An integrated carbon observation system for Europe

Pan-European infrastructure for climate research has been included in the first European roadmap for new large-scale research infrastructures.

November 07, 2006

On October 19, 2006 in Brussels, the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) announced their first recommendation for promising new large-scale research infrastructures in Europe. Its selection in the field of environmental research was the plan for an integrated carbon observation system (ICOS). ICOS is planning a European network of survey stations to record, over a long period, highly detailed information about climate-relevant trace gases in the atmosphere and the effect of climate change on European ecosystems. A total of 255 million euros will be required for these activities over the next 25 years.

The ICOS initiative is based on "CarboEurope", the large European research project of which key network elements will be operational well into the year 2008. Data on climate change and its effects must be collected continuously over considerably long periods in order to determine changes and allow conclusions to be drawn about adaptation measures in agriculture and forestry. ICOS wants to join forces with CarboEurope and furthermore make significant improvements to the technical basis on which surveys of the atmosphere are taken, thereby making comparable and rigorously quality-tested data available for long-term climate research and policy-making. This requires the establishment of a coordination centre, a data centre and a central laboratory for the analysis of climate-relevant trace gases in the atmosphere.

Climate change is happening slowly. Its effects on ecosystems are obscured and overlapped by many other factors. ICOS wants to put Europe in a position to detect small changes at an early stage and regards itself as the pioneer of a global survey network. The surveys that have been planned so far will already extend the knowledge about climate change far beyond the existing possibilities.

The Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena and the Institute for Environmental Physics at the University of Heidelberg are key players in the development of ICOS, thereby underlining Germany’s leading role in climate research. The Institutes are currently making every effort to ensure that coordination of the project overall and other key elements of ICOS will be located in Germany. This will allow Germany to continue to distinguish itself on an international level in climate policy-making and climate research.

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