Flux stations are a critical measurement tool in the agrifood industry’s quest to reach climate goals

Learn how a global network of stations is key in measuring and supporting the agrifood industry's efforts to reach net-zero emissions

March 23, 2023
While the agriculture, forestry, and other land-use sector generates about a quarter of global emissions, it can play a critical role in climate change mitigation through land-based carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration. A global network of flux stations will play a key role in facilitating this process at scale.

Food & beverage companies are committing to climate goals and testing agricultural interventions along their supply chains. But understanding the impact of these interventions on land-based CO2 emissions and sequestration is notoriously difficult, especially when supply chains are global and fragmented. Comprehensive, on-site measurements are expensive and can’t feasibly occur frequently enough. Self-reported data is biased. And industry averages don’t account for local variations.

So how do you measure the impact of agricultural practices on land-based CO2 emissions and sequestration along a global supply chain, in an accurate and cost-effective manner? There’s a global network of stations that can help.

For the past 40 years, flux stations have made continuous, direct measurements of the flux (e.g., emissions and sequestration rates) of CO2, water vapor, methane, heat, and more between the atmosphere and terrestrial ecosystems in climate zones and biomes all over the world. Flux stations are one of the best, most direct tools we have for addressing the current climate crisis and scaling the agrifood industry’s climate mitigation efforts.

Why are flux stations so great?
Before getting into the details of how they work, you should first know why they matter. Flux stations can help inform climate-smart agriculture practices and ensure success for nature-based CO2 removal solutions for a few key reasons:

Direct Measurements
  • The ability to make measurements in situ without disturbing the ecosystem is a huge advantage.1
  • The measurements collected from stations are reviewed by teams of researchers who process and analyze the data before submitting it to the global database.1
  • Direct ecosystem measurements mean the use of emission factors and other industry averages and proxies is not necessary, so you end up with primary data.
Historical Data
  • Decades of measurements help us understand how an ecosystem is responding over time to climate change.
  • Historical data helps us quantify the effects of new practices and interventions on the land as compared to the past.
High Temporal Resolution
  • With continuous monitoring, we understand both daily and seasonal CO2 flux, which is crucial in arriving at the total CO2 balance of the ecosystem.
Diversity of Data
  • With over 2,000 stations across the world (Figure 1), relevant flux data is available for projects near globally.
  • Stations are located in grasslands, croplands, wetlands, forests, and other land cover types.

Figure 1. Map of current and past flux stations 2

How do flux stations work?
A flux station is typically between 2 and 60 meters tall and is equipped with instruments that use the eddy covariance method to measure the exchange of CO2 between the land and the atmosphere (Figure 2). The station also includes sensors that measure other environmental variables, such as temperature, humidity, solar radiation, wind speed, and direction. These variables are essential in understanding the factors that affect CO2 flux.

For more information, check out this flux station overview from Dr. George Burba, a Science and Strategy Fellow at LI-COR Biosciences and Global Fellow at DWFI.

Figure 2. Flux station 3

How is this data relevant globally?
These stations serve as an ideal and critical component in developing and tuning remote sensing models. When combined with satellite data, the insights gained from flux stations can expand beyond the stations’ immediate reach.

Here at CarbonSpace, we’ve developed a technology to achieve this. We’ve trained machine-learning models with direct measurements from flux stations, correlated them with satellite imagery, and thus expanded the coverage and impact of flux station data.

Because our technology’s basis is primary data, we don’t rely on any industry averages, proxies, or self-reported data. This means our accuracy is within 5-15% of true values.

Check out our peer-reviewed article for more information about our approach: Globally Scalable Approach to Estimate Net Ecosystem Exchange Based on Remote Sensing, Meteorological Data, and Direct Measurements of Eddy Covariance Sites

How does this apply to the agrifood industry?
By leveraging remote sensing models fine-tuned with flux station data, the agrifood industry can monitor global supply chains accurately and cost-effectively.

Remote sensing models fine-tuned with flux station data enable:
Supplier Assessment
  • Link procurement and sustainability teams with valuable insights on supplier performance
  • Generate product premiums
  • Rank suppliers for preferential sourcing and contracts
Deforestation-free Sourcing
  • Use NEE to check continuously for deforestation along your supply chain
  • Assess new supply areas
  • Comply with regulations
Carbon Claims
  • Generate carbon claims on land-use operations
  • Measure regenerative practices along your supply chain
  • Update your product LCA

Reach out to us at info@carbonspace.tech if you’d like to learn more about this topic and how you can leverage CarbonSpace technology to monitor your supply chain or nature-based CO2 removal projects.

We'd love to hear from you!

  1. About the FLUXNET Network. FLUXNET. (2022, March 3). Retrieved March 10, 2023, from https://FluxNet.org/about/
  2. Burba G., 2019. Illustrative Maps of Past and Present Eddy Covariance Measurement Locations: II. High-Resolution Images. Retrieved March 9, 2019, from https://www.researchgate.net. 9 pp. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.33191.70561
  3. Climate Data Guide. FLUXNET | Climate Data Guide. (n.d.). Retrieved March 9, 2023, from https://climatedataguide.ucar.edu/climate-data/FluxNet