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From LTER to LTSER: Conceptualizing the Socioeconomic Dimension of Long-term Socioecological Research

Helmut Haberl, Institute of Social Ecology, IFF Vienna, Klagenfurt University
Verena Winiwarter, Dept. of Cultural Analysis, IFF Vienna, Klagenfurt University
Krister Andersson, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado
Robert U. Ayres, INSEAD, Fountainebleau and IIASA, Laxenburg
Christopher Boone, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Global Institute of Sustainability,
Alicia Castillo, Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexic
Geoff Cunfer, Department of History, University of Saskatchewan
Marina Fischer-Kowalski, Institute of Social Ecology, IFF Vienna, Klagenfurt University
William R. Freudenburg, Environmental Studies Programme, University of California, Santa Barbara
Eeva Furman, Finnish Environment Institute, SYKE
Rüdiger Kaufmann, Dept. of Zoology and Limnology, University of Innsbruck
Fridolin Krausmann, Institute of Social Ecology, IFF Vienna, Austria
Ernst Langthaler, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Rural History, St. Pölten
Hermann Lotze-Campen, PIK – Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research
Michael Mirtl, Federal Environment Agency Austria
Charles L. Redman, International Institute for Sustainability, Arizona State University
Anette Reenberg, Institute of Geography, University of Copenhagen
Andrew Wardell, Institute of Geography, University of Copenhagen
Benjamin Warr, INSEAD, Fountainebleau
Harald Zechmeister, Vienna Ecology Centre, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Vienna


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Concerns about global environmental change challenge long term ecological research (LTER) to go beyond traditional disciplinary scientific research to produce knowledge that can guide society toward more sustainable development. Reporting the outcomes of a 2 d interdisciplinary workshop, this article proposes novel concepts to substantially expand LTER by including the human dimension. We feel that such an integration warrants the insertion of a new letter in the acronym, changing it from LTER to LTSER, “Long-Term Socioecological Research,” with a focus on coupled socioecological systems. We discuss scientific challenges such as the necessity to link biophysical processes to governance and communication, the need to consider patterns and processes across several spatial and temporal scales, and the difficulties of combining data from in-situ measurements with statistical data, cadastral surveys, and soft knowledge from the humanities. We stress the importance of including prefossil fuel system baseline data as well as maintaining the often delicate balance between monitoring and predictive or explanatory modeling. Moreover, it is challenging to organize a continuous process of cross-fertilization between rich descriptive and causal-analytic local case studies and theory/modeling-oriented generalizations. Conceptual insights are used to derive conclusions for the design of infrastructures needed for long-term socioecological research.

Key words

communication; governance; land use; long-term ecological research (LTER); long-term socioecological research (LTSER); scale; society-nature interaction; socioecological metabolism; socioecological systems.

Copyright © 2006 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087