Global change is threatening ecosystems across the worlds. Among the most important drivers are things like human-caused climate change, changes in historical land-use, and introduced species. The effect of these processes on ecosystems are often difficult to study and describe because it takes so long for them to become apparent, typically several decades. This is for example much longer than the average research project which typically last only 2-4 years. That’s why long time-series (10+ years) are so important for us to be able to say something about the cumulative effect of actions on the health of our forests, fields, oceans, mountains, and the other ecosystems.
I conjunction with a large conference in Ghent (Belgium) in December I had the pleasure of joining a trip to the location of one such time-series, placed in a small forest outside of the same city. In Aelmoeseneiebos (bos means forest in Dutch) they have since 1993 registered climate data, rainwater and soil chemistry, plant litter quantity and nutrient contents, and more. In later years they’ve expanded to also continuously monitor the growth and water balance of individual beech and oak trees in the forest. Several other station like this one exists in Northern Europe. All their data is compiled and uploaded to a common web page where anyone can go to see how the trees are doing that day. All the data is also freely available to researches from anywhere in the world.
Aelmoeseneiebos is part of a larger network of ecological time series called LTER (long-term ecosystem research in Europe). Over 400 field stations are scattered across Europe and also includes sites that measure socio-ecological parameters. This project is a great example of what is possible when one is thinking long term, internationally, and interdisciplinary. Read more about LTER.