View of the ‘fluxbot’ electronics, both as a schematic and installed in the field.
View of the ‘fluxbot’ electronics, both as a schematic (left) and installed in the field (right). The total cost of materials for one of these do-it-yourself systems was $362. Credit: Forbes et al. [2023], Figure 2
Editors’ Highlights are summaries of recent papers by AGU’s journal editors.
Source: Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences

Biogeosciences field research has traditionally required expensive instruments running proprietary software, and partly as a result, relatively little such research has been conducted in resource-constrained developing countries. This is both a moral and scientific problem, as climate change impacts will likely be strongest in these same countries, especially in dryland and tropical regions.

Forbes et al. [2023] developed and tested inexpensive, robotic, autonomous chambers measuring soil respiration—the flow of CO2 from the soil to the atmosphere, one of the largest carbon fluxes in the earth system—in a central Kenyan savanna ecosystem. The system is run by open-source software and can be deployed in remote or otherwise challenging locations. After collecting almost two months of hourly data, the authors carefully documented the system’s performance, strengths, and weaknesses as it logged over 10,000 flux measurements.

Such innovative, low-cost, and rugged systems hold the potential to support new observational networks in understudied ecosystems, expand scientific equity and access for both individuals and under-resourced nations, and improve the cost-effectiveness of biogeosciences research more generally. 

Citation: Forbes, E., Benenati, V., Frey, S., Hirsch, M., Koech, G., Lewin, G., et al. (2023). Fluxbots: A method for building, deploying, collecting and analyzing data from an array of inexpensive, autonomous soil carbon flux chambers. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 128, e2023JG007451.

—Benjamin Bond-Lamberty, Editor, JGR: Biogeosciences

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