Ecosystems provide a variety of benefits to human society and humanity’s utilization of ecosystems affects their composition, structure, and functions. Global change drivers demand us to study the interactions between ecological and social systems, and advise strategies to protect the large fraction of Chilean unique ecosystems. Long-term research and monitoring are vital for meaningful understanding of human impacts and socio-ecological feedback, which occur over multiple spatial and time-scales and can be invisible to traditional grant-sponsored short-term studies. Despite the large fraction of unique ecosystems, Chilean government agencies have not established long-term monitoring programs to inform and guide management decisions for use, conservation, and adaptation to climate change. Responding to this void, the Chilean Long-Term Socio-Ecological Research Network (LTSER-Chile) was created, comprising nine study sites funded by a variety of private and public institutions, that broadly seeks to understand how global change is altering biodiversity and ecosystem functions. The LTSER-Chile is currently in a phase of institutional consolidation to achieve its objectives of alignment with international efforts, fill the need for high-quality, long-term data on social, biological and physical components of Chilean ecosystems, and develop itself as an open research platform for the world. Despite the wide diversity of ecosystems ecncompased by LTSER-Chile sites, several common variables are monitored, especially climatic and hydrographic variables and many ecological indicator variables that consider temporal fluctuations, population and community dynamics. The main challenges currently facing the LTSER-Chile are to secure funding to maintain existing long-term monitoring programs, to persuade public and private decision-makers about its central role in informing and anticipating socio-ecological problems, and to achieve greater ecosystem representation by integrating new long-term study sites. This will require a more decisive political commitment of the State, to improve the stewardship of our unique terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and the realization that sound ecologically-sustainable policies will never be possible without a national monitoring network. We argue that the State should build on LTSER and several other private and university initiatives to provide the country with a monitoring network. In the absence of this commitment, the LTSER system is subject to discontinuity and frequent interruptions, which jeopardizes the long-term effort to understand the functioning of nature and its biodiversity.
- Long-term studies
- Social systems
- Terrestrial and marine ecosystems