Background and aims
Environmental sciences are challenged by growing human populations and the resulting food and energy demands, increasing consumption of natural resources, and losses of biodiversity in an era of global climate change. Ecological research contributes to potential solutions and it is a pre-requisite for more sustainable land use, founded in careful assessments of ecosystem adaptation and regeneration. An advanced understanding of interaction networks amongst organisms and their abiotic environment requires mechanistic clarifications of ecosystem processes. Fluxes of energy and elements under human influence attain paramount importance in such context. This requires close co-operations between complementary research disciplines in the experimental analysis of above- and below-ground ecosystem compartments. Relevant disciplines are plant and animal ecology, ecophysiology, microbiology, plant pathology, molecular biology, genetics, soil science, hydrology, climatology, ecosystem research as well as biostatistics and modelling.
TUMmesa aims at addressing current research challenges by
- enabling process-based ecological research and experiments with model ecosystems, their compartments and organisms under controlled conditions;
- understanding biotic interactions across ecosystem compartments;
- and facilitating integrative multi-factorial experiments with complex statistical design.
A special feature of TUMmesa is the equipment with an LED-based lighting system, which works flicker-free and allows the independent regulation of different wavelengths in the PAR range (incl. UV-A/B). The low heat generation allows for reduced ventilation and correspondingly low vibration, wind and noise. Different ecological scenarios can be set up experimentally, e.g. with elevated CO2 and O3 regimes. Organism communities can be established in plant containers that can be separately climate-controlled in the soil space, with their pressure transducers and irrigation devices acting as weighing lysimeters to allow precise quantification of ecosystem processes. Substance flux analyses are possible by online analysis of stable isotopes (12/13C, 14/15N, 16/18O, H/D) and labeling of the air space on an individual- and system-specific basis.
TUMmesa enables cross-disciplinary experiments in which the importance of organismic interactions for processes at the ecosystem level is investigated mechanistically. The use of TUMmesa should therefore not be limited to TUM scientists, but also include partners from other research institutions. A prerequisite, however, is that TUM members are involved as active research partners in the consortia.
- enables, in fulfillment of the above claim, process-related ecological research and mechanistic understanding clarification under controlled conditions.
- serves basic ecological research as well as applied studies on the sustainable use of natural resources. Substantial progress in the understanding of interactions of organism communities with other ecosystem compartments is aimed for.
- Enables multifactorial and integrative experiments, and provides statistically sufficient replicability of experimental factor regimes. Corresponding research projects shall exploit the technical infrastructure of TUMmesa to the greatest scientific benefit.
- As an overall goal, TUMmesa with its innovative infrastructure shall strengthen the research area of Munich with excellent results in the field of life sciences.
For the above scientific approach, TUMmesa with its eight walk-in phytotron chambers offers a target-oriented research instrument.
The aim is a process analysis of model ecosystems reproduced from the field under experimental environmental scenarios, whereby control regimes create the prerequisite for mechanistic knowledge gain.
TUMmesa will test hypotheses derived from the field, but also generate hypotheses to be tested in the field. Preferred research objects are natural or synthetic species communities with their interaction mechanisms and resulting functional emergences under environmental stress, including experiments on functional biodiversity and source-sink behavior of material fluxes. Long-term experiments over several months to years are envisaged, for which TUMmesa offers the prerequisites.
The technical capabilities of the TUMmesa facility
The technical capabilities of the TUMmesa facility are comprehensively described in the recent publication "Regionalized dynamic climate series for ecological climate impact research in modern controlled environment facilities" https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ece3.8371