Within the synthetic goal of understanding the ecological complexity generated by multiple processes acting over many temporal and spatial scales, we aim to develop a series of broad- scale evaluations of factors controlling lake processes. These evaluations are interrelated but can also be considered independently. They can be classed generally into five major objectives: (1) to perceive long-term trends in physical, chemical, and biological properties of lake ecosystems; (2) to understand the dynamics of internal and external processes affecting lake ecosystems; (3) to analyze the temporal responses of lake ecosystems to disturbance and stress; (4) to evaluate the interactions between spatial heterogeneity and temporal variability of lake ecosystems; and (5) to expand our understanding of lake-ecosystem properties to a broader, regional context. The first four objectives have played a key role in our research to date; the last object is relatively new.
Of particular interest at the NTL-LTER is the issue of how to make useful predictions across scales. We wish to scale-up from our site to not only the Northern Highland Lake District but to other north temperate lake districts (Figure 2) to assess: (1) how well can we transfer our understanding of processes within the LTER lakes to a larger region, (3) regional diversity, and (4) effects of regional changes in conservation, forestry, land development, and recreation policies.