Long-term ecological research
The life span of ecosystems is thousands of years. As a consequence, many ecological questions on ecosystem evolution and forecasting cannot be addressed with short-term observations or experiments. To face this problem a Long Term Ecological Research network (LTER) was established in 1980. LTER joins research projects addressing ecological phenomena over long periods. In this frame 40 years ago we started collecting data on the microbial food chain and related variables with high temporal (monthly, fortnightly) and spatial frequency along the water column of Lake Maggiore. The time series of data significantly advanced our understanding of the long-term dynamics of the microbial communities in this lake.
The high frequency monitoring of Lake Maggiore made it possible to ascertain the trophic changes of the lake through the annual and seasonal changes of its total organic carbon (TOC) content.
Using the long-term data set (40 years) a non-deterministic approach to forecasting the trophic evolution of Lake Maggiore was tested. The use of genetic programming made also possible to include microbial and organic carbon variables together with hydrochemical and meteorological variables to generate a robust forecasting model tested on a 5 years set of data (Bertoni R., M. Bertoni, G. Morabito, M. Rogora, and C. Callieri 2016).
* in the figure: Annual and seasonal changes of TOC concentration in the photic layers of Lake Maggiore from 1980 to 2018.