Shortgrass Steppe (No longer funded by NSF LTER) - Project Overview

The Shortgrass Steppe (SGS) Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) project is no longer active, but was funded by the National Science Foundation from 1982-2014 as one of the first sites in the US LTER Network. This collaborative, interdisciplinary research project was founded in the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at Colorado State University by ecosystem scientists who developed novel approaches to the study of grassland ecosystems during the International Biome Program(IBP) (1968-1974).

The SGS-LTER project was built upon the foundation of knowledge and data obtained during IBP; the primary SGS-LTER field research area was established at the old IBP grassland headquarters on the Central Plains Experimental Range (CPER), a United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) site in Nunn, Colorado. The research site sits in the rain shadow of the Rocky Mountains at the western edge of the shortgrass steppe of North America. Over time, SGS-LTER scientists expanded their research studies beyond the CPER, into the Pawnee National Grassland, out across the longitudinal precipitation gradient of the Great Plains and along the latitudinal gradient from Wyoming to Mexico. They also conducted cross-site collaborative research internationally in grasslands located in South America, Asia and Africa. Scientists at the SGS-LTER produced field methodologies, modeling tools and knowledge relevant to grassland ecologists, natural resource managers, and science educators. Some of the SGS-LTER work is summarized in the book ‘Ecology of the Shortgrass Steppe: A Long-Term Perspective' (Lauenroth and Burke, 2008).

Funding from NSF for the SGS-LTER project ended in 2014. Over 45 years, grassland scientists produced almost 1200 journal publications, almost 400 book chapters, over 200 theses, and more than 100 core, long-term datasets with open access. Scientists continue to use the field research site and the rich legacy of SGS-LTER for new projects including the Summer Soil Institute, the Semi-Arid Grasslands Research Center and the USDA Long-Term AgroEcosystem Research Network.

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