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ECOTRON, Hasselt university

Biodiversity loss, climate change, land degradation, freshwater supply and air pollution are major issues on the global political agenda. Moreover, Europe has committed itself to encourage research on - among others - environmental legislation, ecosystem protection and tighter control on invasive alien species.

To be able to provide sound and comprehensive advise to policy makers in order to create general awareness, scientists need to better understand the complexity of ecosystem processes and its functioning, and to understand the adaptive responses of different community structures to environmental changes. The Millennium Ecological Assessment identified – among many knowledge gaps – the lack of (basic) data on functioning of the different ecosystems. These data are essential for any study related to ecosystem services.

In the Ecotron Hasselt University infrastructure - a complex of 12 environmentally controlled chambers (Ecotron) - we will study the effect of stress interactions between different species of the ecosystem, especially in the soil. The aim is to understand how this stress will ultimately affect the ecosystem services. The infrastructure creates a -natural or manipulated- environment through a compilation of semi-automatically interrelated measuring devices. It allows simulating gradually changing circumstances and extreme events.

The location - the National Park Hoge Kempen - offers the natural sampling site to study the impact of key environmental factors that affect ecosystem services, such as CO2 concentration, acidification, air pollution, etc.

The Ecotron facility will be open to Belgian and international researchers and (doctoral) students. Retrieved data will be disseminated on the respective database clusters and as such contribute towards recommendations on sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

The Ecotron Hasselt University is a collaboration between Hasselt University, University of Antwerp, the Agency for Nature and Forestry and the Regional Landscape Kempen and Maasland. Financial support was provided by UHasselt, UAntwerp, LSM and the Flemish Government.


Hasselt University, Centre for Environmental Sciences

Field Research Centre, Zetellaan 52, 3630 Maasmechelen

+ 32 (0)11 26 8335

Natalie.beenaerts@uhasselt.be


 



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