Integrated European Long-Term Ecosystem, critical zone and socio-ecological system Research Infrastructure
General Info

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research GmbH - UFZ

Permoserstraße 15, 04318 Leipzig

legal status



physical, virtual, remote

The integrated European Long-Term Ecosystem, critical zone and socio-ecological Research Infrastructure (eLTER RI) is a distributed Research Infrastructure aiming at integrating traditional natural sciences and holistic ecosystem research approaches, including studies of the human component, to better understand ecosystems. Through research and observation, eLTER RI seeks to improve our knowledge of the structure and functions of ecosystems and their long-term response to environmental, societal and economic drivers. eLTER RI will consist of Central Services (Head Office, Service Portal and Topical Services) and about 250 eLTER Sites and Platforms providing services like access to data and sites for various user groups and research communities. eLTER will provide indispensable integrated data sets – abiotic, biotic, societal, covering all system structures and functions – for system model development and validation, hence supporting predictions and decision-making in an interdisciplinary framework. eLTER RI contributes to the knowledge base informing policy and to the development of management options in response to the Grand Challenges under Global Change. The mission of eLTER is to facilitate high impact research and catalyse new insights about the compounded impacts of drivers like climate change, biodiversity loss, soil degradation, pollution, and unsustainable resource use on a range of European ecosystems and socio-ecological systems, representing the “critical zone” in which we live. With our distributed infrastructure and scientific expertise, we aspire to provide users with the scientific capacity to improve our understanding of terrestrial, freshwater, and transitional water ecosystems, and a solid foundation to inform evidence-based policy making and management solutions for addressing current and emerging environmental challenges. eLTER is a distributed pan-European in-situ research infrastructure that will serve multiple scientific communities with high-level central services and well-instrumented eLTER Sites and socio-ecological eLTSER Platforms Continent-wide, novel data services and products will result from combining harmonised standard observations at the sites with decades of legacy data and information from a wide range of other sources. These services will be accessible to a broad diversity of stakeholders from local to continental scales. As a fundamental component of eLTER's identity, we will synergistically collaborate with diverse ecosystem/environmental research infrastructures and networks across Europe and the world. Strategic goals: The first goal is to facilitate innovative research for addressing grand societal challenges. We strive to enhance the scientific capacity, efficiency, and visibility of the European Research Area, supporting sustainable management and policy-making in environmental issues. eLTER integrates researchers across ecosystem ecology, biodiversity, critical zone, and socio-ecological systems to tackle societal challenges systemically. Through our distributed in-situ facilities across Europe, we develop and deploy innovative research methods to address these challenges. The second goal is to design and operate a distributed and highly functional network of eLTER in-situ facilities across Europe. We integrate eLTER Sites and Platforms into a pan-European research infrastructure, supported by centralised services for site- and continent-scale research. The third goal is to create a unique and widely accessible service portfolio that serves as the central gateway for accessing harmonised data from eLTER in situ facilities and other centralised services. We actively seek collaboration opportunities with both external and internal users to co-develop tools and services through technical and strategic partnerships. The fourth goal is to promote collaboration, integration, and a conducive working culture. We prioritise high ethical and environmental standards and foster collaborations with RIs globally, and cultivate a collaborative internal culture, promoting transdisciplinary research and investing in the diversity of our research community.
Total Investment 150 M€ Design 6,4 M€ Preparation 4 M€ Implementation 8 M€ Operation 9 M€/year Project 2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 2020 2022 2024 2026 2028 2030 2032 2034 2036 2038 RM06 RM08 RM10 RM16 RM18 RM21 LA24
Roadmap Entry
as project: 2018
Total investment
150 M€
Design Phase
6,4 M€
Preparation Phase
4 M€
Implementation Phase
8 M€
Operation start
9 M€/year
eLTER has evolved via flagship projects – e.g. ALTER-Net NoE, EnvEurope, ExpeER, and eLTER H2020 – and was cited as emerging project in the ESFRI Roadmap 2016. Based on this results, the EU-funded Advance_eLTER project elaborated a design and implementation plan for the submission to the Roadmap 2018. eLTER is currently in the Preparatory Phase with the aim to establish a European Research Infrastructure Consortium ERIC, which is expected by 2026, to lead the implementation and operation. The main objectives for the Preparatory Phase are to establish the legal structure, business plan for the sustainability, and to provide with the implementation plan. The Preparatory Phase will also run the selection process for the Central Services hosts, incl. the Head Office, involving an external selection committee. The Implementation Phase of the eLTER RI is divided into two different categories: implementing the Central Services and implementing the national eLTER Sites and eLTSER Platforms. The construction of the Central Services is planned to start in 2022. The HO will be fully