The European network for field research, LTER Europe (Long Term Ecosystem Research), has been recognised as an important research infrastructure in the EU. LTER Europe includes LTER Sweden, where 11 of SLU's field stations are included.
"The inclusion of the LTER network in the EU Roadmap for Research Infrastructures (ESFRI), side by side with, for example, the particle accelerator LHC at CERN, is an important development", says the SLU researcher Ulf Grandin, coordinator of the Swedish section of LTER.
There are twenty Swedish research stations in the LTER network. The LTER stations conduct long-term environmental monitoring of biology and chemistry, as well as ecological and socio-ecological research. Among other things, they aim to stimulate research collaboration and the exchange of environmental data between researchers and organisations both in Sweden and in Europe.
One important outcome of LTER Europe's ESFRI application was a closer cooperation between LTER Sweden and SITES. SITES is a network based on the Swedish Research Council's investment in infrastructure in a selection of Swedish field stations. Seven out of nine stations in SITES are included in LTER Sweden. SLU hosts both networks.
"The biggest benefit of LTER Europe's entry into the EU Roadmap for Research Infrastructures is that it paves the way for the network to become a formalised and permanently funded infrastructure for ecosystem and socio-ecological research and long-term environmental monitoring", says Ulf Grandin.
However, it is a long build-up process and it is not until 2025 that the LTER/ESFRI infrastructure will be up and running at full scale.
"Once the infrastructure is running, we will have a network of highly instrumented field stations with long time series of environmental data. The intention is that researchers will be able to use the network to carry out advanced ecosystem studies at different scales, from genes to whole ecosystems, for example to study how nature responds to major impact factors like air pollution and climate change", says Ulf Grandin.