From LTER to LTSER: Conceptualizing the socioeconomic dimension of long-term socioecological research

Helmut Haberl, Verena Winiwarter, Krister Andersson, Robert U. Ayres, Christopher Boone, Alicia Castillo, Geoff Cunfer, Marina Fischer-Kowalski, William R. Freudenburg, Eeva Furman, Rüdiger Kaufmann, Fridolin Krausmann, Ernst Langthaler, Hermann Lotze-Campen, Michael Mirtl, Charles Redman, Anette Reenberg, Andrew Wardell, Benjamin Warr, Harald Zechmeister

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

211 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number13
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2006


  • Communication
  • Governance
  • Land use
  • Long-term ecological research (LTER)
  • Long-term socioecological research (LTSER)
  • Scale
  • Society-nature interaction
  • Socioecological metabolism
  • Socioecological systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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