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The handbook for standardised field and laboratory measurements in terrestrial climate-change experiments and observational studies

Climate change is a worldwide threat to biodiversity and ecosystem structure, functioning, and services. To understand the underlying drivers and mechanisms and predict the ecological consequences, we urgently need better understanding of the direction and magnitude of climate-change impacts across the soil–plant–atmosphere continuum. An increasing number of climate-change studies is creating new opportunities for meaningful and high-quality generalisation and improved process understanding. However, significant challenges exist related to data availability and/or compatibility across studies, compromising opportunities for data re-use, synthesis, and upscaling. Many of these challenges relate to a lack of an established “best practice” for how to measure key impacts and responses. This restrains our current understanding of complex processes and mechanisms in terrestrial ecosystems related to climate change. To overcome these challenges, we collected best-practice methods emerging from major ecological research networks and experiments, as synthesised by 114 experts from across the field. The resulting ‘handbook for standardised field and laboratory methods for terrestrial climate-change experiments and observational studies’ contains guidance on a selection of response variables, protocols for standardised measurements of 66 such response variables, and advice on data management. We recommend a minimal subset of variables that should be collected in all climate-change studies to support data re-use and syntheses. We also give guidance on variables critical for different types of synthesis and upscaling. The goal of this community effort is to facilitate awareness of the importance and broader application of standardised methods to promote data availability, compatibility, and transparency. We envision improved research practices that will increase returns on investments in individual research projects, facilitate second-order research outputs, and create opportunities for collaboration across the scientific community. Ultimately, this should significantly improve the quality and impact of the science required to fulfil society’s needs in a changing world.

Chapter 1