The study of ecosystem processes over multiple scales of space and time is often best achieved using comparable data from multiple sites. Yet, long-term ecological observatories have often developed their own data collection protocols. Here, we address this problem by proposing a set of ecological protocols suitable for widespread adoption by the ecological community. Scientists from the European ecological research community prioritized terrestrial ecosystem parameters that could benefit from a more consistent approach to data collection within the resources available at most long-term ecological observatories. Parameters for which standard methods are in widespread use, or for which methods are evolving rapidly, were not selected. Protocols were developed by domain experts, building on existing methods where possible, and refined through a process of field testing and training. They address above-ground plant biomass; decomposition; land use and management; leaf area index; soil mesofaunal diversity; soil C and N stocks, and greenhouse gas emissions from soils. These complement existing methods to provide a complete assessment of ecological integrity. These protocols offer integrated approaches to ecological data collection that are low cost and are starting to be used across the European Long Term Ecological Research community.
- biogeochemical cycles
- ecological Integrity
- ecological processes
- long term ecological research
- quality assurance of ecological data