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Towards a memorable meeting of ecological minds

By Johan Pauw, Managing Director, SAEON
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The first ever ILTER Open Science Meeting will be held in Skukuza in the Kruger National Park in 2016

This year's annual ILTER business meetings were hosted by the Italians and were preceded by science meetings attached to the biannual European Ecological Federation Congress in Rome.

An ILTER science symposium was held, with the following speakers and presentation titles:

  • Michael Bahn (Institute of Ecology, University of Innsbruck): Effects of changing land use and climate on grassland biogeochemistry in the Austrian Alps
  • Giuseppe Arduino (International Hydrological Programme, UNESCO): Ecohydrology, engineering harmony for a sustainable world
  • Mark Sutton (NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology): Nitrogen cycle – LTER challenges and INI perspectives
  • Giorgio Matteucci (LTER-Italy, CNR): LTER-Italy: a really trans-domain, trans-disciplinary LTER network
  • Antonello Provenzale (Institute of Geosciences and Georesources, CNR): Long-term ecological research at the Gran Paradiso National Park (GPNP), Italy


The symposium was complemented by workshops on ecohydrology, the ILTER-PECS partnership, the ILTER Nitrogen Initiative, the ILTER Carbon Initiative and global litter decomposition studies.

New chair for ILTER

At the start of the business meetings, the chairmanship shifted from Manuel Maass of Mexico to Michael Myrtl of Austria. As a former chair of the European LTER, the largest regional group in ILTER by far, Michael is an experienced chair with clear objectives for his term in office. He is also ensured of the support of the 24 members of Europe LTER.

One of the objectives of the outgoing chair (now vice-chair) Manuel Maass was to promote partnerships with other large global programmes, especially those that can benefit from ILTER's research infrastructure. Michael will continue this line of work and, as a result, links with partner organisations such as GEOBON, IPCC, PECS, NEON, IHP, INI and CZR have already been strengthened during the last meeting.


ILTER's Coordinating Committee for 2015. The incoming chair, Michael Myrtl, is in the front row, second from right. SAEON's Johan Pauw is in the back row, third from right

An important decision by ILTER is that sites need to be registered on the DEIMS system to become accredited ILTER sites. A full listing of ILTER sites will advance networking among sites. It will also be used as a form of management information in that ILTER will be able to identify sites for specific purposes as well as use the information for the promotion of ILTER. The meeting moreover gave in principle support for the continued development of the Global System of Ecological Observatories.

First ILTER Open Science Meeting in Skukuza

A key objective of my attendance was to propose the plans for the first ILTER Open Science Meeting in Skukuza in the Kruger National Park in 2016. The proposal was supported unanimously and all of ILTER's global science projects plan to be active at the conference. As a result, the first announcement has been released and is available here.

Why is it deemed necessary for ILTER to organise an Open Science Meeting? The evolutionary development of ILTER has to be kept in mind in that the original ILTER was largely sponsored by the USA's National Science Foundation before ILTER was launched as a truly independent network organisation in 2004. Despite its independence, ILTER often inserted its science meetings into appropriate conferences such as INTECOL, EEF and ILTER regional meetings. To demonstrate its independence and maturity, it will be necessary for ILTER to hold its own global science meeting. The matter of such a global meeting has therefore been on ILTER's agenda since 2012.

An Open Science Meeting is the singular opportunity for networks and LTER sites to network globally with sister organisations. At a higher level, it provides ILTER an opportunity to perform regional and global planning and to promote network level to global science in one meeting.

For South Africa, it offers not only the opportunity to benchmark with their international peers, but also to promote South Africa internationally as an Earth System Science and environmental research destination of choice. This will be enhanced by the pre-conference field trips that SAEON will offer.

SAEON will have the honour of hosting the first ever ILTER Open Science Meeting and will seek to keep costs down while still offering a professional conference. ILTER has elected to have the conference in Skukuza based on its environmental ethos. Student and Africa outreach will be important.

Together we will all contribute to a memorable meeting of ecological minds in a world-class biodiversity destination.

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Delegates on a field trip to the Collelongo-Selva Piana forest LTER site in the central Appenine Mountains (Picture: Johan Pauw)

Cloaked in mist on a field trip to the Gran Sasso d'Italia high-altitude grassland LTER site (Picture: Johan Pauw)


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