Helmholtz Association

Water research in containers

Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ

Ein gut ausgestattetes Labor ist im MOBICOS-Container eingerichtet und ermöglicht Analysen und Experimente vor Ort. Foto: Jürgen Lösel


Eine MOBICOS-Anlage erlaubt Experimente im Ökosystem von Flüssen oder Seen unter naturnahen Bedingungen. An originalem Freilandwasser können die Forscher gezielt untersuchen, wie Organismen auf Belastungen reagieren. Foto: Helge Norf/UFZRead more

Although targeted efforts to improve water quality have been underway for decades, only about 10 percent of water bodies are in good ecological condition as defined by the European Water Framework Directive.

Surface and ground water bodies must be “healthy” in order to provide clean drinking water and other ecosystem services over the long term. In order to understand how freshwater ecosystems respond to various stresses, UFZ researchers led by Professor Dietrich Borchardt, Professor Markus Weitere and Dr. Helge Norf have developed a large mobile mesocosm system called MOBICOS. The system consists of containers that are set up close to water bodies and fed with water, thereby creating a “natural” testing environment. “The surface water is directed into various test basins in the containers. Researchers can then examine and experimentally manipulate the water – e.g. by adding nutrients or changing the temperature,” says water ecologist Mark Weitere. In one MOBICOS container scientists are currently carrying out a comparative study of the ecology of the Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea) in the Rhine and Elbe rivers. The clam filters algae from the water column and thus prevents their excessive growth (eutrophication). The Asian clam is found in large numbers in the Rhine, yet it is relatively rare in the Elbe, although the food supply and sediments in the latter provide an optimal environment. An identical experiment is underway at the Ecological Rhine Station of Cologne University to determine the causes of the different contributions made by the Asian clam to ecosystem functions in the Rhine and Elbe. The containers are also being used in the Helmholtz Association’s Terrestrial Environmental Observatories (TERENO), a long-term project in four German regions that aims to catalogue the development of the climate, water and soil and to provide a foundation for reliable model-based predictions.


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Dr. Cathrin Brüchmann

Research Field Earth and Environment

Helmholtz Association

Phone: +49 30 206329-45
cathrin.bruechmann (at) helmholtz.de

Communications and Media

Helmholtz Association

Phone: +49 30 206329-57
presse (at) helmholtz.de