What Have Long-Term Field Studies Taught Us about Population Dynamics?

Beth A. Reinke, David A.W. Miller, Fredric J. Janzen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Long-term studies have been crucial to the advancement of population biology, especially our understanding of population dynamics. We argue that this progress arises from three key characteristics of long-term research. First, long-term data are necessary to observe the heterogeneity that drives most population processes. Second, long-term studies often inherently lead to novel insights. Finally, long-term field studies can serve as model systems for population biology, allowing for theory and methods to be tested under well-characterized conditions. We illustrate these ideas in three long-term field systems that have made outsized contributions to our understanding of population ecology, evolution, and conservation biology. We then highlight three emerging areas to which long-term field studies are well positioned to contribute in the future: ecological forecasting, genomics, and macrosystems ecology. Overcoming the obstacles associated with maintaining long-term studies requires continued emphasis on recognizing the benefits of such studies to ensure that long-term research continues to have a substantial impact on elucidating population biology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)261-278
Number of pages18
JournalAnnual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
StatePublished - 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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