One of the major attractions of desert ecosystems for scientists lies in their simplicity. Spatial patterns of life are often visible and clear cut and ecologists tend to feel empowered by the sense of ecological understanding. As any desert scholar will have to attest though, this simplicity is only relative. In comparison to more complex systems, deserts seem to invite ecological questions with greater ease than for instance tropical rainforests would. Therefore much of basic ecological knowledge has been founded in desert research and these dry places more often than not were used as simplified models for the green and (forbiddingly) complex world. Thus it is no wonder that the desert has spawned many research efforts, notably among them large, coordinated ecological research enterprises. The permanent research sites established worldwide during the International Biological Program (IBP) are good examples; in the US, many of these continue to be monitored under the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program.
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