Journal of Ecology and Environment

pISSN 2287-8327 eISSN 2288-1220


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Published online December 20, 2023

Journal of Ecology and Environment (2023) 47:25

Building ecological observatories and advancing Long-Term Ecological Research: lessons, networks, and global perspectives

Hyohyemi Lee*

Division of Climate Change Research, National Institute of Ecology, Seocheon 33657, Republic of Korea

Correspondence to:Hyohyemi Lee

Received: November 20, 2023; Revised: December 1, 2023; Accepted: December 5, 2023

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Climate change has escalated into a global crisis, extending beyond extreme weather to yield tangible consequences (Newman and Noy 2023). Human-induced greenhouse gas emissions are unequivocally driving global warming, resulting in a 1.1°C temperature increase from 2011–2020 compared to 1850–1900 (Lee and Romero 2023). This anthropogenic climate change is evident in widespread extreme weather events globally, causing human casualties and impacting ecosystems.

Recognizing the urgency, the National Institute of Ecology, supported by the Ministry of Environment, is working on establishing a national ecological observation network in South Korea. This initiative aims to systematically manage and analyze climate and ecological information at the national level, emphasizing the importance of long-term ecological research in effectively addressing the climate crisis. To implement comprehensive climate change response at the national level, the Ministry of Environment has planned a project to manage and analyze the necessary information in an integrated system. Along with the Ministry of Environment, the National Institute of Ecology is building an ‘integrated information management system for ecosystem climate response’ to collect and analyze climate and ecological information that is currently scattered across ministries.

The core of the project is to establish a system to integrate and manage ecosystem information and operate observation facilities to complement and verify this information. Through these efforts, the information that is currently dispersed among multiple ministries will be brought together under one roof, sequenced, standardized, and reproduced in a way that facilitates predictions and analyses. This system will serve as an important platform for analyzing the responses and fluctuation of ecosystems due to climate change and for preparing adaptation measures to mitigate possible risks.

The project has also been highlighted internationally. The East Asian Ecological Society invited overseas experts from national organizations such as The National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) in the United States and Australia’s ecosystem observatory (TERN), which operate national standard observation networks, to exchange international experience and knowledge. At the international symposium, speakers presented the current status of ecological observation network construction, operation and research in their countries and emphasized the need to build a global network.

This special issue is a collection of seven papers that share the core content of the presentations made at the above sessions (Fig. 1). In “Long-term ecological monitoring in South Korea: progress and perspectives”, Dr. Jeong Soo Park described Korea’s long-term ecological monitoring system and highlighted the importance of data sharing through international cooperation to respond to climate change on a global scale.

Figure 1. A group photo of speakers at the 10th International Congress of the East Asian Federation of Ecological Societies (EAFES) Symposium.

In “Lessons from constructing and operating the National Ecological Observatory Network”, Christopher McKay shared the challenges and lessons learned in operating a large-scale observing infrastructure through the construction and operation of NEON and suggests improvements for future climate and environmental observation infrastructure. In “The US National Ecological Observatory Network and the Global Biodiversity Framework: national research infrastructure with a global reach”, Dr. Katherine M. Thibault presented a concrete example of how the large-scale data collected by NEON can be used to study climate and biodiversity change at the national level and can then be combined into a global biodiversity framework to provide information on global ecosystem change. Dr. Suzanne M. Prober presented on observing ecosystem change in a globally significant region at the “The Great Western Woodlands TERN SuperSite: ecosystem monitoring infrastructure and key science learnings”, contributing to regional and national climate adaptation and biodiversity management, and providing information on environmental change. In “Long-term and multidisciplinary research networks on biodiversity and terrestrial ecosystems: findings and insights from Takayama supersite, central Japan”, Dr. Hiroyuki Muraoka highlighted the multidisciplinary approach to environmental issues by combining various observation networks to provide an integrated understanding of climate and land use change.

Results from long-term ecological studies were also included in the special issue. In “Long-term drought modifies carbon allocation and abscisic acid levels in five forest tree species”, Dr. Hyun Seok Kim examined the drought responses of various tree species to understand their ecological characteristics in response to climate change and suggested ways to regenerate sustainable forests by selecting species with particularly strong drought tolerance. In the paper “Growth environment characteristics of the habitat of Epilobium hirsutum L., a class II endangered wildlife species”, Dr. PyoungBeom Kim analyzed the habitat characteristics of endangered plants and animals to understand the impacts of climate change on these habitats and proposed conservation and restoration measures.

The diverse information and research results presented in these papers are expected to make important contributions to climate change response and sustainable resource management globally.

Dr. Do-soon Cho, the president of the National Institute of Ecology, Republic of Korea said that “Real-time monitoring of ecosystem changes is a key element of the ‘integrated management system for climate response’, the integrated analysis of climate, biological, and environmental data will improve the accuracy of ecosystem changes and predictions, enabling more accurate climate adaptation measures”.

This insight highlights the importance of collecting and analyzing accurate and reliable information to quickly respond to climate change and manage ecosystems sustainably. International cooperation and data sharing are essential for a fundamental understanding of climate and ecosystem change. We will apply the experience learned from the standardization of observation techniques and methods of observation networks such as NEON as a basis for the effective operation of Korea’s observation network. Furthermore, we expect that building Korea’s observation network, including a system for cooperation with the international community and data sharing, will provide more accurate information on global climate change.

We would like to thank all researchers who carried out the field surveys of KLTER. We thank the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Korea for their assistance.

  1. Lee H, Romero J. IPCC, 2023: climate change 2023: synthesis report. contribution of working groups I, II and III to the Sixth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Geneva: IPCC; 2023. p. 35-115.
  2. Newman R, Noy I. The global costs of extreme weather that are attributable to climate change. Nat Commun. 2023;14(1):6103.
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Journal of Ecology and Environment

pISSN 2287-8327 eISSN 2288-1220