A globally unique research facility has been floating on Lake Geneva since 2019. With automatic measuring sensors and multidisciplinary collaboration, it will significantly improve our understanding of lakes.
Lakes are sensitive and complex ecosystems that provide habitats for numerous species and supply us humans with the vital resource of drinking water. Although they have been studied for a long time, there are still puzzles that make it difficult to assess how lakes react to climate change, for example, or how they can be protected from adverse effects such as pesticides or nutrient inputs. For this reason, a globally unique research station for lake research has been floating on Lake Geneva since 2019. LéXPLORE. It is around 100 square metres in size and equipped with high-tech sensors that can continuously measure physical, chemical and biological parameters down to a depth of 110 metres. Thus, it also detects rapidly changing processes such as temperature fluctuations. Combined with other monitoring data, these measurements help to better understand long-term developments such as the accumulation of pollutants or the decline in phosphorus levels.
Sensors also work at night
Traditionally, lakes are explored by taking water samples from ships or with locally anchored measuring instruments. The samples are then prepared, taken to a laboratory and analysed there. Sampling and analysis are associated with a high technical and logistical effort, which has so far severely limited the frequency and scope of measurements. Consequently, continuous 24-hour measurements were almost unavailable, as it is rare for samples to be taken at night. However, many processes in lake ecosystems, such as primary production and the associated oxygen concentration, follow a circadian rhythm and can therefore only be adequately monitored by 24-hour measurements. The LéXPLORE research station offers new possibilities for this. It has sensors that take automated and continuous measurements and sends their data directly to the computers of the “Datalakes” data platform, where it is stored, processed and made available in real time on a public portal.