Ecosystem Research Infrastructures across the world to join capabilities to address Earth’s grand challenges

01 June 2022
Picture of a megacity fovered in fog

ICOS and other ecosystem research infrastructures form a global network, called GERI, Global Ecosystem Research Infrastructure. It has now published its scientific rationale outlining how its federation of capabilities will, for the first time in history, allow scientists to tackle new societally and scientifically relevant questions at the global scale.

GERI is an integrated network of site-based research infrastructures dedicated to better understand the function and change of indicator ecosystems across global biomes. It aims to support excellent science that can also inform political and managerial decision-making addressing societal challenges.

A fully functioning GERI will deliver the harmonised data, international partnerships and enable new understandings of global ecological processes—stretching across continents, decades, and ecological disciplines—in ways that were not previously possible.  

The science rationale to build GERI, published on 25 April 2022 in the Earth’s Future journal, is to address global grand challenges that cannot be achieved by any single environmental research infrastructure. Federating capabilities will enable researchers around the world to tackle the programmatic work and meet the grand challenges at the global macro scale.

By applying the scientific mandate of each ecosystem RI globally, new grand challenges can be specifically addressed as part of their global federation, including allowing scientists to:

  • fully analyse and understand complex ecological teleconnections - the interactions of ecological services related to each other over large distances, evident beyond ecosystem and regional scales;
  • Integrate the human and ecological dimensions needed to understand the socio-ecological feedbacks that will ultimately affect global societal wellbeing and development;
  • further develop a clearer understanding of the ecological processes and deliver the statistical data volumes for more accurate near-term ecological forecasting capabilities; and
  • bring together ‘big data’, AI and machine learning, scientific and societal imperatives, leadership, and implement (and learn from) scientific interoperability across global ecosystem observations.

The GERI’s capabilities are vital to better address future, critical challenges for the sustainable management of our limited natural capital under known environmental change, and future, yet unknown environmental challenges to assure long-term human well-being on the planet.

The six Ecosystem RIs in GERI are: CERN (Chinese Ecosystem Research Network), eLTER (Integrated European Long-Term Ecosystem, critical zone and socio-ecological Research infrastructure), ICOS (Integrated Carbon Observation System, Europe), NEON (National Ecological Observatory Network, USA), SAEON (South African Environmental Observation Network) and TERN (Australia's Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network).

Picture of a map showing locations of RIs belonging to GERI