Antwerp Meso-scale Ecotron


Enclosed Ecosystem Platform

Parent institution: University of Antwerp
Active since 2021
Active through all year

Fields of study

  • Terrestrial biology, Ecology
  • Hydrology
  • Microbiology
  • Mapping, GIS
  • Marine biology
  • Soil science
  • Geocryology, Geomorphology
  • Geology, Sedimentology
  • Environmental sciences, Pollution
  • Climatology, Climate Change
  • Isotopic chemistry

Contact Information

Nijs, Ivan

This Ecotron facility will initially consist of 18 mesocosm units of 1 m² each, situated on the University of Antwerp campus. These can harbor small-statured ecosystems, such as grasslands. The large number of units in this mesocosm-Ecotron is needed to accommodate complex multifactorial experiments with three to four factors and multiple levels per factor, while still having enough replicates (every mesocosm is in a separate unit). Multiple levels per factor are especially required when determining dose-response curves (e.g. nonlinear effect of different stress levels) and thresholds.

Having many units is also essential to manipulate species diversity and species composition, which typically also requires many objects. This versatility will give the infrastructure an unparalleled character. By sampling inlet and outlet air, trace gas fluxes (CO2, H2O, in the future possibly CH4, N2O) are continuously determined in the units, which serve as growth environment as well as “ecosystem analyzer”. As biogeochemical cycles are often tightly coupled, the simultaneous measurement of these fluxes - in the long run also in combination with stable isotope determinations - will advance understanding relative to focusing on single or few fluxes.

The Location

Country: Belgium

Latitude: 51.1614

Longitude: 4.4081

Nearest town: Wilrijk

Distance from neaerst town: 2 km

Relevant Research Questions

Highly-instrumented Ecotrons (environmentally controlled chambers) advance understanding of interacting processes by testing specific combinations of forcing variables, and measuring gas fluxes in an automated way. Multiple key questions regarding climate change, biodiversity loss, eutrophication and other global change factors can be addressed. The large amount of units in this facility (36 envisaged) also allows to study interactions in-depth (also between species), as well as the detection of thresholds and tipping points.


  • newly built, state-of-the-art facility
  • automated whole-system gas fluxes 
  • controlled micro-environment (CO2, temperature, air humidity, soil moisture, wind speed)
  • many units, allowing for flexible study design (multiple levels, multiple factorial combinations)


The set-up has been partially financed (c. 18 units), and is in the planning phase at this moment. A proposal for extra and longer term financing (mostly personnel) is currently being evaluated.

Experimental Capabilities

Experimental Facilities

none planned so far

Experiments duration: Weeks, Months, Years;

Experimental Aerea

Total area: 18 m²

this area is for 18 units (36 m² if all 36 units can be built)

Available area: 18 m²

this area is for 18 units (36 m² if all 36 units can be built)

Experimental Unit Size

unit size: 1 m²

basal area is area within a dome; area of the lysimeter is 1 m²


Replicates number: 18

Temporary storage

  • Drying oven
  • Freeze drier
  • Freezer
  • Liquid N
  • Refrigerator
  • Other

Available Instruments

  • LI-6400 (leaf gas exchange)
  • TH9260 Infrared camera (standard lens)
  • SC-1 porometer (leaf scale)
  • Plant Efficiency Analyser (leaf fluorescence)

Electricity available on site.

Distance from Laboratory facilities


Years measured: 29


Mean Temperature: 10.6 °C

February Mean Temperature: 3.7 °C

July Mean Temperature: 18.5 °C


Mean Annual Speed: 3.5 m/s

Max. Annual Speed: m/s

Dominant Direction: SW


Precipitation type: Rain, Snow;

Total annual precipitation: 850 mm

Mean snow cover duration: days

State Variables

Continuously Measured

  • Air humidity
  • Air temperature
  • Canopy temperature
  • Atmospheric pressure
  • Incident shortwave radiation
  • Incident PAR
  • Soil temperature
  • Soil water content
  • Wind speed

Spot Measured

  • Species richness
  • Phenology
  • Fluorescence

Environmental Pressures

Variable Ecosystem Status
CO2 Agrosystem Planned
Warming Agrosystem Planned
Precip Agrosystem Planned
Hydro Agrosystem Planned
Fire Agrosystem Planned
Soileutroph Agrosystem Planned
Fire, the second one Agrosystem Planned
Soilerosion Agrosystem Planned
Desert Agrosystem Planned
Management - Nutrients (levels or nutrient type) Agrosystem Planned
Management - conventional vs. organic or other eco-friendly practice Agrosystem Planned
Management - rotation practice Agrosystem Planned
Management - species and/or ecotype combinations Agrosystem Planned
Management - traditional (or native) vs. new (or non-native) species Agrosystem Planned
Pests Agrosystem Planned
Biodiversity Agrosystem Planned
CO2 Grassland Planned
Warming Grassland Planned
Precip Grassland Planned
Hydro Grassland Planned
Fire Grassland Planned
Soileutroph Grassland Planned
Fire, the second one Grassland Planned
Soilerosion Grassland Planned
Desert Grassland Planned
Management - Nutrients (levels or nutrient type) Grassland Planned
Management - conventional vs. organic or other eco-friendly practice Grassland Planned
Management - rotation practice Grassland Planned
Management - species and/or ecotype combinations Grassland Planned
Management - traditional (or native) vs. new (or non-native) species Grassland Planned
Pests Grassland Planned
Biodiversity Grassland Planned
CO2 Shrubland Planned
Warming Shrubland Planned
Precip Shrubland Planned
Hydro Shrubland Planned
Fire Shrubland Planned
Soileutroph Shrubland Planned
Fire, the second one Shrubland Planned
Soilerosion Shrubland Planned
Desert Shrubland Planned
Pests Shrubland Planned
Biodiversity Shrubland Planned

On site Staff and Accomodation

Peak season staff

No on-site staff.

Off season staff

No on-site staff.

Visiting personnel

No visitors allowed.

No beds on site

Showers on site

Showers on site

Laundry on site

Laundry on site