Integrated European
Long-Term Ecosystem, critical zone and
socio-ecological Research

Research Infrastructure Co-location – When the whole is greater than the sum of the parts

15 April 2022

With our whole system, place-based approach, the eLTER RI is well placed toaddress some of the most pressing environmental problems facing Europe today. However, a single Research Infrastructure (RI) cannot hope to generate all the knowledge needed to build a sustainable future. Instead that knowledge has to come from multiple sources, including a range of RIs. Co-location of multiple RIs at the same physical location offers a unique opportunity to create actionable knowledge synthesized from the best information available using robust, state of the art analytical methods in a standardised manner. Observations made in this way support open, repeatable and refutable analyses and insights based on the best available
data.

ICOS, the Integrated Carbon Observation System, is one of the most important RIs for eLTER co-location. The ICOS RI makes high quality, standardised carbon flux measurements at multiple sites across Europe. When these measurements are combined with eLTER observations on, e.g., biogeochemical process rates, land management actions and ecology, there is the potential to understand both "what is happening" and "why it is happening" in the terrestrial carbon cycle. ICOS has unique strengths in documenting fluxes while eLTER offers the contextual background needed to understand flux magnitude. Effectively, when eLTER and ICOS co-locate, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Recently, representatives from the ICOS and eLTER RIs took an important first step towards achieving this vision at a joint scoping meeting. There are opportunities for synergies at the immediate, medium, and long-term time scales including collaboration on measurement protocols, IT systems and communication. There is a lot we can learn from ICOS, and there is even more that we have to offer.