Development of LTSER Platforms in LTER-Europe: Challenges and Experiences in Implementing Place-Based Long-Term Socio-ecological Research in Selected Regions

  • Michael MirtlEmail author
  • Daniel E. Orenstein
  • Martin Wildenberg
  • Johannes Peterseil
  • Mark Frenzel
Part of the Human-Environment Interactions book series (HUEN, volume 2)


This chapter introduces place-based, Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research (LTSER) Platforms conceptually and in practice. LTER-Europe has put strong emphasis on utilising the data legacy and infrastructure of traditional LTER Sites for building LTSER Platforms. With their unique emphasis on socio-ecological research, LTSER Platforms add a new and important dimension to the four pillars of LTER-Europe’s science strategy (systems approach, process-oriented, long-term and site-based). In this chapter, we provide an overview of the regionalised or place-based LTSER concept, including experiences garnered from Platform models tested within LTER-Europe, and we discuss the current status of LTSER Platforms on the European continent. The experiences gathered in 6 years of practical work and development of regional socio-ecological profiles as conceptual frameworks in the Austrian Eisenwurzen LTSER Platform will be used to assess weaknesses and strengths of two implementation strategies (evolutionary vs. strategically managed) and to derive recommendations for the future. The chapter represents the close of the first substantive loop of LTSER research that began in 2003 from conceptualisation to implementation and, through the introspective analysis here, a reconsideration of the central concepts.


LTER-Europe LTSER Platforms Eisenwurzen LTSER Platform Socio-ecological research Socio-ecological profiling Fuzzy cognitive mapping Critical ecosystem services 



We want to thank the LTSER communities in about 20 European countries for their enthusiasm in jointly developing and spreading a new scientific working culture and – at the same time – do appreciate their efforts in setting up LTSER Platforms in spite of all constraints related to the fact that LTSER is not yet rewarded by traditional scientific performance evaluations. The experiences of this group form the backbone of this chapter. Our thanks go also to our international – and especially US American – colleagues for an inspiring exchange of ideas and scientific cooperation.


Web Links

  1. ALTER-Net Website, accessed 2011:
  2. ICSU Website, accessed 2011:
  3. ILTER Web-site: ILTER’s aims and objectives, accessed 2011:
  4. LTER-Europe Website, accessed 2011:
  5. LTER-Europe Website, key documents, accessed 2011:
  6. US-LTER Website accessed 2011:; LTER core areas accessed 2011: LTER review, accessed 2009:


