The first steps towards the implementation of LTER-Portugal were taken in October 2003, when SPECO promoted the first workshop on LTER: “Implementing the European network of LTERS (Long Term Ecological Research Sites)”, to engage the scientific community in creating a national network.
In October 2004 with the support from Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT), SPECO developed a questionnaire addressed to scientists and researchers in order to characterize the ecological research that had been developed at the national level
Results from this questionnaire were presented in July 2006 in the second LTER workshop “Urgent actions and complementarity” and demonstrated that research was scattered both in space and time, and the number of long-term ecological data series was reduced.
In January 2008, with the support from Fundação Luso-Americana (FLAD), a participatory workshop brought together a multidisciplinary set of national researchers and two members from the LTER-USA network. Identified constraints of long-term research and monitoring in Portugal were the short-term funding of research projects, and the enforcement on innovation over monitoring. Criteria for site selection were discussed.
On the same occasion SPECO held a meeting with representatives from government institutions (FCT and ICNB – Instituto de Conservação da Natureza e Biodiversidade) and the Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD Portugal) to commit the national institutions to the LTER Portugal initiative.
In June 2008 the workshop “Sustainable ecosystems: new challenges for business”, held by SPECO at FLAD, reinforced the need to promote awareness of the benefits for businesses and their potential role as supporters of a national network.
In August 2008 with the support from the Ministério da Ciência e Tecnologia and from the Ministério do Ambiente, Portugal applied for ILTER membership and was accepted.
In July 2009, FCT opened a call for proposals for LTER sites, following the contribution of SPECO towards the development of criteria for site selection and guidelines for sustainability of LTER sites.
In 2010, an independent panel of international researchers selected four sites to be funded by FCT.
On July 15 2011, SPECO organized an event, supported by FLAD, where the creation of the LTER Portugal network was officially announced and each of the four LTER sites was presented.
The LTER Portugal implementation strategy - roadmap to success
The LTER-Portugal network - Importance at a global scale
Portugal has a highly diverse landscape and a wide range of terrestrial, marine and coastal habitats, partly resulting from its location in the transition zone between the Atlantic and Mediterranean bioclimatic domains. Besides climatic and geological processes that promoted such diversity, environmental drivers of diversification include spatial heterogeneity of biotic agents relatively to which the long history of human occupation had a significant role by inducing major changes in the natural ecosystems and shaping the current landscape.
In these anthropogenic landscapes perceptions about services provided by ecosystems can affect ecosystem structure and function and are central to understand sustainability. Coordinated research networking within and across landscapes experiencing various levels of human influence, direct or indirect, is a great challenge and the framework of LTER-Portugal network.
These impacts are not confined by political boundaries but mitigation measures should be a concern for national decision and policy makers assisted by national scientific programmes. In this context, it is essential to have the support of networking environmental scientists identifying and addressing the non-linear and cross-scale phenomena from a global point of view.
The LTER-Portugal network - Users
The LTER-Portugal network will serve a wide range of users interested in addressing environmental questions on different spatial scales (local, national, european, global).
Potential users are government agencies and departments dealing with biodiversity issues, land use and climatic change, including scientists and other specialists, municipalities, corporation businesses, and NGOs. Other potential users are institutions and observatories working on a global scale, such as, GTOS (Global Terrestrial Observing System), IGBP (International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme) and ICCP (International Climate Change Partnership).
An integrated network of long-term ecological research benefits local users enabling better resource planning and management, development of local strategies for land use, and the adoption of good management practices to promote biodiversity.
Compatible protocols for data acquisition, information management and data sharing mechanisms, among LTER sites, will produce benefits to all involved. LTER sites represent opportunities for research and project development justifying continued financial support, as well as collaboration among other network sites in Europe and in the world.
The Portuguese Ecological Society (SPECO) is developing the LTER Project in Portugal. The aim of this project is to select the Portuguese sites that will integrate the LTER network of European sites. The project will be developed in the scope of the Iberian Peninsula in close collaboration with the Spanish Association of Terrestrial Ecology.
This project is supported by the Foundation for Science and Technology.
What is the LTER network?
The LTER network is a Long-Term Ecological Research network of sites, on a large spatial scale, where long-term ecological investigation is practiced, with the main objectives of monitoring and storing relevant data in ecology, establishing links among institutions and researchers and promote the exchange of data and knowledge. This organized network of LTER sites first appeared in the United States of America in the 1980's. In 1993 an international network was developed (ILTER) and, more recently, the European network of LTER sites was created.
In 2011 the European network includes 22 countries represented through the corresponding national LTER networks
The LTER sites can be accessed through networks with different levels of integration: ILTER (the International LTER network), LTER-Europe (the European LTER network) and LTER US (United States LTER network).
LTER studies were developed around the consensual idea that some ecological processes operate at time scales wider than those considered by traditional research. In fact there are many examples in the scientific literature demonstrating that results and tendencies based on interpretation of short-term data are significantly different from those based on long-term data series. Analyses of long-term data allow researchers to detect and separate the natural variability of system dynamics (noise) from signs of environmental change.
In the last decades, the increasing human pressure on ecosystems, and the resulting rate of environmental change, strongly highlighted the need to develop a coordinated environmental data acquisition system on a large spatial scale, which will allow global changes to be detected and prevented.