Auchencorth Moss - the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology’s ecosystem observatory that monitors greenhouse gases - is the first such monitoring station in the UK to receive the Integrated Carbon Observation System (ICOS) labelling, having passed rigorous ICOS quality assurance process for standardised data production. 

Auchencorth stands on a large expanse of peatland 20 km south of Edinburgh in Scotland. It is one of only a few stations in the world where the carbon exchange with the ecosystem has been measured long enough to study trends – over 20 years. 

Dr Eiko Nemitz, Principal Investigator for ICOS at Auchencorth Moss, UKCEH, said: “We’re delighted to get this recognition for our monitoring site. Peatland sites are globally important carbon stores as well as sensitive habitats often vulnerable to long-term environmental change. As temperatures rise due to climate change, the peat could release stored carbon as greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide and methane. Observing the levels of greenhouse gas emissions is essential to predict climate change and mitigate its consequences. Through our observations at Auchencorth Moss, we will help the world to better understand the behaviour of peatlands in response to climate change.”

Auchencorth Moss is situated on peatland that is dependent on inputs of nutrients via precipitation, such as rain and snow. It has reported that the carbon storage during the growing season has increased after mild winters and may therefore respond positively to climate change. Yet, long-term changes in precipitation patterns, particularly in the summer, can affect the balance between the carbon dioxide lost by the soil and removed from the atmosphere by the vegetation. Changes in water input into the peatland have the potential to influence the emissions of methane, another potent greenhouse gas, and impact the composition of the vegetation. ICOS is currently investigating these complex and often competing processes, because they respond to changing climate and because they could cause the peatland to act differently in the future. 

Eleven new stations received the ICOS label in Europe. Alongside the Ecosystem station at Auchencorth, in the UK, there is also the Atmospheric station at Weybourne, and three stations in Denmark, three in France and one in Italy.
ICOS has close to 150 stations across Europe, with the number of stations growing each year. After the 11 new labels, altogether 91 out of currently 148 candidate measurement stations have been standardised for greenhouse gas measurements.

ICOS data help to reveal the carbon emissions and sinks at the European level. The data are used by scientists who seek to understand the Earth system and its response to climate change and extreme weather period. They support various governmental bodies and international organisations that need science-based and relevant information on greenhouse gases in their decision-making, and in efforts to mitigate the consequences of climate change. The data can be accessed openly and freely at the ICOS Data Portal site.

Whilst Auchencorth is the only carbon flux site in the UK that is certified by, and reports to ICOS, UKCEH, together with partner organisations, operate a network of sites across the UK, covering a range of ecosystems. 

Measurements for ICOS range from the fluxes of carbon dioxide and methane and a wide range of meteorological parameters to the physical, chemical and biological characterisation of the vegetation and soil, and thus requires a large team. This team, in addition to Eiko Nemitz, includes Peter Levy and Carole Helfter (Principal Investigators), Karen Yeung (ICOS Station Management), Matthew Jones, Marsailidh Twigg and Duncan Harvey (Auchencorth site management and infrastructure support), Sarah Leeson, Mhairi Coyle and Netty van Dijk (atmospheric, plant and soil measurements).


For more about Auchencorth Moss which also measures a wide range of air pollutants visit https://www.ceh.ac.uk/our-science/monitoring-sites/auchencorth-moss-atmospheric-observatory