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ARS Home » Plains Area » Las Cruces, New Mexico » Range Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #361121

Research Project: Science and Technologies for the Sustainable Management of Western Rangeland Systems

Location: Range Management Research

Title: Ecological theory and practice in arid and semiarid ecosystems: a tale of two LTER sites

Author
item Peters, Debra - Deb

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Government Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/5/2020
Publication Date: 5/1/2021
Citation: Peters, D.C. 2021. Ecological theory and practice in arid and semiarid ecosystems: a tale of two LTER sites. Book Chapter. 59. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-66933-1.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-66933-1

Interpretive Summary: Many ecological research sites in the central and southwestern United States share a common history that connected their research programs since origin. For many grassland sites, the Clementsian paradigm of succession from the early 1900s is an important part of their history that set up early agro-ecological studies under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and framed the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) studies in the 1980s. Here we compare the conceptual history of two LTER programs conducted at different USDA research sites established following land overuse in the early 1900s. Early USDA studies were based on a Clementsian model where vegetation following disturbance was expected to return to the climax determined by climate and soils. Through time, the two LTER programs in collaboration with USDA scientists brought new research ideas and approaches, including a focus on long-term observations and experimental manipulations, sampling of individual plants as well as bare interspaces, and process-based studies in concert with numerical simulation modeling. These approaches brought improved understanding to historic dynamics and nuance to the Clementsian-based paradigm. New paradigms also emerged that reflected the importance of objective, long-term studies and the dynamic, multi-scale nature of these arid and semiarid ecosystems. Comparisons of the growth of science at two LTER programs at research sites sharing a conceptual beginning and basis for existence (land over-use), but with different ecosystem properties, can provide insights into the development of ecology over the past century.

Technical Abstract: Many ecological research sites in the central and southwestern United States share a common history that connected their research programs since origin. For many grassland sites, the Clementsian paradigm of succession from the early 1900s is an important part of their history that set up early agro-ecological studies under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and framed the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) studies in the 1980s. Here we compare the conceptual history of two LTER programs conducted at different USDA research sites established following land overuse in the early 1900s. Early USDA studies were based on a Clementsian model where vegetation following disturbance was expected to return to the climax determined by climate and soils. Through time, the two LTER programs in collaboration with USDA scientists brought new research ideas and approaches, including a focus on long-term observations and experimental manipulations, sampling of individual plants as well as bare interspaces, and process-based studies in concert with numerical simulation modeling. These approaches brought improved understanding to historic dynamics and nuance to the Clementsian-based paradigm. New paradigms also emerged that reflected the importance of objective, long-term studies and the dynamic, multi-scale nature of these arid and semiarid ecosystems. Comparisons of the growth of science at two LTER programs at research sites sharing a conceptual beginning and basis for existence (land over-use), but with different ecosystem properties, can provide insights into the development of ecology over the past century.