Global change has triggered a number of environmental changes, such as alterations in climate, land productivity, water resources, atmospheric chemistry, and ecological systems. Finding solutions to the impact of global change is one of the most important challenges of the 21st century. TERENO is embarking on new paths with an interdisciplinary and long-term research programme involving six Helmholtz Association Centers.

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Northeast German Lowland Observatory

The Northeast German Lowland Observatory is situated in a region shaped by recurring glacial and periglacial processes since at least half a million years. Within this period, three major glaciations covered the entire region, the last time this happened approximately 25 – 15 ka ago (Weichselian glaciation). Since that time, a young morainic landscape developed characterized by many lakes and river systems that are connected to the shallow ground water table. The main land-use types are arable, pasture, planted pine forests, deciduous forests, and wetlands of high ecological value. The present climate is characterized by rather low annual precipitation between 550 and 650 mm/a. Particularly, this rather low annual precipitation in combination with major reconfigurations of the hydrological system (damming and drainage) in historic times makes this region highly sensitive with regard to climate change impacts. The Northeastern Lowland Observatory provides unique natural laboratories to investigate relatively young land surfaces starting at the “zero-point” of landscape evolution. Within the TERENO concept the sensitivity to climate change of these young landscapes can be compared with that of older landscapes that have not been affected by glaciers.

Harz/Central German Lowland Observatory

The Harz/Central German Lowland Observatory, located in Central Germany, covers an area of approx. 25.700 km². The region is characterized by pronounced gradients of temperature, precipitation, land use and urbanity. The monitoring, observation, and research activities within the Harz/Central German Lowland Observatory are concentrated in four main corridors (see figure 1; click opens a larger image) - a specific flood plain research plattform, a number of sites mainly focussed on biodiversity related research, the metropolitan area of Leipzig and Halle as focus area of urban research at the UFZ, and the hydrological observatory in the catchment of the river Bode. The observation of climate induced changes in the hydrological regime is one of the major tasks within TERENO activities. The hydrological research within the Harz/Central German Lowland Observatory is concentrated in the catchment area of the river Bode (catchment size approx. 3.300 km²). The detection of scale dependencies in flowpaths, run-off generation or residence times requires scale-related approaches of observation. Therefore, a nested approach including small process plots (< 2 km²), meso-scale subcatchments (approx. 100 km²) up to the scale of the complete Bode catchment will be established. A more detailed description of the hydrological observatory and the several intensive test sites can be found here. Apart from the hydrological research the observation of biodiversity dynamics in the context of land use and climate change is another important research field in the observatory. A network of long-term monitoring and research sites along a main transect (with respect to the climatic gradient) is implemented. Different disciplines are integrated in urban systems research, coupling natural, social and environmental health research. In a systematic approach the understanding of the complexity of each of the disciplinary perspectives in amplified. Studies are carried out on different spatial and temporal scales, to reflect processes on their regional and local scale distinctively. The methodological transferability on other study areas is a further goal which sheds light on the different cultural and social contexts. Intensive test sites in the flood land region of the river Elbe focus on effects of climate change on hydrological extremes and vulnerable systems. Here, the researchers investigate small-scale spatial and temporal dynamics with respect to larger-scale matter transformations, nutrient fluxes, contaminant mobility and ecological impact in close relation with species-environment relationships. An important experimental element of the Harz/Central German Lowland Observatory is the Global Change Experimental Facility. Located at the UFZ location Bad Lauchstädt, this facility enables experiments for scenario-based process analysis and considers different scenarios of land use: intensive vs. extensive, food vs. energy production, monocultures vs. species-rich communities. Climate change experiments allow the manipulation of temperature and precipitation within different crop rotations and management schemes. Important biophysical and ecological variables as well as parameters of agro-ecosystems are measured.

Eifel/Lower Rhine Valley Observatory

The Eifel/Lower Rhine Valley Observatory is operated by Forschungszentrum Jülich since 2008. The central monitoring site of the Eifel/Lower Rhine Valley Observatory is the catchment area of the River Rur because it covers the distinct gradients in landscape features in this region. It comprises a total area of 2354 km² and is situated mostly in North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany). From the northern to the southern part of the observatory, altitude increases from 64 to 630 m, mean annual air temperature decreases from 10 to 7°C and mean annual precipitation increases from 650 to 1300 mm. Land use is highly differentiated: The lowland region in the northern part is characterised by urbanisation and intensive agriculture whereas the low mountain range in the southern part is sparsely populated and includes several drinking water reservoirs. Furthermore, the Eifel National Park is situated in the southern part of the Rur catchment serving as a reference site. The general observation strategy follows a nested multiscale approach: More detailed measurements and characterisation of smaller, focal catchments are embedded within progressively larger catchments, allowing the critical evaluation and development of scaling strategies. Intensive test sites placed along a transect across the Rur catchments investigate the effects of climate change and anthropogenic land use on water (quality of runoff, precipitation and groundwater), energy (sensible heat, evapotranspiration, CO2 and momentum) and soil parameters (soil moisture, water content, density, texture, etc.). The Rur hydrological observatory is part of the European Network of Hydrological Observatories (ENOHA, www.enoha.eu) initiative. In addition, data acquired in the Rur hydrological observatory is feeded it into other databases, such as the International Soil Moisture Network (ISMN) and the Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS) to further ease data usage.

Pre-Alpine Observatory

The Pre-Alpine observatory is the southernmost of the four German TERENO observatories and is operated since 2008 by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) at its Campus Alpin, Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK-IFU), Garmisch-Partenkirchen (Germany). The TERENO Pre-Alpine Observatory covers parts of the Bavarian Alps (Ammergau Mountains) and their foreland and comprises various measuring sites (including ICOS sites) spanning an elevation from 1600 to 600 m a.s.l. located in the Ammer (709 km2) and Rott (56 km2) catchments. Main land use is forest and grasslands the latter spanning from intensive dairy farming in the forelands to alpine grassing systems in higher elevation. The highest point is at 2185 m a.s.l. in the Ammergau Alps and the outflow is at 533 m a.s.l. Due to the complex topography, the catchment is characterised by large north-south differentiations in soils, land-use and climate. Long-term mean annual precipitation in the northern part is around 1100 mm/a while the southern part with the summits of the Ammer Alps receives more than 2000 mm/a. Maximum precipitation is in summer. The mean annual temperature is around 7-8 °C in the alpine forelands and approx 4-5 °C in the southern mountainous part of the catchment. Its area includes the Hohenpeissenberg and thereby benefits from the long-term hydrometeorological observations of the DWD observatory (since 1781). TERENO Pre-Alpine observations have been used in conjunction with physically based process models to examine the impacts of land cover–management and climate change on ecosystem-atmosphere cycling of energy (e.g., large-eddy simulation model PALM), water (e.g., WaSiM and GEOtop), as well as C and N (e.g., LandscapeDNDC). The TERENO Pre-Alpine Observatory is regionally well integrated because it complements networks of the German Weather Service and the Bavarian Environmental Agency. TERENO pre-alpine research is conducted in close cooperation with farmers and other stakeholders (Bavarian State Research Centre for Agriculture) who are interested in climate adapted management strategies.

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Last updated at: 09.04.2021