  1. Anon. (2009). Integrated research to support biodiversity policies: The ALTER-Net approach. ALTER-Net. Retrieved from Accessed June 2011.
  2. Carpenter, S. R., Mooney, H. A., Agard, J., Capistrano, D., DeFries, R., Diaz, S., Dietz, T., Duriappah, A., Oteng-Yeboah, A., Pereira, H. M., Perrings, C., Reid, W. V., Sarukhan, J., Scholes, R. J., & Whyte, A. (2009). Science for managing ecosystem services: Beyond the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106, 1305–1312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cohen, S. (2006). Understanding environmental policy. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Collins, S. L., Swinton, S. M., Anderson, C. W., Benson, B. J., Brunt, J., Gragson, T. L., Grimm, N., Grove, J. M., Henshaw, D., Knapp, A. K., Kofinas, G., Magnuson, J. J., McDowell, W., Melack, J., Moore, J. C., Ogden, L., Porter, L., Reichman, J., Robertson, G. P., Smith, M. D., van de Castle, J., & Whitmer, A. C. (2007). Integrated science for society and the environment: A strategic research initiative. Albuquerque: LTER Network Office.Google Scholar
  5. Collins, S. L., Carpenter, S. R., Swinton, S. M., Orenstein, D. E., Childers, D. L., Gragson, T. L., Grimm, N. B., Grove, J. M., Harlan, S. L., Kaye, J. P., Knapp, A. K., Kofinas, G. P., Magnuson, J. J., McDowell, W. H., Melack, J. M., Ogden, L. A., Robertson, G. R., Smith, M. D., & Whitmer, A. C. (2011). An integrated conceptual framework for long-term social-ecological research. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 9, 351–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Costanza, R., & Daly, H. E. (1992). Natural capital and sustainable development. Conservation Biology, 6, 37–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Costanza, R., d’Arge, R., de Groot, R., Farber, S., Grasso, M., Hannon, B., Limburge, K., Neem, S., O’Neil, R., Parelo, J., Raskin, R., Sutton, P., & van den Belt, V. (1997). The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital. Nature, 387, 253–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dick, J., Al-Assaf, A., Andrews, Ch., Díaz-Delgado, R., Groner, E., Halada, L., Izakovicova, Z., Kertész, M., Khoury, F., Krašić, D., Krauze, K., Matteucci, G., Melecis, V., Mirtl, M., Orenstein, D.E., Preda, E., Santos-Reis, M., Smith, R., Vadineanu, A., Veselić, S., & Vihervaara, P. (2012). Ecosystem services: A rapid assessment method tested at 35 sites of the LTER-Europe network (in preparation).Google Scholar
  9. EEA. (1999). Environmental indicators: Typology and overview (Technical report No. 25). Copenhagen: EEA. Accessed June 2011.
  10. EEA. (2010). Cultural landscapes and biodiversity heritage. Copenhagen: EEA.Google Scholar
  11. Funtowitz, S. O., & Ravetz, J. R. (1992). Three types of risk assessment and the emergence of post-normal science. In S. Krimsky & D. Golding (Eds.), Social theories of risk (pp. 251–274). Westport: Praeger.Google Scholar
  12. Furman, E., Peltola, T., & Varjopuro, R. (Eds.). (2009). Interdisciplinary research framework for identifying research need. Case: Bioenergy-biodiversity interlinkages. In The Finnish environment 17/2009, environmental protection. Helsinki: Finnish Environment Institute.Google Scholar
  13. Gibbons, M., Nowotny, H., Limoges, C., Schwartzman, S., Scott, P., & Trow, M. (1994). The new production of knowledge: The dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  14. Haberl, H., Winiwarter, V., Andersson, K., Ayres, R., Boone, C., Castillo, A., Cunfer, G., Fischer-Kowalski, M., Freudenburg, W.R., Furman, E., Kaufmann, R., Krausmann, F., Langthaler, E., Lotze-Campen, H., Mirtl, M., Redman, C. L., Reenberg, A., Wardell, A., Warr, B., & Zechmeister, H. (2006). From LTER to LTSER: Conceptualizing the socio-economic dimension of long-term socio-ecological research. Ecology and Society, 11, 13. [Online], Retrieved from
  15. Hein, L., van Koppen, K., de Groot, R. S., & van Iterland, E. C. (2006). Spatial scales, stakeholders and the valuation of ecosystem services. Ecological Economics, 57, 209–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hobbie, J. E., Carpenter, S. R., Grimm, N. B., Gosz, J. R., & Seastedt, T. R. (2003). The U.S. long term ecological research program. BioScience, 53, 21–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Holling, C. S. (2001). Understanding the complexity of economic, ecological, and social systems. Ecosystems, 4, 390–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jongman, R. H. G., Bunce, R. G. H., Metzger, M. J., Mücher, C. A., Howard, D. C., & Mateus, V. L. (2006). Objectives and applications of a statistical environmental stratification of Europe. Landscape Ecology, 21, 409–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Kämäräinen, P. (1999). The role of “accompanying research” within initiatives for VET development – Reflections on national and European developments. In J. Lasonen (Ed.), EERA – Network 2 programme: Network on vocational education and training research (VETNET) and academy of human resource development (AHRD) (pp. 185–198). Jyväskylä: University of Jyväskylä. Retrieved from Accessed June 2011.
  20. Kinzig, A. P., Ryan, P., Etienne, M., Allison, H., Elmqvist, T., & Walker B. H. (2006). Resilience and regime shifts: Assessing cascading effects. Ecology and Society, 11, 20. [Online] Accessed June 2011.
  21. Kosko, B. (1986). Fuzzy cognitive maps. International Journal of Man–Machine Studies, 24, 65–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lozano, R. (2008). Envisioning sustainability three-dimensionally. Journal of Cleaner Production, 16, 1838–1846.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. MEA. (2005). Millennium ecosystem assessment: Ecosystems and human well being – Synthesis. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  24. Metzger, M. J., & Mirtl, M. (2008). LTER Socio-Ecological Regions (LTER-SER) – Representativeness of European LTER facilities – Current state of affairs (AlterNet Technical Paper. p. 5). Accessed June 2011.
