Editor's note: The Fourth Decadal Review Report on the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) network was commissioned by the advisory committee to the Directorate for Biological Sciences at the National Science Foundation (the BIO AC), which appointed a working group to respond to the charge described in the report. The report was delivered to and approved by the BIO-AC at their meeting of 11–12 May 2022 and released publicly on 10 June 2022. The report discusses the strengths and challenges of the LTER network, summaries of findings, and includes recommendations from the committee. Download the Report PDF.

Below is an excerpt from the LTER Network Response to the Fourth Decadal Review Committee Report, approved by the LTER Executive Board and posted on the LTER Network website on 25 October 2022:

The review of the Long Term Ecological Network completed in 2022 by the Decadal Review Committee (DRC) represents a great commitment of time, effort, and thought on the part of the committee members and their NSF managers. The LTER Science Council—and, indeed, the whole LTER Network—deeply appreciates their work to understand the culture, assets, and scientific contributions of the network, as well as the recommendations for continued improvement contained in the decadal review report (NSF #22200).

Our dominant response to the DRC report is that we are gratified by the positive outcome of the review. The DRC report states that, "After more than forty years of sustained support from NSF, the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program has become one of the most highly regarded and successful programs in ecology. The value of LTER science, education, and outreach continues to increase and strengthen through time. Numerous metrics reflect the quality of the program and its value to the field of ecology: an accelerating number of high-quality, peer-reviewed publications; increasingly leveraged external funding; and an excellent track record of training the next generation of ecologists. The program has risen to become a quintessential resource for ecological research and training."

The Decadal Review Committee also makes two compelling overarching suggestions that we look forward to addressing over the next few months and years: (1) After four decades of site-based observations, experiments and theory development, the LTER Network has a unique opportunity to project and offer solutions to human-driven alterations of ecosystems and their life-supporting functions; (2) Following decades of work, the LTER Network has now established trusted and well-developed relationships with local communities—we see these relationships as having matured to the point where the network can now make demonstrable progress toward advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice across the ecological and earth sciences. Both recommendations are consistent with the thinking within the LTER Network and we look forward to continuing to leverage LTER resources to address these challenges.

The response goes on to summarize recent progress and plans in four focal areas from the review: diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice; synthesis; human-environment interactions; and education and outreach.

Fourth Decadal Review Committee Members: Matthew J. Church, James E. Cloern, Michelle Evans-White, Jacqueline M. Grebmeier, Daniel Hernández, Christine M. Laney, and Gretchen North

The strengths and challenges of the LTER Network identified by the Decadal Review Committee, as well as a complete discussion of their twelve recommendations, are found in the Decadal Review of the Long-Term Ecological Research Program—A Report of the 40 Year Review Committee. Download the Report PDF.

Further discussion can be found in the BioScience Special Section on LTER and Climate Change (BioScience, Volume 72, Issue 9, September 2022).