LTAR Network Introduction

The Agriculture Research Service has selected ten existing, long-term research sites to formally link as a Long-Term Agro-Ecosystem Research (LTAR) network. The criteria for LTAR selection were 1) research productivity, 2) infrastructure capacity, 3) data richness, 4) data availability, 5) geographic coverage at various scales, 6) partnerships, and 7) institutional commitment. In February 2012, the Jornada Experimental Range was selected as one of this original cohort of ten sites. The other nine sites of this LTAR network as currently formed are:

  • Ames, IA - The Upper Mississippi River Basin Experimental Watersheds
  • Cheyenne, WY - The Central Plains Experimental Range
  • Columbia, MO - The Goodwater Creek Experimental Watershed
  • El Reno, OK - The Little Washita River/Fort Cobb Reservoir Experimental Watersheds
  • Mandan, ND - The Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory
  • Pullman, WA - The R.J. Cook Agronomy Farm
  • Tifton, GA - The Little River Experimental Watershed
  • Tucson, AZ - The Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed
  • University Park, PA - The Upper Chesapeake Bay Experimental Watersheds

Research activities for this LTAR network will be developed later in 2012.

ARS Long-Term Agro-Ecosystem Research Network - Response to Request for Information

Site: Jornada Experimental Range, Dona Ana County, New Mexico

Submitted by: Kris M. Havstad, Supervisory Scientist, Rangeland Management Research Unit based at the Jornada Experimental Range, Date: November 14, 2011



The Jornada Experimental Range (Jornada) in southern New Mexico serves as a field station in support of the scientific mission of the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) land management research unit based in Las Cruces, NM, on the campus of New Mexico State University (NMSU). The mission of this unit is to conduct science that addresses problems confronting the conservation and management of arid lands in the US, North America, and around the world. The Jornada is an historic research station that continues to operate as a scientifically active and networked field facility. The contributions of scientists working at this station for nearly a century have resulted in a lengthy record of diverse, accessible, and well-documented data sets. The Jornada is, at its core, a long term agricultural research field station. However, in recent decades this long term research nature has been leveraged beyond simple categorization as an agricultural research facility. The involvement of this facility in a broad array of important national science programs and research networks has positioned the Jornada as a multi-dimensional scientific facility of relevance for arid lands, their conservation, and their management. Of particular note is the Jornada’s direct involvement since 1982 as one of the original cohorts of Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) sites, and its inclusion in 2012 as a relocatable site within the new National Ecological Observation Network (NEON).

     The Jornada was established from withdrawn public domain by Presidential Executive Order #1526 signed by President William H. Taft five months after New Mexico was granted statehood in early 1912. Originally named the Jornada Range Reserve, this 192,434 acre facility was established within the Bureau of Plant Industry of the USDA, but transferred to the US Forest Service (USFS) in 1915. The USFS quickly established a research program to address the principle objectives cited in the 1912 Executive Order including: 1) quantifying carrying capacity of native rangeland for livestock use, 2) establish a system of forage utilization consistent with growth requirements of desert forage plants, and 3) examine the possibility of rangeland improvements by introduction of new plants, seed planting, and conservation of runoff. These objectives were seen as critical to addressing the widespread problems of rangeland degradation that had been documented across the American Southwest at the end of the 19th Century. These objectives have been addressed.

     In 1952 the Jornada was transferred to the then newly-created ARS. The ARS has been able to expand the research program from its more narrow beginnings to one with national and international significance for land and its conservation and management. The history of research during the past century is effectively categorized into 6 principal themes: plant and landscape ecology, ecosystem sciences, rangeland management, land monitoring and assessment strategies, rangeland improvements, and rangeland livestock production and husbandry (Havstad and Schlesinger 1996). The resulting productivity of over 2700 papers published in the peer-reviewed literature has been a significant contribution to a global understanding of arid ecosystems, their key ecological processes and properties, predictions for future dynamics, and important principles for livestock grazing and arid land management (see searchable bibliography at: