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Guyaflux: a TOWER for measuring the carbon flow. Experimental facility to measure the carbon stocks in the Guyanese forest and the CO2 balance between the forest and the atmosphere. © Ch. Maître

Environmental research infrastructure

ICOS: organising an EU network to measure greenhouse gases

Established in 2008, ICOS is a new observation infrastructure project developed by CEA, INRA and CNRS-INSU. ICOS is an EU initiative supported by France and is a part of the 35 large-scale research facility (TGIR) projects. It is a long-term scientific tool coordinating a network of European facilities that capture data in three areas: ecosystems, atmosphere, and oceans.

By Sébastien Broquere, translated by Daniel McKinnon
Updated on 06/13/2013
Published on 05/27/2013

Agriculture and forests are deeply linked to the issue of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly though CO2, methane and nitrous oxide emissions from livestock and forestry. INRA’s challenge is to find ways to contribute to the development of more environment-friendly production systems and to make better use of the environmental services provided by agrosystems.

Monitoring over 20 years

Grasslands, greenhouse gas effect and climate change - CO2 enrichment experimental design. © INRA, TOILLON Sylvie
Grasslands, greenhouse gas effect and climate change - CO2 enrichment experimental design © INRA, TOILLON Sylvie

By monitoring and real-time reporting on agricultural and forestry greenhouse gas emissions, ICOS will allow scientists to track, assess and compare greenhouse gas emissions of various major national agroecosystem practices, such as grain crops, energy crops, grasslands, forest plantations and forests. Monitoring over 20 years will also allow the effects of environmental change on agroecosystems to be identified and understood.

Scientific contact(s):

  • Jean-François Soussana, Scientific Director - Environment

Spotlight: French Guiana’s tropical forests

Over recent decades, growth rates in the Amazonian forest have been on the rise, however the cause of this increase was unclear. A retrospective analysis by INRA researchers of two well-established tree species found across the Guiana Shield sought to understand if increases in CO2 levels had an impact on leaf function and, if so, in what ways. The study used:

● leaf samples taken from various herbaria of two species of tree (collected from the end of the eighteenth to the start of the twenty-first centuries);
13C and 18O isotopic analyses of the samples;
● a simulation approach for tree response scenarios to environmental change (taking into account carbon and oxygen isotope fractionation models in photosynthesis and transpiration).
The increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration over the past two centuries has stimulated tree photosynthesis in French Guiana’s tropical rainforest, with no change to stomatal conductance. Therefore, water use by the tree species has become more efficient. This finding is in line with the increased productivity of tropical rainforests observed over the past 50 years.