Some perspectives of the SMEAR Estonia station

Text by Steffen Noe

From my personal perspective, building the comprehensive Station for Measuring Ecosystem-Atmosphere Relations – SMEAR  in Estonia took a decade. It was in spring 2005 when I had a meeting in Tõravere with Tiit Nilson about cooperation in assessing leaf area index data. That started my link to Tõravere and shortly after to our Finnish colleagues in Helsinki who already have been working 20 years with SMEAR stations in Finland. It followed a period of visits and collaboration in Estonia and Finland that finally led to the opening of the SMEAR Estonia station in August 2015. Of course I won’t bore you with all the details. The first step was made in 2008, when for the first time an ecosystem-atmosphere related measurement campaign was done in Järvselja at a small 20m high scaffolding tower. Since then, the measurements have been campaign wise until 2013.

From the funder’s perspective, SMEAR Estonia was in focus since 2010 as it is a part of the Estonian Environmental Observatory that, in turn, is part of the Estonian National Research Infrastructures Roadmap. During the year 2011, that cooperative research infrastructure project was applied and we succeeded. Currently, we apply for a second round of funding to develop the whole project including SMEAR Estonia on.

The Universities perspective on the SMEAR Estonia station came in 2012 into play. That time, the money was on the table and the building process really started. Now, procurements, accounting and building activities became an every day’s business. Securing the operation of the station is nowadays kept by large extend directly from the Universities.


The 130m high atmospheric measurement mast at the SMEAR Estonia station

In the year 2013, the 130m high atmospheric measurement mast, electrical power lines, road works and the main cottage were finished. It always feels a bit unreal if a vision becomes real. Even though, that sounds a bit weird, but that is how it feels. You now can touch in reality what have been so many years a vision and a target towards you have been working.


The main cottage and the Eddy covariance measurement system at 30m height

Until today, we are building on. There have been many measurement sensors and supporting techniques installed since 2013. Important parts are the aerosol cottage, that houses the aerosol and air ion measurement equipment of our colleagues from the Tartu University, Laboratory of Environmental Physics, two 30m high scaffolding towers for tree access, gas and particle flux measurements and soil and tree measurement systems were deployed. Since 2016, we have online data transmission to our website and the amount of sensors and experiments is growing constantly. By today, the station provides meteorological data (temperature, pressure, air humidity, wind, precipitation), gas concentrations (CO2, methane, water vapour, ozone, nitrogen oxides, sulphuric dioxide), energy input by sunlight (total and diffuse radiation), and number concentrations of aerosol particles and air ions. Further, fluxes of CO2, water vapour and air ions are measured in a 24/7 regime. Measurements of aboveground biomass, soil respiration, temperature and humidity, and tree growth are measured automated and manually.


The scientific dimension of the SMEAR Estonia station

A comprehensive large scale infrastructure as a station that measures a multitude of parameters of the ecosystem and the atmosphere combines many disciplines. It is a true multidisciplinary and multi-scale project. A close cooperation between basic science disciplines of Plant Physiology, Ecology, Atmospheric Chemistry, Atmospheric Physics, Meteorology, and Mathematics are present. Further, the proper operation needs applied sciences like Forestry, Electronic Engineering, Mechanics and Information Technology. The multi scale and multi disciplinary approach aims to answer questions of feedbacks and links in the geochemical cycles.


Sketch taken from Lappalainen et al. 2016. In urban and industrialised regions, the process understanding of biogeochemical cycles includes anthropogenic sources, such as industry and fertilisers, as essential parts of the biogeochemical cycles

Scientific progress is typically measured in output of research articles. If I look back to the last 9 years since I started the first integrated ecosystem-atmosphere measurements in Järvselja we had until 2014 five publications that used data obtained from the measurement campaigns at Järvselja. Since the SMEAR Estonia station became operable in 2014, another 8 publication have been published and five of them in the first half of the year 2016. That is, however, a substantial increase in just two years as compared to the first seven years.

The recent series of articles that have been published are “SMEAR Estonia: Perspectives of a large-scale forest ecosystem – atmosphere research infrastructure” published in Forestry Studies, 63, pp. It provides a fundamental description of the SMEAR Estonia station measurements and a short historical note of the development of the station. Within this article, the aim of the station to enable us to answer the grand challenges of our time: climate change, population growth, growing demand for energy and food resources, air quality, land use change, transport and urbanization; is brought up. The concept of the SMEAR Estonia station is to measure in a comprehensive multi-scale way the fluxes of Energy, Matter and Momentum within the Soil-Forest Ecosystem-Atmosphere continuum.


