ILTER consists of networks of scientists engaged in long-term, site-based ecological and socio-ecological research. We improve the understanding of global ecosystems and thereby provide the prerequisites for knowledge-based solutions to many current and future environmental problems.

Specifically, the purpose of ILTER is to provide a globally distributed network and  infrastructure of long-term research sites for multiple use in the fields of ecosystem, biodiversity, critical zone and socio-ecological research, and to secure highest quality interoperable services in close interaction with related regional and global research infrastructures and networks.

A short summary is provided on this page, for a detailed description of ILTER, read our reference article below. 


This is ILTER

  • A Global Research Infrastructure, comprising 
    • some 800 LTER Sites
    • some 70 LTSER Platforms
    • a huge data legacy  gathered over more than a century
    • increasingly standardized metadata on data and sites
  • A Network of 44 member networks and several (continental) Regional Groups with robust governance structures
  • Part of a  network of related environmental research and observation networks with multiple partnerships at all level of organization (sites, countries, regions, global)
  • A Network of some 200 institutions
  • A Network of several thousand scientists and a large community
  • A Network of disciplines
  • A Network of site based research teams
  • A scientific knowledge factory reflected by ten thousands of papers published on the basis of data and findings generated at LTER facilities and by LTER teams
  • A strategic and structuring process





Conceptual background

The unifying approach for the elements and construction of ILTER is based on four conceptual pillars: 

  • Long-term: dedicated to the provisioning, documenting, continuous collection and use of long-term data on ecosystems with a time horizon of decades to centuries (covering the aspect of natural capital for sustainable development).
  • In-situ: data generation at different spatial scales across ecosystem compartments of individual in-natura sites, environmental zones and socio-ecological regions.
  • Process orientation: aims at identifying, quantifying and studying the interactions of ecosystem processes affected by internal and external drivers.
    • As for socio-ecological systems the process orientation implies both to processes related to ecosystem services and their use and to social processes required to facilitate transdisciplinary research and policy making.
  • Systems approach: LTER enables the investigation of ecosystems, earth systems, environmental systems, socio-ecological systems, hydro-geo-ecosystems etc. in the long-term.
    • The common denominator are „systems“ (the earth’s surface system receiving solar energy as opposed to deep earth system), where abiotic and biotic components interact at different scales, and the human use of such systems and their services takes place. 



In 1980, the United States National Science Foundation (NSF) initiated the US Long Term Ecological Research Network (US LTER) Network. ILTER was founded in 1993 during the United States’ Long-term Ecological Research (US-LTER) All Scientists Meeting at Estes Park, Colorado, USA. ILTER was formed to meet the growing need for global communication and collaboration among long-term ecological researchers and to capture ecological phenomena in the context of global change. 

Thereafter, ILTER received support both financially and also in terms of setting up its organizational structures by the NSF [5], until in 2004, ILTER adopted its By-Laws to define its own governance structure and as the basis to become an independent international network relying on financial contributions by its members.

In 2007, the ILTER Association was founded, so that ILTER became a legal entity on its own and its Member Networks formally joined this association. Also US LTER joined this association as a regular member. 


ILTER Membership

The composition of the ILTER Association is described in the Regions and Networks section.


ILTER Reference Article

The enclosed paper (also for download) provides the complete and detailed description of what ILTER is and its mission, goals, development and impact.