and to evaluate the consequences of those responses is a major challenge for ecologists today. One of the most prevalent contemporary land-cover changes is woody plant encroachment into grasslands and increased cover of shrubs and trees in grasslands and savannas. Causes of increased woody plant abundance may vary in...
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