An assessment of long term ecosystem research activities across European socio-ecological gradients

M.J. Metzger, R.G.H. Bunce, M. van Eupen, M. Mirtl

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32 Citations (Scopus)


Integration of European long term ecosystem research (LTER) would provide important support for the management of the pan-European environment and ecosystems, as well as international policy commitments. This does require appropriate coverage of Europe and standardised frameworks and research methods between countries. Emerging interest in socio-ecological systems prompted the present assessment of the distribution of LTER activities across European socio-ecological gradients. This paper presents a European stratification with a 1 km(2) resolution, delineating 48 broad socio-ecological regions. The dataset is based on an existing biogeophysical stratification constructed using multivariate clustering of mainly climatic variables and a newly developed socio-economic stratification based on an economic density indicator. The coverage of European LTER facilities across the socio-ecological gradients is tested using this dataset. The analysis shows two strong biases in the present LTER effort. Firstly, urban and disturbed regions are consistently under-represented, illustrating a bias for traditional ecological research away from human activity. Secondly, the Mediterranean, for which some of the most extreme global change impacts are projected, is receiving comparatively little attention. Both findings can help guide future investment in the European LTER network - and especially in a Long Term Socio-Ecological Research (LTSER) component - to provide a more balanced coverage. This will provide better scientific understanding of pan-European environmental concerns and support the management of natural resources and international policy commitments in the European Union
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1357-1365
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • land-use change
  • stratification
  • vulnerability
  • habitats
  • science
  • lter


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