Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

eLTER Report Summary

Project ID: 654359
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.4.1.2.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - eLTER (European Long-Term Ecosystem and socio-ecological Research Infrastructure)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2016-11-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Society and the human use of natural resources depend on continuously available ecosystem services. Ecosystem structures and functions providing these services interact in extremely complex spatial patterns from local to global. Ecosystem and biodiversity research are challenged to disentangle processes and their drivers in order to understand the planet or “earth system” in search of answers to the great challenges for humanity like climate change, loss of biodiversity, eutrophication and pollution. Key questions for managing and sustaining ecosystem services in the face of continuing global change are:

• How are ecosystems/biodiversity changing or adapting to global-change stresses?
• What are determinants of ecosystem resilience?
• What are threshold interactions resulting in system shifts?
• How can we respond locally, nationally and at international levels to support systems that are more resilient to global change effects?

Accordingly, there is a clear need for large-scale distributed ecosystem Research Infrastructures (RI).

The overall aim of the eLTER H2020 project is to move forward the European network of Long-Term Ecosystem Research sites and socio-ecological research platforms to provide highest quality services for multiple use, enabling European-scale investigation of major ecosystems and socio-ecological systems, and targeted to support knowledge based decision making at various levels.

The four strategic goals of the eLTER H2020 project are long-term goals that will continue to be relevant to the network well beyond the current project:

(1) To secure the LTER Infrastructure´s compliance to grand societal and research challenges and stakeholder needs
(2) To design a high-performance, complementary and interoperable ecosystem and socio-ecological RI
(3) To develop IT services for data provisioning and user need driven, public access
(4) To foster the societal relevance, usability and multiple use of information, data and services

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

eLTER has, in cooperation with other pertinent projects, developed a priority list of the grand societal and research challenges which now shapes its work and makes certain that it is relevant to the European societies. The eLTER RI becomes increasingly aligned with and streamlined within the overall European environmental RI landscape to ascertain clear and tangible synergies. eLTER is collecting representative information regarding the instrumentation and design characteristics of the eLTER H2020 sites to provide a framework for site classification and benchmarking.

As a prerequisite, a comparative overview of the European RI was put together which describes, categorises and interprets the roles and the mutual collaboration between them. On a project basis, eLTER closely collaborates with other pertinent projects, especially ENVRIplus+ and ECOPOTENTIAL, LifeWatch and ICOS.

Data management plays a major role and will enable improved utilisation of eLTER data and, through the combination of data sets from various origins, also novel applications. The prerequisites for the operational eLTER Data Integration Portal are already accomplished in terms of the needed user requirements and data specifications and the underlying IT technology. The eLTER Information System module DEIMS, after one year of consistent usage in the global LTER network (ILTER) for site documentation and accreditation has now called the attention of GEO and has been selected in the GEO in-situ task group to serve as a reference for experiences with registering terrestrial environmental observation sites.

Besides researchers, also industry is involved in the joint work and benefits from the eLTER RI. Several eLTER partners traditionally collaborate with SMEs, and three of the latter are beneficiaries within the project. In this way, project work can fall back on first-hand experiences and be shaped to be advantageous to these exemplary SMEs, and, thus, to the linked industry.

Likewise, policy decision makers are among the projects most important target groups. eLTER presents part of its complex outcomes in an easily understandable yet comprehensive way, thereby focussing on the utilisation of these outcomes, rather than on their generation. The first set of Impact Sheets was produced which is specifically aimed at demonstrating the usefulness of the eLTER RI for practical every-day applications, thereby highlighting the immediate benefits for the European citizens.

eLTER provides improved access to its high-quality RI which is specifically designed to best meet the respective users’ needs. Thereby, Transnational Access was particularly shaped for young scientists to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the eLTER RI. Transnational access has also been an effective tool for cross-site applications, and several of the projects are of a multi- and some also a transdisciplinary nature.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The eLTER RI, to which the eLTER H2020 project contributes, will operate a cost-efficient, pan-European, distributed RI, suitable to address multiple environmental research issues and challenges related to the current and future state of the European geo-eco-socio-system. This will be done by integrating approaches, from long-term in-situ observations to experimentation and remote sensing at a continental scale, and in collaboration with global and related European RI.

The recent developments have underpinned the relevance of the eLTER H2020 project as key contributor in designing and building the eLTER RI. The opportunities of the project relate to the fact that the eLTER RI endeavour specifically considers:

• The importance of coordinated efforts to address the major societal challenges of global change and its impacts on the environment
• The key importance of defining new multi- and transdisciplinary strategies and infrastructures for environmental research supporting sustainable societies
• The improvement in efficiency brought about by eLTER RI, accomplished by
(1) Maximizing the return on previous investments through multiple RI and legacy data usage,
(2) Comprehensively covering Europe’s diverse range of ecosystems,
(3) Integrating the generic backbone RI on the basis of key contemporary scientific questions, common concepts, and shared services,
(4) Consolidating long-term strategies among European, and global LTER networks for harmonized geo-eco-socio-system and biodiversity observations, and thereby
(5) Reducing redundancies and total continental RI costs, inter alia through complementarities with related RIs (e.g. Memorandum of Cooperation between LifeWatch and LTER)
• The positive effects for research institutions participating in and contributing to the RI, including the enhancement of the value of their pre-investments by adding an international dimension to previously local/national/regional engagements; privileged access to a distributed European RI and to its services; technical and methodological guidance for site upgrades
• The clear specification of the role and science case of individual RIs, considering the complexity of the European RI landscape, and to accordingly define interactions with “sister” RIs in an evident manner for national shareholders, whereby the eLTER H2020 project has taken a very active role and will continue its co-leading involvement in the context of ENVRIplus.

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