Chinese Ecosystem Research Network(CERN) - The past, present and future

Zhao Shidong

(Commission for Integrated Survey of Natural Resources,

Chinese Academy of sciences)

In order to meet the challenges of national needs for providing scientific foundation to the decision-making process on the ecological issues and the development of ecology, especially in the fields of global change and sustainable development, the Chinese Ecosystem Research Network(CERN) was launched in 1988 under the support of the Chinese Academy of Sciences(CAS). Because of the achievements, CERN has become the very important base for the long-term ecological research and monitoring in China and a component of the global ecological networks in the world.


Since 1950s, about 113 field stations for monitoring and research in the deferent parts of China by CAS, which have provided very important roles for both ecological research and improving the agricultural production. Based on the representative of ecosystem , personnel, facilities and international cooperation, 29 stations were selected for making CERN in 1988, among which 16 for agriculture, 7 for forestry, 2 for grassland, 2 for lake and 2 for bay ecosystem. As to the design, the top-down approach, integrity of network, standardization of methodology, data management and managerial demonstration of ecosystem are emphasized from the very beginning.

The features of design of CERN

1) As a general principal of the design, the Top-down approach was taken, which means that all of the units of the network should follow the unified principals, and the major activities, including research and monitoring would be supported by the central funds.

2)As far as the overall network is concerned, it emphasizes the network integrity, overall objectives, and direct service to the sustainable utilization of natural resources and the environmental protection.

3)In terms of monitoring and observation, it enforces the unification and standardization of methodologies and even instruments.

4) When considering data collection, it focuses on the standardization of the data formats, data quality control, data sharing , data synthesis and analysis.

5)While concerning research methodology, it encourages the network (cross-site) and the multi- disciplinary way of research, including the involvement of social sciences, and the networking research, based on the unified objectives and methodology.

6) Considering the severer situations on ecosystem management in China, the demonstrations on sustainable ecosystem is taken as one of priority tasks for all of the stations.

Goals and tasks

Goals: Through the long-term in situ observation combined with space based observation and GIS, GPS and ecological modeling, monitoring and researching the changes on ecosystem and environment, providing the scientific bases for decision-making process on environment and natural resources, and then making contributions to the socio-economic sustainable development of China.

Tasks are as follows

1.To conduct the long-term monitoring programs on the countrys ecosystems on agriculture, forestry, grassland, lake and bay and the environmental factors, like water, soil and air.

2.To conduct the research programs on structure, function and dynamics of the ecosystems, the approaches and methods for the sustainable utilization of these systems.

3.To provide the optimal managerial models to the people of local communities for the sustainable utilization of the local natural resources and the improvement of the local

living environment.

4.To provide the scientific foundations to the decision-makers at various levels for concerning the utilization of natural resources and environment.

5.To contribute to the solution of the global ecological and environmental issues through

active participation in the international ecological research projects.

Present status

Through the efforts in last decade, the following achievements have been made:

1. All of the stations have been equiped with basic facilities for ecological monitoring and


2.The computer network and the distributed database will be finished very soon, which will provide a solid base for the data processing and data sharing.

3.The monitoring and research programs have been implemented.

4.Actively join the international collaboration on ecological research.

Based on these achievements, CERN already became a very important base for ecological research in China and a essential component of global ecological networks.


1.Working with other agencies and making a cross agency network for ecological monitoring and research at national scale.

2.Solving the scientific issues:

Data management through the whole process of data flow.

Data sharing cross the units of CERN and with other agencies or networks.

Scaling from a leaf to an ecosystem or even larger scale.

Integrated study through involving more disciplinaries of natural and socio-economic fields.

Liking with the key issues on science and sustainable development