  25. Metzger, M. J., Bunce, R. G. H., Jongman, R. H. G., Mücher, C. A., & Watkins, J. W. (2005). A climatic stratification of the environment of Europe. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 14, 549–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Metzger, M. J., Bunce, R. G. H., van Eupen, M., & Mirtl, M. (2010). An assessment of long term ecosystem research activities across European socio-ecological gradients. Journal of Environmental Management, 91, 1357–1365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mirtl, M. (2010). Introducing the next generation of ecosystem research in Europe: LTER-Europe’s multi-functional and multi-scale approach. In F. Müller, C. Baessler, H. Schubert, & S. Klotz (Eds.), Long-term ecological research: Between theory and application (pp. 75–93). Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mirtl, M., & Krauze, K. (2007). Developing a new strategy for environmental research, monitoring and management: The European Long-Term Ecological Research Network’s (LTER-Europe) role and perspectives. In T. J. Chmielewski (Ed.), Nature conservation management – From idea to practical results. Lublin/Lodz/Hesinki/Aarhus: ALTERnet.Google Scholar
  29. Mirtl, M., Boamrane ,M., Braat, L., Furman, E., Krauze, K., Frenzel, M., Gaube, V., Groner, E., Hester, A., Klotz, S., Los, W., Mautz, I., Peterseil, J., Richter, A., Schentz, H., Schleidt, K., Schmid, M., Sier, A., Stadler, J., Uhel, R., Wildenberg, M., & Zacharias, S. (2009). LTER-Europe design and implementation report – Enabling “next generation ecological science”: Report on the design and implementation phase of LTER-Europe under ALTER-Net & management plan 2009/2010. Vienna: Umweltbundesamt (Environment Agency Austria). First circulation on-line, 220 p. ISBN 978-3-99004-031-7. Retrieved from Accessed June 2011.
  30. Mirtl, M., Bahn, M., Battin, T., Borsdorf, A., Englisch, M., Gaube, V., Grabherr, G., Gratzer, G., Haberl, H., Kreiner, D., Richter, A., Schindler, S., Tappeiner, U., Winiwarter, V., & Zink, R. (2010). Next generation LTER in Austria – On the status and orientation of process oriented ecosystem research, biodiversity and conservation research and socio-ecological research in Austria. LTER-Austria Series (Vol. 1). Retrieved from Accessed June 2011.
  31. Nelson, G. C. (2011). Untangling the environmentalist’s paradox: Better data, better accounting and better technology will help. BioScience, 61, 9–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Özesmi, U., & Özesmi, S. L. (2004). Ecological models based on people’s knowledge: a multi-step fuzzy cognitive mapping approach. Ecological Modelling, 176, 43–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Pickett, S. T. A., Burch, W. R., & Grove, M. (1999). Interdisciplinary research: Maintaining the constructive impulse in a culture of criticism. Ecosystems, 2, 302–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Putzhuber, F., & Hasenauer, H. (2010). Deriving sustainability measures using statistical data: A case study from the Eisenwurzen, Austria. Ecological Indicators, 10, 32–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Redman, C. L., Grove, J. M., & Kuby, L. H. (2004). Integrating social science into the long-term ecological research (LTER) network: Social dimensions of ecological change and ecological dimensions of social change. Ecosystems, 7, 161–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Shibata, H., & Bourgeron, P. (2011). Challenge of international long-term ecological research network (ILTER) for socio-ecological land sciences. Global Land Project NEWS, 7, 13–14. Retrieved from,
  37. Singh, S. J., Haberl, H., Gaube, V., Grünbühel, C. M., Lisivieveci, P., Lutz, J., Matthews, R., Mirtl, M., Vadineanu, A., & Wildenberg, M. (2010). Conceptualising Long-term Socio-ecological Research (LTSER): Integrating socio-economic dimensions into long-term ecological research. In F. Müller, C. Baessler, H. Schubert, & S. Klotz (Eds.), Long-term ecological research: Between theory and application (pp. 377–398). Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. WCED. (1987). Our common future (1st ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Wildenberg, M., Bachhofer, M., Adamescu, M., De Blust, G., Diaz-Delagdo, R., Isak, K., Skov, F., & Varjopuro, R. (2010). Linking thoughts to flows – Fuzzy cognitive mapping as tool for integrated landscape modelling. Proceedings of the 2010 international conference on integrative landscape modelling – Linking environmental, social and computer sciences. Symposcience, Cemagref, Cirad, Ifremer, Inra, Montpellier.Google Scholar
  40. Wrbka, T., Erb, K.-H., Schulz, N. B., Peterseil, J., Hahn, C., & Haberl, H. (2004). Linking pattern and process in cultural landscapes: An empirical study based on spatially explicit indicators. Land Use Policy, 21, 289–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Mirtl
    • 1
    Email author
  • Daniel E. Orenstein
    • 2
  • Martin Wildenberg
    • 3
  • Johannes Peterseil
    • 1
  • Mark Frenzel
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Ecosystem Research and MonitoringEnvironment Agency AustriaViennaAustria
  2. 2.Faculty of Architecture and Town PlanningTechnion – Israel Institute of TechnologyHaifaIsrael
  3. 3.GLOBAL 2000ViennaAustria
  4. 4.Department of Community EcologyHelmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)LeipzigGermany

Personalised recommendations