Such controlled environment facilities are not novel, as ecologists have for example used growth rooms or phytotrons with individual plants in pots for decades, but the AnaEE enclosed platforms are unique in their whole-ecosystem level design and measurement technologies. According to AnaEE criteria, these platforms need to comprise at least 12 individually controllable exposure units, in order to be able to fully cross at least two environmental pressures in a two-by-two factorial design with three replicates.
The most advanced category of such platforms, Ecotrons, are equipped to measure multiple ecosystem processes in those exposure units in real-time and in an automated fashion, thus allowing continuous tracking of the ecosystem responses to the imposed pressures (e.g. greenhouse gas absorption and emission in photosynthesis and respiration, evapotranspiration).
In AnaEE, Ecotrons can operate in many different modes:
(1) as short-term or long-term exposure environments;
(2) as an ecosystem analyser, by bringing whole pieces of ecosystems from open-air or natural habitats elsewhere temporarily into the Ecotron enclosure and measuring ecosystem processes
(3) as one component of two linked platforms containing the same ecosystem type, for example, an open-air platform that supplies microclimate data from the field to drive the climate control in the Ecotron in real-time
(4) as one component of a coupled experiment-model system, where the model continuously feeds back to the measurements in order to optimize the timing and nature of the sampled data, which in turn simultaneously improves the model, in a continuous loop (self-steering experiment). Depending on the requirements, studies can be allocated to either such more advanced controlled environment facilities or to more basic ones, which optimizes the use of the available facilities at a European scale.