The standardisation of greenhouse gas observations is urgently needed to allow reliable climate change research and is thus a key feature of ICOS. Over the last years, extensive discussions within the ecosystem community have yielded a coherent set of protocols for standardised observations at ICOS ecosystem stations. These protocols were recently published in the format of scientific articles in the open-access journal International Agrophysics, available here.
The protocols represent a trade-off between an ideal approach using tailored site-specific method application that enhances our current process understanding and addresses key knowledge gaps, and the practical feasibility of an ambitious measurement plan. They built on the experiences from previous monitoring and experimental research networks under careful consideration of the requirements from multiple data user categories. Whereas the protocols explicitly explain the usefulness and scientific background of the observations and justify the choice of the methods, specific instruction documents provide guidance to the practical implementation of the protocols for the personnel working in the field. The instruction documents are available here.
The degree of standardisation achieved in ICOS can be considered as the biggest innovation in the transition from individual networks to an integrated distributed research infrastructure. The standards defined do not only build the methodological framework within ICOS, but can be utilised for comparable, high-quality observations also beyond ICOS.