Working hypothesis of the SMEAR Estonia station. The aim is to track fluxes of energy, matter and momentum as well as concentrations with a multi scale approach in the complex adaptive system

The next articles are part of a special issue according the Finnish-Estonian Air Ion Workshop, a meeting that has already a very long tradition. First, the workshop was a platform to bring together Finnish and Estonian scientists that are related to the measurement of atmospheric aerosols and air ions. Since SMEAR Estonia has been realized, the workshop has become as well a platform to exchange scientific and technical topics around SMEAR type measurement stations. A special issue celebrating the 20th workshop was started in the journal Boreal Environment Research. Three articles are linked to the SMEAR Estonia station. First, “The legacy of Finnish-Estonian air ion workshops”, BER, 21, 181-206 provides an overview on the scientific and technical development of air ion spectrometers that are an integral part of SMEAR stations and introduces the SMEAR concept. The second article, “Seasonal variation and characterisation of reactive trace gas mixing ratios over a hemi-boreal mixed forest site”, BER 21, 332-344, gives an overview of two years measurements of reactive trace gases (ozone, nitrogen oxides and sulphuric dioxide) measured at the SMEAR Estonia station. It draws the focus on the seasonal and diurnal mixing ratio dynamics and changes in concentrations of pollution gases in a rather clean environment. Especially the interplay between local and distant sources and the impact of atmospheric transport on local air quality is described. The third article in that series, “Characteristics of new-particle formation at three SMEAR stations”, BER, 21, 345-362, compares the formation of aerosol and air ions at the SMEAR I station in Värriö, Lapland, SMEAR II station in Hyytiälä, Pirkanmaa, and SMEAR Estonia at Järvselja. This paper shows one of the new possibilities of the SMEAR network; a transect of about 1100 km spanning over the northern hemisphere that can be used to assess large scale phenomena like particle formation. Further, the impact of the local forest ecosystems can be assessed. These articles have been all written in cooperation between Estonian and Finnish scientists and emphasise the benefit of the SMEAR Estonia station to foster international research. Together with articles on the PEEX project and methyl-ethyl ketone (link to earlier blog post) where cooperation with German, Brazilian, US, British and scientists from other countries took place, the international level of the research conducted at SMEAR Estonia is clearly visible.

Another success indicator is the amount of projects that have been centred on the new infrastructure. While in 2008, a 10 000 Euro grant of the European Science Foundation enabled the first measurement campaign of one month. The infrastructure investment into the SMEAR station in Järvselja for the period 2010 to 2015 was about 2 million Euros. The BioAtmos project from 2012 to 2014 added about 1.5 million Euros shared between the Tartu University, the Estonian University of Life Sciences and the Tartu Observatory. Further, a grant to integrate the SMEAR Estonia station into the international SMEAR network (INSMEARIN) added 125 000 Euros for the period from 2013 to 2015. Already in 2010, the Estonian Centre of Excellence ENVIRON and its successor EcolChange integrated the access to the SMEAR Estonia station into their programs. On international and European scale, the station is since 2012 part of the Pan-Eurasian Experiment PEEX and since 2016 also a partner in the Horizon 2020 project ERA-Planet.


The educational dimension of the SMEAR Estonia station

Since the first measurement campaigns Estonian scientists have been participated in and contributed to international training courses utilising the data obtained from the measurement station. In 2014, the SMEAR Estonia station was the host of the international intensive course “Physics and Chemistry of Air Pollution and Their Effects”. The course took place in Järvselja and all together 42 persons (teachers and students) participated.

I have been involved into teaching in the frame of the Nordic Master Program “Atmosphere Biosphere Studies” since 2009 and gave lectures in the Estonian University of Life Sciences, University of Helsinki, Lund University and participated in many intensive courses in Helsinki and Hyytiälä, Finland. Since 2012, I also participate in the Nordplus program CCTIG Climate Change Teaching in Iceland and Greenland, that aims to bring together students and teachers from Nordic and Baltic countries to widen the perspective of students within natural science by presenting changes of the cryosphere in the Arctic, research on this topic and its effects on the local societies.


The experimental dimension of the SMEAR Estonia station

A platform like the SMEAR Estonia station allows hosting a multitude of experiments, that in the best case are national and international cooperation’s. During August 2016, a measurement campaign with Austrian colleagues from the University of Innsbruck is scheduled to assess fluxes of carbonyl sulphide (COS) in the hemiboreal forest ecosystem.

Another, very important point, is the dissemination of data produced by the SMEAR Estonia station to the public audience on national and international level. A first step are the online data visualised on the website and the aim is to allow access to the growing amount of data in near future via web based solutions.


