Landmark agreement signed for Global Ecosystem Research Infrastructure
Article based on GERI media statement
Article based on GERI media statement
Institutions from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and North America that operate six different continental-scale ecosystem observing infrastructures signed a landmark memorandum of understanding (MoU) on December 8, expressly committing to the development of the first-ever Global Ecosystem Research Infrastructure (GERI). GERI is an integrated network of site-based research infrastructures dedicated to improving our understanding of the function of – and change in – indicator ecosystems across global biomes. This would support excellent science that would also inform political and managerial decision-making, addressing grand societal challenges.
A fully functioning GERI will deliver harmonised data, forge international partnerships and enable a new understanding of global ecological processes in ways not previously possible, stretching across continents, decades and ecological disciplines.
By bringing together these infrastructures for the first time in history, we now have the infrastructure capability to ask environmental research questions with both societal and scientific importance across and among continents.
The capabilities of GERI are vital to address critical future challenges for the sustainable management of our limited natural capital under (known) environmental change, and future (yet unknown) environmental challenges to assure long-term human well-being on the planet.
Current participating Environmental Research Infrastructures (ERIs) in the GERI project. Please note that the shareholders/sponsors are NOT signees of the MoU.
|Environmental Research Infrastructures||Host country/continent||Signatories/ Managing Organisations||Shareholder/ Sponsor|
|Chinese Ecosystem Research Network (CERN)||China/Asia||Chinese Academy of Science||Chinese Academy of Science|
|European Long Term Ecosystem, critical zone and socio-ecological systems Research (eLTER)||Germany/Europe||Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research
GmbH – UF
|Integrated Carbon Observing System (ICOS)||Finland/Europe||ICOS ERIC Head Office||European Commission|
|National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON)||USA/North America||Battelle||National Science Foundation|
|South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON)||South Africa/Africa||National Research Foundation||National Research Foundation|
|Terrestrial Ecosystem Research Network (TERN)||Australia/Australia||University of Queensland||National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy|
The MoU reaffirms the long-standing partnerships among the six analogous, but independent, ecosystem observing networks that monitor the ecosystems that underpin life on Earth.
Prior to this MoU and the creation of the GERI, these national Environmental Research Infrastructures (ERIs) have, for the past decade, been delivering national and continental-scale data to gain a better understanding of the responses of the biosphere to the anthropogenic drivers of environmental change.
However, when tackling complex global issues such as climate change or biodiversity loss, we need an internationally collaborative approach if we are to make a real difference. To this end, multi-national collaborations in ecosystem observation over several years have led to the signing of the GERI MoU and the creation of a global ERI network.
Integrating capabilities will enable researchers around the world to tackle the programmatic work and meet the grand challenges at the global macro scale. Even though GERI is currently terrestrial-based, broader inclusion is encouraged to bring together other ERIs and networks in support of this endeavour, and more broadly integrate atmospheric, terrestrial, coastal and ocean observations within their social-ecological context.
The MoU describes the type of relationship between the continental observatories and the overarching goals the GERI plans to achieve.
The potential for increased international cooperation on research infrastructures has for a long time been recognised during international high-level meetings on science policy. At the first G7 Science Ministers’ meeting in 2008, the Group of Senior Officials on global research infrastructures (GSO) was established. GSO´s mandate includes assessing and identifying research infrastructures of global interest and identifying possible new areas of cooperation.
At the 14th GSO meeting in Shanghai (2–4 December 2019), the GERI case was presented to the GSO, underpinning the global momentum and their respective research infrastructures’ strong commitment to GERI. As a result, the GSO encouraged further development of GERI with a focus on refining governance.
The discussions in Shanghai highlighted that this partnership would follow the GSO Best Practice Framework of research infrastructures of global interest, which will benefit all stakeholders and the successful implementation of GERI.
SAEON eNews is the bimonthly online newsletter of the South African Environmental Observation Network.
SAEON serves as a national platform for detecting, translating and predicting environmental change through scientifically designed observation systems and research.