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New infrastructure for climate research in place

Aarhus University is part of a new European research infrastructure that aims to better understand changes in ecosystems, such as agricultural ecosystems, due to changes in the climate and environment.

2017.11.30 | Janne Hansen

Among the facilities that the Department of Agroecology gives other researchers access to are chambers that can measure the emission of greenhouse gases from the filed. Photo: Søren O. Petersen

Decisions that farmers, consumers and politicians take in the face of climate change must be based on facts. By generating strong and verifiable facts researchers are better able to provide the evidence for taking well-informed decisions. This is exactly what a new research infrastructure, in which Aarhus University is a partner, and which is led by the University of Copenhagen, aims to do. 

The new research infrastructure is called Analysis and Experimentation on Ecosystems Denmark (AnaEE Denmark) and has been granted 20 million kroner from the Ministry of Higher Education and Science for a five-year period from 2018 to 2022. Danish universities have granted an additional 25.5 million kroner so the research infrastructure is ensured funding for the next ten years.   

AnaEE Denmark is part of the European AnaEE, which is a common European research structure in which Aarhus University and the other partners commit themselves to providing access to studies in fields and other ecosystems as well to instruments and data for other researchers. Sharing data and knowledge will make it easier for researchers to carry out studies across several types of ecosystems, thus strengthening the data basis for use in e.g. climate and ecosystem modelling. 

AU will provide access to facilities

From Aarhus University the Department of Agroecology and the Department of Bioscience will participate with field experiments in cropping systems, artificial ponds and grasslands.   

- In the Department of Agroecology the partnership means that we can expand the instrumentation of some of our long term field trials so that we can improve our measurement of greenhouse gas fluxes. We will also have better opportunities for manipulating temperature and precipitation so that we can study how climate changes affect emissions of climate gases from the fields, explains Section Manager and Professor Jørgen E. Olesen from the Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University. He continues: 

- We can also get better quantification of the soil carbon balance in various cropping systems. This is particularly relevant in grasslands and with reduced tillage, he says. Soil carbon balance is important for both climate and soil fertility.    

The Department of Bioscience participates with a series of artificial ponds where the effect of climate changes on lakes with various nutrient levels and water clarity are being investigated. The studies began in 2003 and are the longest of their kind in the world. They are also included in several international research projects (e.g. AQUACOSM and PROGNOS). 

- With the new funds we can achieve more detailed measurements of the algal biomass and composition as well as of the climate gas exchange between the artificial ponds and the atmosphere, explains Professor Erik Jeppesen from the Department of Bioscience. 

In another long-term study at the Department of Bioscience, researchers manipulate nitrogen and glyphosate in order to understand the effect of these common influential factors on the nature in close proximity to the fields. The new project enables the use of very detailed images from mobile cameras. In this way, detailed knowledge about how the biomass is distributed among various species of plants types at different times can be achieved. 


-We can thus improve our quantification of the effect of the influential factors on competition between the various plant species, says Professor Christian Frølund Damgaard from the Department of Bioscience. 

Data sharing benefits research

Researchers sharing data is not new, but when it is systematised across Denmark and the rest of Europe it provides researchers with even better possibilities. Jørgen E. Olesen cites an example he witnessed recently at a PhD defense at the research institute INRA in France. In this case the PhD student had data from three different sites, including AU Foulum in Denmark. 

- She had some strong data that clearly showed that the more carbon the soil stores, the greater the nitrogen surplus. This is something of a dilemma because on the one hand we want the soil to store carbon for the sake of soil fertility and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while on the other hand we do not want the nitrogen surplus to increase in consideration of the aquatic environment and nitrous oxide emissions, says Jørgen E. Olesen. 

If we want to avoid ending up in a situation where we have to choose between clean water and fertile soil and under all circumstances avoid greenhouse gas emissions, then we need to have a better understanding of the overall interactions between carbon and nitrogen, that both have an impact on the climate.   

- The new research infrastructure can help us to gain better insight into these interconnections, says Jørgen E. Olesen. 

You can read the press release (in Danish) from the Ministry of Higher Education and Science ”56 millioner til infrastruktur til forskning i klima- og miljø og samfundsdata”. 

You can also view the website for AnaEE Denmark for more information. 

For more information please contact:

Section Manager, Professor Jørgen E. Olesen, Department of Agroecology, email: jeo@agro.au.dk, telephone: +45 8715 7778, mobile: +45 4082 1659 

Professor Erik Jeppesen, Department of Bioscience, email: ej@bios.au.dk 

Professor Christian Frølund Damgaard, Department of Bioscience, e-mail: cfd@bios.au.dk 

Nature, environment and climate, Crops, Department of Agroecology, Department of Bioscience, DCA, Agro