The river in the lab
MOBICOS research platform combines laboratory and field experiments
The Elbe, the second largest river of Germany, flows through Saxony-Anhalt's capital Magdeburg ‑ and also through the MOBICOS research container. Pumped into the mobile water laboratory by a submersible pump and cleared of sand in the sedimentation tank, fresh Elbe water is continuously fed into test basins such as flow channels, pelagic chambers and sediment compartments. Scientists from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) are using this method to research biological communities and material flow in true-to-life conditions. Experiments also allow specific parameters to be changed to investigate their effect on ecosystem processes. The laboratories are part of the TERENO network of terrestrial environmental observatories and have been funded by around 3.5 million euros from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and by the German federal states of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt. The UFZ operates the mobile mesocosms at a total of eight sites in Saxony-Anhalt. They are located at natural, and at relatively unspoilt bodies of running water, and at bodies of water strongly affected by human intervention.
The aim is to improve water quality, and one aspect under investigation by scientists in the special mobile containers is how sensitive ecosystems respond to changes in water temperature and light intensity, stressors such as pesticides and micropollutants, and increased nutrient contamination. A worrying rise in humic matter at dams is of particularly important issue for the supply of drinking water. Humic matter is the breakdown products of dead plants. It enters reservoirs and rivers through precipitation and ground water and leads to significant drinking water processing costs.
As they seek to improve the Elbe’s water quality and take the sensitive ecosystem a few steps closer to being balanced, scientists at the Magdeburg site are focussing their research on eutrophication, the disproportionate growth of algae. “Chlorophyll levels in the Rhine at Cologne are rarely above 50 micrograms (µg) per litre, but in the Elbe, up to 350 micrograms per litre can be measured during algal bloom,” says biologist Dr. Helge Norf. Such levels are many times higher than the maximum set in the European Water Framework Directive.
Too high a level of algae growth results in extreme day-to-night fluctuations in oxygen levels in the water as a result of photosynthesis and respiration. During the day, too high a concentration of oxygen can have a toxic effect on certain organisms and damage the gills of fish, for example; a sharp drop in water oxygen levels at night can in turn also pose a serious risk to many organisms. Algal bloom is followed by the oxygen-intensive breakdown of the dead algae by bacteria. “That is why it is important for the ecosystem that we minimise eutrophication in streams and rivers,” stresses Dr. Helge Norf. Work in the research container includes monitoring and testing the effects of flow, light intensity and temperature, pesticides and nutrients on the growth of algae in free water and on surfaces (biofilms).
What conclusions can be gained from these investigations? - Continue reading with one click.
Since 1 May and 31 October Saxony-Anhalt showcases at the world exhibition EXPO Milano 2015 as a centre of innovation of plant research. Saxony-Anhalt will present itself as an innovative and sustainable region in the heart of Germany, rich in culture and with much to see and experience. Visitors can discover a cross-section of this diverse state, as an attractive place for business, research and tourism. The cultural highlight in Saxony-Anhalt’s activities will be the “federal state days” from 27 to 31 May.
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Investment and Marketing Corporation Saxony-Anhalt (IMG)
IMG is the economic development agency of the German federal state Saxony-Anhalt. IMG staff provides all services related to new business sites. In addition, we are marketing Saxony-Anhalt both nationally and internationally and developing tourism concepts.
We search our site and property database with 250 industrial and trade estates for a location tailored to your needs. We provide competent and individual advice for greenfield and brownfield sites, office properties or production halls. First site information provided within 24 hours. Arrangement of site visits take place following your preliminary selection. We can advise you on public grant programmes for investments, identify potential partners and arrange meetings with them. We identify a point of contact for you with the public authorities, coordinate and carry out negotiations for you on a federal state, state district and municipal level as well as with official bodies and institutions. We were assigned by the Ministry for Science and Economic Affairs of Saxony-Anhalt to guide you as a one-stop agency through the investment process.
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