An EcoUnit is a measuring system to investigate ecosystem functions in the soil-plant-atmosphere system under defined boundary conditions.
The EcoUnits have been developed for the iDiv Ecotron facility in a collaboration between scientists and technicians of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ together with UGT GmbH and Emc GmbH.
Ecotrons are used to investigate processes within the soil-plant-atmosphere system as well as the interactions between the compartments. Ecotrons are lysimeter applications beyond the investigation of only soil processes and thus the generic term for lysimeter applications of all kinds. An EcoUnit consists of three units. The lower unit contains the soil, which can either be inserted directly into the container or in extra stainless steel cylinders (lysimeters). The latter allows the investigation of undisturbed soil monoliths. Up to four lysimeters can be installed in one EcoUnit. Several soil sensors can be installed in the lower unit to collect soil temperature, soil moisture and soil tension data. To investigate root systems and root growth rhizotrons can be installed as well. The lower unit is equipped with a system to collect seepage water and a system to control the temperature conditions at the lower boundary of the soil. On top of the lower unit a second unit is attached, which isolates the environment above the soil surface from the surrounding. The size of the isolated habitat is big enough for growing of medium shrubs. The second unit can be equipped with additional walls to divide the EcoUnit in four self contained sub units. On top of the second unit the upper unit is located, which contains equipment for irrigation, lighting and ventilation. The upper unit can also be equipped with sensors to collect data of temperature and humidity as well as with a gas analyzer. The lower and upper units are equipped with a control cabinet containing the required power supply and signal transformation as well as the measurement and control technology. The EcoUnit comes with a touch panel to visualize collected data and to control the EcoUnit. The equipment and design of the EcoUnits are always optimized for the customer-specific research goal.