Enclosed Ecosystem Platform

Parent institution: University of Antwerp
Active since 2016
Active through whole year

Fields of study

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

Contact Information

Dardenne, Freddy


The facility includes 1000 m² greenhouse, equipped with natural light and climate monitoring. There is also 16 ponds, 2 m in diameter, with 1.3 m water height. The facility provides 4 raceways, 5 m x 0.50 m, with 60 cm water height. These include adjustable flow rate (0 – 1.5 m/s), controlled temperature, and are equipped for respirometry, freshwater and marine systems. Aquaculture facility (2 x 3.7 m³) provides multiple available sensors. Mesodrome facility has been operational since end of 2016.

The Location

Country: Belgium

Latitude: 51.155444000000003

Longitude: 4.4080250000000003

Nearest town: Wilrijk, Belgium

Distance from neaerst town: 3 km

Relevant Research Questions

The main issues addressed at the facility include; 1)Bioavailability and effects of dissolved and sediment-bound pollutants; 2)The toxicity of mixtures on aquatic communities; 3)Interactions between pollutant and predator stress in aquatic food chains; 4)Validation of transcriptomics and proteomics derived biomarkers; 5)Long term studies on global change related issues; 6)Feeding and exercise physiology in aquatic species; 7)Metabolism and physiological performance in aquatic species; 8)Biogeochemistry: 9)N, P and Si cycles; 10)Biological-geomorphological interactions in tidal wetlands; and finally 11)Effects of invasive species on local aquatic communities.


The mesocosms are located in a 1000 m² greenhouse offering a semi-controlled environment. The roof of the greenhouse can be opened completely to allow rainfall in the ponds, if required. The complete installation is suited for both fresh water and marine research. All systems have been designed for long term experiments. The mesocosm is operated by 2 research groups (Sphere and ECOBE) with perfectly complementary know-how. While upon Sphere specializes on adaptational biology under stress, ECOBE focusses on geomorphology of aquatic systems and nutrient cycling.


The installation consists roughly of 16 ponds, 4 raceways and 2 aquaculture basins. This is a very good base for most experimental setups, yet increasing the capacity would allow more replicates and/or more variables.

Experimental Capabilities

Experimental Facilities

Complete aquatic facilities: climate chambers, aquariums, ZebTec racks. Biochemical measurements, transcriptomics and proteomics, elemental and organic analysis of diverse matrices, sediment characterisation.

Experiments duration: Weeks, Months, Years;

Experimental Aerea

Total area: 1000 m²

The actual greenhouse area is 1000 m², yet the area around the greenhouse allows adding extra mesocosms in open air, shielded from the public.

Available area: 1000 m²

Experimental Unit Size

unit size: 12 m²

The raceways are 5 m long, 80 cm deep


Replicates number: 22

Cross-Ecosystem Manipulation

Experiments on dispersion and immigration among ponds can be conducted.

Manipulation Techniques

Temporary storage

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

Available Instruments

  • water quality sensors pH
  • water quality sensors temp
  • water quality sensors turbidity
  • water quality sensors chlorophyll a
  • water flow sensor
  • spectrophotometry
  • nutrient analysis
  • metal analysis
  • organic pollutant analysis

Electricity available on site.

Distance from Laboratory facilities


Years measured:


Mean Temperature: 10.6 °C

February Mean Temperature: 3.7 °C

July Mean Temperature: 18.5 °C


Mean Annual Speed: m/s

Max. Annual Speed: m/s

Dominant Direction:


Precipitation type: Rain, Snow;

Total annual precipitation: 850 mm

Mean snow cover duration: 0 days

State Variables

Continuously Measured

  • (aquatic) Chlorophyl
  • (aquatic) Conductivity
  • (aquatic) Current speed
  • (aquatic) Oxygen content
  • Atmospheric pressure
  • Air temperature
  • Air humidity
  • (aquatic) Water temperature
  • (aquatic) Turbidity
  • (aquatic) pH
  • Incident PAR

Spot Measured

Environmental Pressures

Variable Ecosystem Status
CO2 River Active
Warming River Active
Watereutroph River Active
Management - Nutrients (levels or nutrient type) River Active
Management - tilling or other physical manipulation River Planned
Management - pesticides (or other non-nutrient chemicals) River Planned
Management - grazing (pressure or animal species) River Active
Management - species and/or ecotype combinations River Active
Management - traditional (or native) vs. new (or non-native) species River Active
Pests River Planned
Biodiversity River Active
CO2 Lake Active
Warming Lake Active
Soileutroph Lake Planned
Watereutroph Lake Planned
Management - Nutrients (levels or nutrient type) Lake Planned
Management - tilling or other physical manipulation Lake Planned
Management - pesticides (or other non-nutrient chemicals) Lake Planned
Management - conventional vs. organic or other eco-friendly practice Lake Planned
Management - grazing (pressure or animal species) Lake Active
Management - species and/or ecotype combinations Lake Planned
Management - traditional (or native) vs. new (or non-native) species Lake Planned
Biodiversity Lake Planned

On site Staff and Accomodation

Peak season staff

No on-site staff.

Off season staff

No on-site staff.

Visiting personnel

Up to 3 visitors

Bedrooms available

Up to 2 beds

Showers on site

Showers on site

No laundry on site