Measuring fluxes of trace gases and energy between ecosystems and the atmosphere – the state and future of the eddy covariance method



The application of the eddy covariance flux method to measure fluxes of trace gas and energy between ecosystems and the atmosphere has exploded over the past 25 years. This opinion paper provides a perspective on the contributions and future opportunities of the eddy covariance method. First, the paper discusses the pros and cons of this method relative to other methods used to measure the exchange of trace gases between ecosystems and the atmosphere. Second, it discusses how the use of eddy covariance method has grown and evolved. Today, more than 400 flux measurement sites are operating world-wide and the duration of the time series exceed a decade at dozens of sites. Networks of tower sites now enable scientists to ask scientific questions related to climatic and ecological gradients, disturbance, changes in land use, and management. The paper ends with discussions on where the field of flux measurement is heading. Topics discussed include role of open access data sharing and data mining, in this new era of big data, and opportunities new sensors that measure a variety of trace gases, like volatile organic carbon compounds, methane and nitrous oxide, and aerosols, may yield.