Terrestrial Environmental Observatories

Terrestrial Environmental Observatories

Within the regional observatory TERENO (TERrestrial ENvironmental Observatories), the Helmholtz Association is investigating the effects of global change on terrestrial ecosystems at regional level. To this end, four regional observatories were set up for an integrated Earth observation, covering regions that are representative for Germany: Eifel/Lower Rhine Valley Observatory, Harz/Central German Lowland Observatory, Bavarian Alps/pre-Alps Observatory and Northeastern German Lowland Observatory.

All four areas are equipped with combined in-situ measuring instruments as well as ground and airborne remote sensing technologies. This infrastructure project initially planned until 2025 aims to record changes in the geo-, hydro-, bio-, and lower atmosphere as well as the anthroposphere on different spatial and temporal scales. This facilitates a better understanding of the interdependencies and to develop effective prevention, mitigation and adaptation strategies in the light of global change.

The cooperation in the observatories goes beyond the participating six Helmholtz centers, further non-University research institutions and Universities are involved. The GFZ cooperates in particular with the following other bodies:


Scientific Goals

The complex relationships and feedback mechanisms of the different parts of the terrestrial systems require an interdisciplinary research approach. Important system variables, which are being monitored within TERENO, include: relocation and exchange processes of water, matter and energy in the groundwater-vegetation-atmosphere system, long-term changes in the structure and functioning of microorganisms, flora and fauna, as well as socioeconomic conditions that must be determined with sufficient temporal and spatial resolution.

The following scientific questions arise:

  • Which consequences will the expected climate change have on the groundwater, soils, vegetation and surface waters?
  • In which way will the feedbacks mechanisms affect the terrestrial fluxes of water and matter (e.g. feedbacks between land surface and atmosphere)?
  • Which direct influences have soil and landuse changes on water balance, soil fertility, biodiversity and regional climate?
  • What are the consequences of large anthropogenic interferences (e.g. open mining, deforestation) on terrestrial systems?

The long-term data sets developed in TERENO will significantly foster the validation, advancement and integration of terrestrial models, e.g. groundwater and soil water balance models, regional climate and weather prognostic models, air quality models, runoff and forest/agronomic models as well as diversity and socioeconomical models.

Integrated model systems can comprehensively support the management of agronomic and forest ecosystems, e.g. optimization of irrigation systems as well as development of warning systems for extreme weather occurrences and flooding, integrated control systems of water management constructions, and monitoring systems for air, groundwater and surface water quality.