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© Thünen-Institut/AK
[Translate to English:]
Institute of

AK Climate-Smart Agriculture



[Translate to English:]
© Thünen-Institut/AK
[Translate to English:]

National Contribution to the Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS)

Greenhouse gases have no respect for frontiers. To monitor the atmosphere European researchers are setting up an "Integrated Carbon Observation System". It will consist of europe-wide, continuous measurements of greenhouse gases.

Background and Objective

The ICOS reserach infrastructure tracks carbon fluxes in Europe and adjacent regions by monitoring the ecosystems, the atmosphere and the oceans through integrated networks. It provides the long-term observations required to understand the present state and predict future behavior of the global carbon cycle and greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore it monitors and assesses the effectiveness of carbon sequestration and/or greenhouse gases emission reduction activities at the level of global atmospheric composition. The monitoring program also includes the attribution of sources and sinks to regions and sectors. The Thünen Institute of Climate Smart Agriculture coordinates the German contribution to the research infrastructure.


Atmospheric stations are established to measure continuously the greenhouse gas (CO2, CH4, N2O) concentration in the lower atmosphere as influenced by regional and global fluxes. The atmospheric network can be considered as the backbone of the infrastructure.
Ecosystem Stations are built to monitor the functioning of land ecosystems and the exchange of energy and greenhouse gases between the ecosystems and the atmosphere. The Ecosystem network will consist of observation sites that employ a standardized set of measurement techniques and instruments. The key method is the eddy covariance technique.
Marine ICOS will provide the long-term oceanic observations required to understand the present state and predict future behaviour of the global carbon cycle and climate-relevant gas emissions. A network of ships and fixed stations will be monitoring carbon exchange between the surface ocean and the atmosphere, acidification of oceans, surface temperature, salinity and other variables.
A managing Coordination Unit at the Thünen-Institute for Climate Smart Agriculture acts as National Focal Point for the research infrastructure, consults scientific projects that want to utilize ICOS data and research platforms and supports public relations and political consulting. The Thünen Institute is also engaged in the Ecosystem Program where it runs a "class 1" monitoring station located at an agricultural site in Thuringia.

Atmospheric stations

Ecosystem Stations

Marine ICOS

(© Jean-Pierre Delorme)

Involved external Thünen-Partners

Funding Body

  • Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
    (national, öffentlich)
  • Bundesministerium für Verkehr und digitale Infrastruktur (BMVI)
    (national, öffentlich)


Permanent task 1.2014

More Information

Project status: ongoing

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