, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 161–171 | Cite as

Integrating Social Science into the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network: Social Dimensions of Ecological Change and Ecological Dimensions of Social Change

  • Charles L. Redman
  • J. Morgan Grove
  • Lauren H. Kuby
Original Article


The integration of the social sciences into long-term ecological research is an urgent priority. To address this need, a group of social, earth, and life scientists associated with the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network have articulated a conceptual framework for understanding the human dimensions of ecological change for the LTER Network. This framework explicitly advocates that what is often divided into “natural” and human systems be considered a single, complex social-ecological system (SES). In this paper, we propose a list of core social science research areas, concepts, and questions; identify the need for multiscale investigatory frameworks crucial for implementing integrated research; and suggest practical approaches for integration. In sum, this paper is a general outline for empirical and cross-site research projects where investigators agree that bringing together social, biological, and earth scientists can lead to synthetic approaches and a unified understanding of the mechanisms regulating SES. Although the motivation for this goal is specific to the LTER Network and similar projects, we believe that the issues and ideas presented here are widely applicable to other interdisciplinary SES studies.


Social-ecological systems integration interdisciplinary long-term ecological research Baltimore Phoenix LTER multi-scale urban ecology social patterns and processes 



In January 2000, LTER scientists and colleagues from other large interdisciplinary projects funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) gathered in Tempe, Arizona, to craft a networkwide approach to the integration of social science into long-term ecological research (supported by NSF Award 9714833 and the LTER Network office). Workshop participants and their affiliations included Charles L. Redman, Nancy Grimm, Ann Kinzig, Lauren H. Kuby, and Ed Hackett (Central Arizona–Phoenix LTER); J. Morgan Grove, Bill Burch, and Steward Pickett (Baltimore Ecosystem Study); Steve Carpenter and Peter Nowak (North Temperate Lakes LTER); F. Stuart Chapin (Bonanza Creek Experimental Forest); Ted Gragson (Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory); Craig Harris (Kellogg Biological Station); Bob Waide (LTER Network); Tom Baerwald (NSF/Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences); Anthony de Souza (National Research Council); Grant Heiken (Los Alamos National Laboratories); Peter Kareiva (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration); Emilio Moran and Elinor Ostrom (Indiana University); Sander van der Leeuw (Sorbonne); Tom Wilbanks (Oak Ridge National Laboratory); and Brent Yarnal (Penn State).

Contributors to this manuscript include Steve Carpenter, Ted Gragson, Edward Hackett, Craig Harris, Nancy Grimm, Peter Kareiva, Ann Kinzig, Elinor Ostrum, Pete Nowak, Steward Pickett, and Sander van der Leeuw. This article further benefited from the insightful comments of three anonymous reviewers.Contributors to this manuscript include Steve Carpenter, Ted Gragson, Edward Hackett, Craig Harris, Nancy Grimm, Peter Kareiva, Ann Kinzig, Elinor Ostrum, Pete Nowak, Steward Pickett, and Sander van der Leeuw. This article further benefited from the insightful comments of three anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles L. Redman
    • 1
  • J. Morgan Grove
    • 2
  • Lauren H. Kuby
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Environmental StudiesCentral Arizona–Phoenix (CAP) LTER, Box 873211, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona 85282USA
  2. 2.Baltimore Ecosystem StudyUSDA Forest Service, 705 Spear Street, South Burlington, Vermont 05403USA

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