Long-term observations of comprehensive sets of ecological variables have resulted in a richer understanding of long-term ecological dynamics. In this article, we present a series of examples of research from the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network that show how observation and analysis of temporal and spatial variability of ecological parameters and processes have allowed us to answer questions not previously possible and have increased our understanding of ecological phenomena. The examples offered range in spatial scale from observations at individual locations at a single LTER site, to observations from multiple locations within an LTER site, to comparisons across multiple LTER sites. Collectively these examples and the LTER experience demonstrate that long-term observations are often necessary to discover important ecological relationships.
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