Steffen M. Noe, senior scientist


SMEAR Estonia publications


Vana M., Komsaare K., Hõrrak U., Mirme S., Nieminen T., Kontkanen J., Manninen H.E., Petäjä T., Noe S.M. & Kulmala M. 2016: Characteristics of new-particle formation at three SMEAR stations. Boreal Env. Res. 21: 345–362. Download

Kulmala M., Hõrrak U., Manninen H.E., Mirme S., Noppel M., Lehtipalo K., Junninen H., Vehkamäki H., Kerminen V.-M., Noe S.M. & Tammet H. 2016: The legacy of Finnish–Estonian air ion and aerosol workshops. Boreal Env. Res. 21: 181–206. Download

Yáñez-Serrano, A. M., Nölscher, A. C., Bourtsoukidis, E., Derstroff, B., Zannoni, N., Gros, V., Lanza, M., Brito, J., Noe, S. M., House, E., Hewitt, C. N., Langford, B., Nemitz, E., Behrendt, T., Williams, J., Artaxo, P., Andreae, M. O., and Kesselmeier, J.: Atmospheric mixing ratios of methyl ethyl ketone (2-butanone) in tropical, boreal, temperate and marine environments, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., doi:10.5194/acp-2016-317, in review, 2016. Download from the journal website

Lappalainen, H. K., Kerminen, V.-M., Petäjä, T., Kurten, T., Baklanov, A., Shvidenko, A., Bäck, J., Vihma, T., …, Hõrrak, U.,… Noe, S.M., …, 2016. Pan-Eurasian Experiment (PEEX): Towards holistic understanding of the feedbacks and interactions in the land–atmosphere–ocean–society continuum in the Northern Eurasian region. In Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss. (in review).Download from the journal website

Noe S.M., Krasnov D., Krasnova A., Cordey H.P.E. & Niinemets Ü. 2016: Seasonal variation and characterisation of reactive trace gas mixing ratios over a hemi-boreal mixed forest site in Estonia. Boreal Env. Res. 21: 332–344. Download


Forkel, R., Guenther, A., Ashworth, K., Bedos, C., Delon, C., Lathiere, J., Noe, S., Potier, E., Rinne, J., Tchepel, O. and Zhang, L., 2015. Bi-directional Exchange of Volatile Organic Compounds. In Review and Integration of Biosphere-Atmosphere Modelling of Reactive Trace Gases and Volatile Aerosols (pp. 169-179). Springer Netherlands. Download from the journal website

Theobald, M., Loubet, B., Ammann, C., Branislava, L., Chojnicki, B., Ganzeveld, L., Grosz, B., Kaasik, M., Noe, S., Olejnik, J. and Rinne, J., 2015. In-Canopy Turbulence—State of the Art and Potential Improvements. In Review and Integration of Biosphere-Atmosphere Modelling of Reactive Trace Gases and Volatile Aerosols (pp. 215-223). Springer Netherlands. Download from the journal website


Smolander, S., He, Q., Mogensen, D., Zhou, L., Bäck, J., Ruuskanen, T., Noe, S., Guenther, A., Aaltonen, H., Kulmala, M., and Boy, M. (2014). Comparing three vegetation monoterpene emission models to measured gas concentrations with a model of meteorology, air chemistry and chemical transport. Biogeosciences, 11(19), pp.5425–5443. Download from the journal website

Efstratios Bourtsoukidis, Boris Bonn, Steffen M. Noe (2014), On-line field measurements of Bvoc emissions from Norway spruce (Picea abies) at the hemiboreal SMEAR-Estonia site under autumn conditions, Boreal environment research 19 Download


Sun, Z., Niinemets, Ü., Hüve, K., Rasulov, B. and Noe, S. M. (2013), Elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration leads to increased whole-plant isoprene emission in hybrid aspen (Populus tremula × Populus tremuloides). New Phytologist, 198: 788–800. Download from the journal website

Ülo Niinemets, Paolo Ciccioli, Steffen M. Noe, and Markus Reichstein (2013), Scaling BVOC Emissions from Leaf to Canopy and Landscape: How Different Are Predictions Based on Contrasting Emission Algorithms?, in Biology, Controls and Models of Tree Volatile Organic Compound Emissions, Ü. Niinemets and R.K. Monson (eds.), 357-390, Tree Physiology 5, Springer Science + Business Media Dordrecht 2013 Download from the journal website

Lukjanova, Aljona, Mandre, Malle, Saarman, Gerly (2013), Impact of Alkalisation of the Soil on the Anatomy of Norway Spruce (Picea abies) Needles. Water, Air, & Soil Pollution, 224(7), 1-12 Download from the journal website


Noe, S. M., Hüve, K., Niinemets, Ü., and Copolovici, L. (2012) Seasonal variation in vertical volatile compounds air concentrations within a remote hemiboreal mixed forest, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 3909-3926 Download from the journal website


Steffen M. Noe, Veljo Kimmel, Katja Hüve, Lucian Copolovici, Miguel Portillo-Estrada, Ülle Püttsepp, Kalev Jõgiste, Ülo Niinemets, Lukas Hörtnagl, Georg Wohlfahrt (2011), Ecosystem-scale biosphere–atmosphere interactions of a hemiboreal mixed forest stand at Järvselja, Estonia, Forest Ecology and Management, Volume 262, Issue 2, 15 July 2011, Pages 71-81 Download from the journal website


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One Response to Some perspectives of the SMEAR Estonia station

  1. Pingback: Steffen 50 – congratulations! | Ülo Niinemets’ Lab

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