ICOS-NLIntegrated Carbon Observing System – Netherlands

Contact details:

Prof. dr. A.J. Dolman
VU University Amsterdam Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences Department of Earth Sciences De Boelelaan 1085 1081 HV Amsterdam
Loobos boswachterij Kootwijk, Cabauw Lopik, Lutjewad Hornhuizen; Wageningen University, Dept of Meteorology and Air Quality

ICOS-NL is the Dutch pillar under the European ICOS Research Infrastructure (ICOS-RI), a key ESFRI established in September 2015 with the Netherlands as founding member. ICOS-RI will independently verify the greenhouse gas (GHG) balance of Europe from a large network of coordinated GHG measurements, in support of (inter)national energy policies and climate agreements. Within ICOS-RI, ICOS-NL provides a set of unique GHG monitoring platforms across the highly GHG intensive Dutch landscape, as well as the “Carbon Portal” Central Facility for eScience. ICOS enables fast progress in the field of GHG science which is needed to understand the interactions between climate change and human society.

The “Integrated Carbon Observing System Netherlands” (ICOS-NL) is a national infrastructure that aims
to independently track the emission and uptake of greenhouse gases from our atmosphere. It targets
scales ranging from cities, to provinces, to countries, and even to continents. At many of these scales,
self-reported emissions by industry are unreliable, uptake and release by natural systems are unknown,
and the effects of climate change on large reservoirs of carbon are poorly monitored. This leads to large
uncertainties on reported greenhouse gas budgets across Europe, and hampers the implementation of
effective climate change mitigation policies.
ICOS-NL consists of the following facilities:
(a) a distributed network of monitoring platforms where we continuously measure the present state of
greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere (CO2, CH4, N2O), as well as their exchange with the landand
ocean surface.
(b) the Carbon Portal Central Facility that manages and distributes all ICOS-RI related GHG data in
ICOS-NL contributes these facilities to the larger ICOS-RI ESFRI, which is funded by contributions from
all member states. When combined, these facilities enable scientific breakthroughs in our understanding
of anthropogenic and natural greenhouse gas cycling, as well as independent verification of GHG
reports at various levels. Key to such understanding is the density of the GHG monitoring network, as
well as its long-term accuracy, stability and continuity. This in turn depends on the long-term
commitment to the establishment and maintenance of national GHG monitoring infrastructures by each
member country.
Resources committed to the ICOS-RI for the period 2015-2020 are provided by the ICOS-NL consortium
(see governance in Section 3). They contribute four GHG monitoring platforms that are currently
operational and have a long record of excellent measurements following the international specifications
set by the World Meteorological Organization. These platforms are the Cabauw Experimental Site for
Atmospheric Research (CESAR, 22 years of existing GHG data) the Lutjewad atmospheric observatory
(12+ years of existing GHG data), the Loobos ecosystem monitoring site (20+ years of existing GHG
data) and the Pelagia/Polarstern Research Vessels for coastal sea and open ocean monitoring (20+
years of existing GHG data). In addition, ICOS-NL contributes 1 FTE of support to the Dutch-Swedish
“Carbon Portal”, an important central facility of ICOS-RI.
The ICOS infrastructure is used by hundreds of scientists worldwide (see Section 3) to create GHG
information in support of national and international energy policies and climate agreements. The
infrastructure enables them to address key questions in greenhouse gas monitoring, carbon cycle
science, and climate change mitigation. Examples are:
• How large are the GHG emissions in urban conglomerates (such as the Dutch Randstad), and how
can we monitor them independently over long periods of time in the proximity of changing natural
sources and sinks?
• How do greenhouse gas emissions from different activities (i.e., power production, road traffic,
residential heating, or glasshouse horticulture) in a city or country evolve over time? Do the
independent measurements agree with reported emissions and reduction targets?
• How is the GHG sequestration capacity of the Atlantic ocean and European coastal seas changing
as it acidifies due to fossil fuel CO₂ uptake? What is the impact on marine ecosystems?
• Which terrestrial ecosystems are responsible for the current sequestration of close to 30% of the
anthropogenic fossil fuel emissions from Europe? How vulnerable are they to changes in climate?
Can we manage them to maintain or increase this mitigation capacity?