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Climate and Atmosphere Simulator for Experiments on Ecological Systems in Changing Environments

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journal contribution
posted on 05.08.2014, 00:00 by Bruno Verdier, Isabelle Jouanneau, Benoit Simonnet, Christian Rabin, Tom J. M. Van Dooren, Nicolas Delpierre, Jean Clobert, Luc Abbadie, Régis Ferrière, Jean-François Le Galliard
Grand challenges in global change research and environmental science raise the need for replicated experiments on ecosystems subjected to controlled changes in multiple environmental factors. We designed and developed the Ecolab as a variable climate and atmosphere simulator for multifactor experimentation on natural or artificial ecosystems. The Ecolab integrates atmosphere conditioning technology optimized for accuracy and reliability. The centerpiece is a highly contained, 13-m3 chamber to host communities of aquatic and terrestrial species and control climate (temperature, humidity, rainfall, irradiance) and atmosphere conditions (O2 and CO2 concentrations). Temperature in the atmosphere and in the water or soil column can be controlled independently of each other. All climatic and atmospheric variables can be programmed to follow dynamical trajectories and simulate gradual as well as step changes. We demonstrate the Ecolab’s capacity to simulate a broad range of atmospheric and climatic conditions, their diurnal and seasonal variations, and to support the growth of a model terrestrial plant in two contrasting climate scenarios. The adaptability of the Ecolab design makes it possible to study interactions between variable climate–atmosphere factors and biotic disturbances. Developed as an open-access, multichamber platform, this equipment is available to the international scientific community for exploring interactions and feedbacks between ecological and climate systems.