PLANAQUA - artificial lakes platform


Enclosed Ecosystem Platform

Parent institution: Ecole normale supérieure and Centre national de la recherche scientifique
Active since 2012
Active through 2015-2025

Fields of study

  • Climatology, Climate Change
  • Environmental sciences, Pollution
  • Geology, Sedimentology
  • Oceanography, Fishery
  • Microbiology
  • Limnology

Contact Information

Lacroix, Gérard

The research infrastructure provides the scientific community with access to a set of experimental equipment with a high level of instrumentation:

(1) Sixteen artificial lakes with a volume of several hundreds of cubic meters, connected to each other and equipped with a extensive instrumentation. These systems are innovative in that they integrate littoral, benthic and pelagic zones and that they are large. They should facilitate studies of the functioning of complex communities with particular spatial distributions.

(2) Instrumentation including sensors to do continuous time measurement of the physical and biological properties of water bodies, passive integrated transponders antenna networks to continuously monitor fish populations, probes to conduct non-automated, spot measurements of environmental data, and analytical techniques implemented in the laboratory.

The Location

Country: France

Latitude: +48 17 14.48

Longitude: +2 40 34.64

Nearest town: Saint-Pierre-lès-Nemours

Distance from neaerst town: 3 km

Relevant Research Questions

Our infrastructure combines multiscale (from mesocosms to artificial lakes) experimental platforms, making it possible to explore the following issues:

(1) The effects of disturbances due to targeted human activities on the ecology and evolution of populations and on the biodiversity within and between trophic levels; (2) The effects of variations in trophic network structure and the cascade of such effects on the optimisation of energy flux, optimisation of the compromise between fish production and water quality, element recycling and transfer, the resilience and resistance of the system to human disturbance and the capacity of the environment to attain and maintain a good ecological state; (3) Ecological engineering based on the management of trophic networks, to improve the ecological state of environments and enhance ecosystem services; (4) Development of synthetic indicators of the state of the environment and its resilience and resistance to disturbance by human activity; (5) Development of mathematical models of structure and function, for the sustainable management of aquatic ecosystems.


The PLANAQUA platform makes it possible to overcome four major constraints that currently severely limit scientific potential in the domain of aquatic ecology:

(1) Lack of specific tools for addressing certain environmental questions - Very specific systems are required to address certain scientific questions. For example, we offer large mesocosms (15 m3, 10 m long) equipped with beaters to generate waves, making it possible to control the physical structure of the water column.

(2) Inadequacy of the classical scale of experiments - Human activity often leads to a loss of biodiversity, affecting in particular the species at the top of food chains, such as large carnivores. Understanding and managing the consequences of losing these predators from the top of the food chain in ecological systems requires very large experimental systems. Experiments on the functioning of ecosystems involve volumes and levels of biodiversity often well below the complexity of natural environments. Furthermore, these experimental systems do not generally incorporate the physical complexity of the environment or the spatially heterogeneous nature of ecological processes in natural ecosystems. We offer a new experimental tool integrating complexity at the spatial scales of the real world, through a collection of experimental lakes, each with a large individual volume (about 750 m3).

(3) Low level of replication of most experimental infrastructures - The number of independent experimental structures is generally inversely proportional to the size of these structures. The PLANAQUA experimental platform offers a high level of replication for all the equipment proposed, regardless of its size.

(4) Difficulties of understanding ecology and evolution at multiple scales - Both nationally and internationally, there are currently few infrastructures available for studies on ecological systems at multiple levels of integration, from the individual responses of organisms (physiology, metabolism) to the scale of diversified communities in complex environments. This platform offers a wide range of experimental tools from a few liters to several hundreds of cubic meters.


No major technical upgrade to further improve the platform is foreseen since the infrastructure is ending up the construction phase in 2015 with the installation of all sensors, the upgrade of the terrace to host the mesocosms (currently on a temporary terrace) and the construction of a new building (shared with Ecotron IleDeFrance) to host labs and analytical facilities, as well as some growth chambers. Funding is available to cover all these expanses. We plan to install water purification tools (in partnership with the private sector) and invest in new sensors. technical staff has to be strengthened. We will need to recruit a permanent technician.

Experimental Capabilities

Experimental Facilities

Two ponds (each 5000 m3) are available to host in-situ enclosures, rafts with floating emergent macrophytes, or immerged systems for experiments with periphyton. 80 mescosms (1-10 m3) are also available and an animal facility.

Experiments duration: Weeks, Months, Years;

Experimental Aerea

Total area: 30000 m²

A fenced study area including 16 experimental lakes, (450 m2 each) a terrace for more than 80 mesocosms (tanks), 1 water storage pond (2000 m2) , 1 water purification pond (2000 m2)

Available area: 7000 m²

Experimental Unit Size

unit size: 450 m²

Each artificial lakes (450 m2 and 3.5 m deep) contains 750 m3 of water.


Replicates number: 16

Cross-Ecosystem Manipulation

Pelagic-benthic-coastal ecosystems of shallow lakes

Manipulation Techniques

Temporary storage

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

Available Instruments

  • Fluoroprobe for microalgae characterisation (BBE)
  • BenthoTorch for microphytobenthos characterisation (BBE)
  • Mulitiparametres probe , temperature, conductivity, dissolved O2, pH, total chlorophyll (YSI Exo2)

Electricity available on site.

Distance from Laboratory facilities


Years measured:


Mean Temperature: 11.2 °C

February Mean Temperature: 1 °C

July Mean Temperature: 13.5 °C


Mean Annual Speed: m/s

Max. Annual Speed: m/s

Dominant Direction:


Precipitation type: Rain;

Total annual precipitation: 633 mm

Mean snow cover duration: 0 days

State Variables

Continuously Measured

  • (aquatic) Chlorophyl
  • (aquatic) Oxygen content
  • (aquatic) pH
  • (aquatic) Water temperature
  • Air humidity
  • Air temperature
  • Atmospheric pressure
  • Incident PAR
  • Incident shortwave radiation

Spot Measured

  • (aquatic) Conductivity
  • (aquatic) Current speed
  • (aquatic) Nutrient levels
  • (aquatic) Turbidity
  • Phenology
  • Population densities
  • Species richness
  • Other
  • (aquatic) PAR automatic measurements
  • automatic measurements of fish tags

Environmental Pressures

Variable Ecosystem Status
Precip Lake Active
Hydro Lake Active
Watereutroph Lake Active
Management - Nutrients (levels or nutrient type) Lake Active
Management - tilling or other physical manipulation Lake Active
Management - species and/or ecotype combinations Lake Active
Management - other Lake Active
Habitatfrag Lake Active
Pests Lake Active
Biodiversity Lake Active

On site Staff and Accomodation

Peak season staff

Up to 20 people

Off season staff

Up to 20 people

Visiting personnel

Up to 40 visitors

Bedrooms available

Up to 36 beds

Showers on site

Showers on site

Laundry on site

Laundry on site