Editorial: Nature Ecology & Evolution
"Ecological research projects that span decades provide unprecedented insight into the functioning and dynamics of populations, communities and ecosystems. We should treasure and protect them.
Ecological processes rarely respect the time frames imposed by short-term projects and grants. In a period of unparalleled human-induced global change, the rapid alterations we currently see to natural communities and ecosystems may not be indicative of change in the medium-to-long term. Without high-quality baseline data from the recent past, predicting future responses is like betting on a horse race without first examining the form guide.
This is why the long-term datasets that we already have are so valuable, and why they should continue. In this issue, Gooseff et al. analyse 25 years of data from the McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) project in Antarctica, and show that an influx of glacial meltwater during a single unusually warm summer was enough to elicit large-scale changes to the biological communities of this fragile, extreme ecosystem. In an accompanying News and Views article, Dana Bergstrom praises the investment by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) in this project, and the 26 other LTER sites in the United States."