Research and quantification of regional greenhouse gas budgets requires an interdisciplinary scientific approach together with new observation techniques. In the past, this has been approached by individual disciplinary research groups (atmosphere, ecosystems, ocean), often over time-periods limited by individual project lifetimes. The combination of different disciplinary approaches through European projects such as CarboEurope-IP or CarboOcean-IP led to a scientific breakthrough: For the first time, various data streams could be integrated and used for mutual verification.
Europe plays a leading role in the combination of atmospheric, marine, and terrestrial observations, which allows for the evaluation of the influence of land-use changes, climatic variability, and changes within marine systems on the greenhouse gas balance. ICOS was thus recognized as an important research infrastructure and added to the roadmap of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) in the year 2006. ICOS is of great importance for basic research in Earth Sciences, as only research projects planned on a long-term basis enable us to analyse and break down slow processes and trends in the earth system, and to differentiate them from the background natural variability.
The integrative approach of ICOS is consolidated in the development of the infrastructure since 2012 and the inclusion of ICOS in the national roadmap for research infrastructures. Based on the long-term, homogeneous data basis thus provided, innovative new research approaches for the integration of the various observation data streams are expected. This provides a long-term basis for interdisciplinary basic research and for a deeper understanding of the processes controlling greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.