functional in 2024. The implementation of the eLTER in situ component, Sites and Platforms, is planned to take place in three overlapping phases in 2021-27. This allows for different countries to conduct their site implementation at different speeds. The first stage of eLTER will be implemented based on an existing very large network of LTER sites – about 400 formally acknowledged ecosystem research sites and 35 LTSER platforms for socio-ecological research operated by about 150 institutions. The Operational Phase of the eLTER RI will start when all Central Services are operational and provide the designated services. In order to do this the RI needs to have sufficient coverage across Europe and its socio-ecological zones. The eLTER design defines a hierarchy of sites, with major nodes playing a main role in driving scientific innovation and other sites focussing on data-provisioning and pan-European coverage. This mixed mode of operation will allow eLTER RI to play an important integrating role for policy-makers. eLTER contributes to the European RI landscape with significant and sustainable impact and leverage effects regarding the global Grand Challenges. Understanding the responses of ecosystems to multiple anthropogenic drivers of environmental change is both an intellectual grand challenge and a societal necessity. To catalyse sustainability transformations, eLTER implements research processes with stakeholders in knowledge co-production, and contributes to sustainability policy through transparent and equitable engagement with civil society stakeholders. eLTER RI provides capacities for novel scientific discovery in the integrated and harmonised ecosystem, critical zone and socio-ecological research through its distributed Sites and Platforms covering major European environmental and socio-ecological gradients, and the consistent implementation of a holistic approach in ecosystem research. The eLTER Cyberinfrastructure connects the physical network as the main source of information with other data, laboratories, computing capacities and users to improve scholarly productivity and enable knowledge breakthroughs and discoveries in the compounded environmental challenges. eLTER develops workflows, observational capabilities, software, and seamless access to data, data products and information clusters to enable scientific discoveries and breakthroughs in holistic, multi- and transdisciplinary research. In particular, the benefits will be manifested through the provision of actionable knowledge for addressing complex policy challenges and advising during the decision-making process on local, national and European levels. This service will significantly contribute to identify systemic socio-ecological changes and express recommendations to strengthen the resilience of societies.
Access: The eLTER in-situ facilities provide access to ca. 250 highly instrumented and standardised eLTER Sites and ca. 50 eLTSER Platforms (socio-ecological research) across Europe, open for scientific and other user groups to do research on the relevant topics for eLTER vision and mission. Also Remote and Virtual access services are provided centrally. Data Management services include acquisition of concurrent and legacy data from eLTER Sites and Platforms, cataloguing of Sites and Platforms and their related data, and the dissemination of quality assured data products. Optimised Design and RI Interoperability services relate to the design and specification of the RI in-situ facility network, the harmonisation of eLTER Standard Observations and the eLTER RI interoperability with other RIs in the environmental domain. Technological Innovation and Development services are e.g. promoting eLTER RI as a testbed for new sensors and observation technologies. Analysis Tools and Modelling services bring together capabilities to develop new analytical methods and modelling techniques for extending the use of eLTER Standard Observations. Synthesis Toward Actionable Knowledge services offer a platform to address complex environmental issues by integrating cross- and transdisciplinary expertise, including social sciences and decision-making processes. Central Analytics and Measurement services provide selected laboratory analyses (eDNA, hydrochemistry, etc.) and centrally organised campaigns (e.g. geophysics or aircraft-/drone campaigns) at eLTER in-situ facilities. Finally, the Head Office coordinates and administers the eLTER ERIC, including communications and outreach of activities and products, and strategic interface with all stakeholders.
S S H D I G I T E N E H & F P S E
ICOS: Joint work towards co-location to increase the value of site-based observations for scientific community and decision makers, e.g. by workflows to make datasets discoverable through the same portal and by agreeing on responsibilities for certain groups of variables. Work to achieve maximum complementarity and alignment towards an integrated European RI landscape with co-located sites. Participation in several joint Horizon EU projects. Signed Letter of cooperation. LIFEWATCH: Common user base and shared services to the users, in particular related to information management, alignment of data/resource catalogues, interoperable data and metadata standards and formats, and integrated data access available at any given scale/resolution. Signed Memorandum of Understanding. AnaEE: Joint work towards an integrated RI landscape in terrestrial ecosystem research in Europe, fostering co-location and the joint use of basic infrastructures. Participation in several joint EU projects, related to experimental design at co-located sites, impacts of management practices on ecosystem resilience and functionality. MoU in preparation ACTRIS: Participation in several joint EU projects, in particular related to technology development and operation of co-located sites. MoU in preparation