EU network of mesocosms facilities for research on marine and freshwater ecosystems open for global collaboration.

LIFE Infrastructure – ECP Facility

Legal name of organisation (short name)
Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique
Organisation address

INRAE – Aquapôle, Ibarron

64310 St-Pée-sur-Nivelle


Infrastructure (short name)
Infrastructure address

Aquapôle St Pée-sur-Nivelle, Basque-Country, France.

Coordinates / (routes, areas if non-static)
Facility location(s)
Description of the Infrastructure

Description of the infrastructure: LIFE-ECP is part of INRA, a multi-site infrastructure offering micro- meso- and macrocosms for the implementation of scientific programs focused on aquatic ecology. ECP facilities offer the opportunity to work with various sizes of artificial flowing-water mesocosms. They are located at two sites: at the INRA Aquapôle Campus and at Lapitxuri (15 km apart). The Aquapôle platform consists of an outdoor platform (60m2) for fish rearing equipped with 4 tanks (2.5 m3) and a series of circular tanks in multiple sizes (0.16m3, 0.5m3, 0.1m3). The indoor facilities consist of 4 experimental rooms, all equipped with independent temperature and light control, holding a series of circular flumes in various sizes (4-25 m3). Water (diverted from the nearby river Nivelle) velocity, substratum and depth can be controlled as well as flow direction to mimic tide. Indoor flumes can be connected to micro- respirometry devices, offering a total of 54 metabolic chambers of different sizes (4 cm3 to 4000 cm3).
The Lapitxuri semi-natural stream is fed by a diversion of two natural headwater streams. It consists into 12 consecutive reaches (10 x 2.8m) that are separated from each other by 2 downstream traps. Underwater rooms allow direct

observations through glass windows in two of these reaches. Under its basic arrangement the Lapitxuri semi-natural stream looks like a succession of riffle units with coarse and medium gravel substratum, 10-15 cm of water height and 12-17 cm s-1 water velocity. These parameters can be manipulated to create different habitats through changes in substratum quality and height, shelter additions, change in water height and/or flow input. At mid-distance, a flow diversion makes it possible to work with different flow values between the upstream and downstream part of the stream. The entire stream is protected from avian predation by nets and from unwanted fish entry by traps. The addition of a longitudinal division increases the number of pseudo-replicates to 24 reaches of 14 m2 each.

Tanks of different sizes fed in open-water allow to maintain fish under optimal conditions before and after experiments. A laboratory allows sampling, biometric or video-recording works. A wet room is dedicated to eggs, larvae or invertebrates rearing.

Aquapôle large flume (l), Lapitxuri semi-natural stream (r). Photos: Cheziere/UPPA; Glise/INRA.
Primary contact information (PI)

Jean-Christophe Aymes


Years of Mesocosm Experiments
1982 - present (large flume, semi-natural stream); 2009 - present (tidal aquaria,, outdoor large basin)
Description of Facility

St Pée facilities offer the opportunity to work with various sizes of artificial flowing-water mesocosms.

The Lapitxuri semi-natural stream (15 km from the INRA St Pée Institute) is fed by a diversion of a natural headwater stream. It is separated into 13 consecutive reaches (10m x 2.8m) allowing it to work with pseudo-replicates (each reach can be closed by downstream traps). T). Direct underwater observations can be performed on two reaches from an underground room. More classical mesocosms are available: 16 swedish tanks (2.5 m3), 8 circular tanks (0.1 m3), 6 indoor flumes (4.5 m long), 8 outdoor flumes (11m x 0.5m).

At the INRA St Pée Institute, a large 25 m3 circular flume (fluvarium) consists in 2 longitudinal sections (10 m x 1 m) separated by upstream and downstream traps. Water velocity (controlled by a propeller), light (twilight period possible), temperature (air+water), substratum and depth can be controlled.

Two smaller circular devices (tidal aquaria) consist of a 400 L aquarium where flow direction changes alternatively. They are located in two similar rooms, where air and water temperature, as well as light are controlled. It is used to investigate swimming behavior in tidal zone under different conditions or as replicates.

An outdoor large basin (756 m²) can be used under lentic (maximum depth: 4 m) or lotic (maximum depth: 80 cm) experimental situations. More classical mesocosms are available: 4 swedish tanks (2.5 m3), 2 series of 8 circular tanks (0. 16 or 0.5 m3), 1 series of 16 tanks (0.1 m3), 6 indoor flumes (1.50 m long).

Controlled Parameters
  • Discharge
  • water velocity
  • temperature
  • light
  • photoperiod
  • physical habitat and stream morphology
  • species compsition and individual characteristics
Research Topics

Evolution in Biodiversity under global change

Fish behavioral and physiological response to anthropogenic pressure (in particular for flow in context of climate change)

Primary interests

The LIFE Infrastructure is dedicated to the study of changes in freshwater ecosystems biodiversity with a primary interest in fish evolution and population dynamics. In this context, we also manipulate invertebrates, plants, mollusc, phyto and zooplankton. Major strengths of LIFE are its numerous facilities, the high expertise of its technical staff, and the possibility to perform experiments across a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. The main objective of  RI LIFE is to decipher the effects of multiple environmental forcings on individuals, populations or communities in order to inform management decisions for fish populations.

Specialist areas

Behavioral and evolutionary ecology of fish

In addition, the direct connection of PEARL and ECP, with ESE ( and ECOBIOP ( research teams ensures access to additional analytical platforms (environmental and analytical chemistry, trophic and molecular biology), as well as expertise of a broad scientific community.

Photos of experiments/installations

Lapitxuri semi-natural stream, Foto credit: Glise/INRA
Aerial view Lapitxuri, Foto credit: DeChanzy-Laurent
Flume, Photo credit: Cheziere/UPPA
Aerial view St Pée, Foto credit: Skiba/INRA

Infrastructure (short name)
Modality of access

Modality of access under AQUACOSM-plus: At least 110 person-days in total will be allocated to external users supported by an AQUACOSM-plus TA activity. It is anticipated that AQUACOSM-plus will support stays of at least 4 persons for 28 days per year in M22-33.

Unit of access


What service and support facilities are available

Services currently offered by the infrastructure: ECP runs relatively short-term experiments on the interactive effects of local and/or global changes on freshwater organisms (mainly fishes). Both sites (Aquapôle & Lapitxuri) function under running water conditions. All users will be offered technical, scientific and logistic support before and during the experiments as well as offices and lab space.

Various capture and trapping systems, video-recording (including IR and UV lighting) as well as RFID technology. At Aquapôle, a laboratory offers microscopes (with capture image system), scales, freezers -20° and -80°, a stove, an extractor hood, nitrogen containers. At the Lapitxuri site, the lab is equipped with a bench and a freezer. A microscope equipped with the capture image system can be transferred there.

Support offered under AQUACOSM-plus: Users will have access to the different facilities as well as to equipment and laboratories available at ECP (see above). Through collaboration with on-site researchers (, TA users will also benefit from additional skills and expertise of a broad scientific community. Accommodation is available in the vicinity of Aquapôle. At the Lapitxuri site, a container house equipped with two beds, a small kitchen and a toilet can be used when experiments necessitate 24 h sampling work.


St Pée Inra Institute: Several hotels or guest houses are available in St Pée-sur-Nivelle town (located at 30 min from Biarritz Airport/Train station).

Lapitxuri: (20 min from St Pée) A container house equipped with two beds, a small kitchen and a toilet at the experimental site.

Special rules