Our involvement in the LTER program (LTER I 1982-1986) began with spatially explicit ideas and questions about the importance of landscape structure, particularly the classic soil catena model, in the long-term development and maintenance of shortgrass steppe ecosystems. In the second phase of the project (LTER II 1987-1990) we expanded our concept of long-term processes to include the origin and persistence of spatial patterns at a range of spatial scales. This work included substantial questioning of the generality of the catena model at the CPER and in the shortgrass steppe region. Our work for LTER III (1996-2002) built upon LTER I and II and expanded the depth of our investigations into interactions between spatial and temporal patterns in ecosystem structure and function.
LTER IV and V (2002-2010) extended our understanding of SGS ecosystem structure and function, by continuing a substantial suite of long-term experiments and initiating new long-term monitoring, long- and short-term experiments, and simulation analyses. Our work focused on the key biotic responses and feedbacks as influenced by humans, natural disturbances, physiography, and climate. New studies were conducted to investigate invasive species, the biology and ecological roles of prairie dogs and cactus, biogeochemical cycling under various projected precipitation regimes, the nitrogen and carbon balances of SGS ecosystems over landscape to regional scales, and the interactions between land-use and regional climate. Ecological field work, analysis, modeling, and synthesis were employed to study how climate, natural disturbance, physiography, human use, and biotic interactions influenced ecological structure and function of the shortgrass steppe, and researchers sought to identify where and when ecological relationships are most vulnerable to perturbations.
In summary, 60 long-term experiments were continued, 14 new long-term experiments were initiated and 10 new short-term were established.
In 2010, funding for SGS-LTER ecological research ceased and decommissioning work began to publish scientific findings resulting from decades of research, clean up field study installations, prepare, inventory and archive samples, and preserve and provide open access to research data. In addition to satisfying NSF requirements for submission of data to the LTER Network Information System, a collection including data, metadata and a diverse set of materials that together represent the SGS-LTER project as a whole was created. Migration of the SGS-LTER data management system was designated a pilot project for curation of research data within the Colorado State University Institutional Repository, as part of Digital Collections of Colorado.