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Field Research Centre



Logo UHasselt Universiteit Hasselt - Knowledge in action


An international interdisciplinary team of scientists

Integrating scientific disciplines for an interdisciplinary approach.

Climate change experiments require large-scale knowledge integration to enable more useful estimates of climate change effects on ecosystem functioning and on society. The UHasselt Ecotron facility makes it possible to extend the degree of interdisciplinarity by investigating the entire cascade from climate changes to ecosystem functions, ecosystem services and, finally, societal values.

As such, the facility contributes towards large-scale knowledge integration on climate change. Consequently, the ecotron experiment brings together several disciplines in an interdisciplinary framework. With input from other involved disciplines, climatologists design the protocols for climate manipulations and plant ecologists monitor plant commu- nities in each ecotron unit. Numerical models for water movement within one unit are developed by mathematicians and hydrologists. Ecotron output on carbon cycling is fed into a soil-carbon model, both for calibration and prediction purposes. Community mod- ellers improve the power of this model by accounting for the soil community structure and species interactions (food web). The specific role of soil organisms in soil biogeochemistry is investigated by microbial and soil fauna ecologists. This is inferred from variation in responses of different functional groups such as nitrogen fixers, mycorrhizal fungi and different feeding guilds of soil fauna, combined with additional separate experiments, both in the field and in vitro. The outputs of these measurements allow experts in ecosystem ecology to quantify ecosystem services. Environmental economists express the change in ecosystem services provided, using best-practice monetization approaches. For example, water quality regulation is assessed as the prevented cost of intensified water treatment or use of other water resources. Measurements of vegetation, soil abiotic parameters and the water balance make it possible to quantify this benefit. Carbon sequestration is assessed as the prevented cost from increased global temperature, which can be quantified based on measurements of vegetation, air parameters and soil abiotic parameters. Maintenance of biodiversity and recreation can be assessed from measurements of vegetation.

from Rineau et al, 2019 Nature Climate Change