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Scientific challenges

The Ecotron principle

Ecotron defintition

An Ecotron is an experimental ecology set up to study the climate impact on the ecosystems and biodiversity processes. It is generally made up of several identical experimental units, which enable the ecosystem containment, the environmental conditions control and the online measurement of ecophysiological processes.

A simple principle

Ecosystem samples, whether natural or artificial, are confined in experimental chambers in which the environmental conditions (temperature/air/soil humidity, soil matrix tension, atmospheric CO2 concentration, precipitation and luminosity) are controlled and follow predefined climate scenarios. Containment also allows the measurement of molecule exchanges (flow measurement) between the compartments of the ecosystem and the atmosphere.

A series of experimental units

An Ecotron platform is composed of a series of units adapted to the replication of treatments and to the statistical requirements of the studies.
A minimum number is 12 since it allows studying 2 factors at 2 levels in a fully factorial way (i.e. the interaction between the 2 factors is analyzed) with 3 replicates (2x2x3=12). Many other combinations of factors are also possible.

Scientigic challenges

(Extracted from the Vision document of the AnaEE program)
The sustainability of agricultural, forested, freshwater and other managed and natural ecosystems is critical for the future of mankind. However, the services provided by these ecosystems are under threat due to climate change, loss of biodiversity, and land use changes.

In order to meet the challenges of preserving or improving ecosystems services, securing food supply and building a 21st century bioeconomy, we need to understand and forecast how ecosystems will respond to current and future changes including new management approaches and potential environmental tipping points.

Without sufficient understanding of the sensitive interdependencies between ecosystems and the environment, Europe will be unable to assess the impacts, control the risks, or potentially utilize the benefits of anticipated large changes in ecosystems structure and function. Key benefits will include greenhouse gas mitigation and climate adaptation.