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

LIFE Infrastructure – PEARL facility

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


Agnes Bardonnet

64310 St-Pée-sur-Nivelle



65, rue de St Brieuc

35 042 Rennes cedex,


Infrastructure (short name)
Infrastructure address

Freshwater Biological Station, AgroCampusOuest, Rennes, Brittany, France.

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

Description of the infrastructure: LIFE-PEARL is part of INRA, a multi-site infrastructure offering micro- meso- and macrocosms for the implementation of scientific programs focused on aquatic ecology. Facilities located on Rennes Agro-Campus consist of a large-scale mesocosm platform and 2 indoor facilities. The large-scale mesocosm platform includes 7 series of 90 mesocosms (2-30m3) and allows for extremely high replication of experimental treatments. Pond communities can be generated ranging from invertebrates to fish for studying their response to external natural or anthropogenic forcing. Mesocosms are also equipped for ecotoxicology experiments and manipulation of invasive species. The 2 indoor-facilities are organised in a series of 12 rooms (7 to 28m2) with accurate temperature, photoperiod and dissolved oxygen concentration control and manipulation features. Depending on requests and research programs, different types of structures (tanks, aquariums, crystallisers) can be installed.

Finally, at Le Rheu (5 km from Rennes) hosts 31 large earth ponds of various sizes (100, 250, 500 or 1000 m2) that are filled by pumping water from the nearby river and may be subdivided or installed with cages.

Rennes AgroCampusOuest incl. series of 12 large outdoor mesocosms (left) and aerial view of the earth ponds at Le Rheu (right) in France. Photos: ©Beaumont/INRA; ©Geoportail/IGN.
Primary contact information (PI)

Eric Edeline


Years of Mesocosm Experiments
1987 - prensent (large earth ponds); 1997 - present (mesocosms platform and indoor microcosms)
Description of Facility

Our platforms are engineered for versatility and adaptation to a large range of experimental designs.

The Rennes platform includes about 200 mesocosms (0.4 to 30 m3) and allows for a high replication of experimental treatments. We can reconstruct pond communities from invertebrates to fish to study their response to external forcing (natural or anthropogenic). Our mesocosms are also equipped for ecotoxicology experiments and manipulation of invasive species (we are accredited and master confinement and treatment procedures).

Additionally, a series of outdoor tanks are equipped for thermal experiments (up to 4°C above ambient temperature).

The mesocosm platform is complemented with an 800 m2 indoor microcosm (10-to-400 L) facility in which we can accurately manipulate environmental factors, and where we routinely culture a variety of organisms (algae, plants, plankton, invertebrates, amphibians, fish…).

Finally, at Le Rheu (5 km from Rennes) we further propose a series of large earth ponds of 100, 350, 500 or 1000 m3, which all may be  subdivided or installed with cages.

Controlled Parameters
  • Temperature (including via thermistors)
  • rain
  • light
  • photoperiod
  • nutrients
  • community structure (species and trophic composition)
  • gas (CO2, O2)
Research Topics

Population dynamics and community change in response to environment (in particular for contaminants in the context of global 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

Population and community dynamics, Environment, Ecotoxicology

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

Series of mesocosms 30 m3 and 9 m3, Foto credit: Beaumont/INRA
Aerial view ponds station, Foto credit: Geoportrail/IGN
Series of 30 mesocosms, Foto credit: Beaumont/INRA
Aerial view Rennes experimental complex; Foto credit: Caquet/INRA

Infrastructure (short name)
Modality of access

Modality of access under AQUACOSM-plus: At least 240 person-days in total will be allocated to external users supported by an AQUACOSM TA activity. A minimum of 6 visiting scientists over 40 days for one year, anticipated between M22-M33, are welcome to join ongoing experiments.

Unit of access


What service and support facilities are available

Services currently offered by the infrastructure: PEARL runs relatively long-term experiments on the interactive effects of local and/or global changes on freshwater communities. Both platforms (Rennes & Le Rheu) are engineered for versatility and adaptation to a large range of experimental designs. In addition to providing access to various types of mesocosm, all users will be offered technical and logistic support before and during the experiments as well as offices and lab space. In addition to probes and sensors to measure classical physico-chemical parameters, a PhytoPAM (chlorophyll a) and spectrophotometers are available. The laboratory offers scales, microscopes and binoculars equipped with photo capture systems, freezers (-20 to -80°). Various capture and trapping systems as well as RFID technology are available to monitor target organisms. Through collaboration with the ESE researchers ( ese/), users will benefit from additional scientific equipment and expertise. Rennes is a university city located 1.5 hours by train from Paris (Airport and train station in Rennes). On Campus, visitors have access to individual apartments and cafeteria. Many hotels are also available in the close vicinity.

Support offered under AQUACOSM-plus: Users will have access to the different facilities described above. Including sampling and transport of organisms, monitoring, supply of environmental data and the opportunity to collaborate with the ESE team.


Rennes mesocosm platform is located at AgroCampusOuest within the city of Rennes, a university city located 1.5 hours by train from Paris (Airport and train station in Rennes). On the campus, visitors have access to individual apartments, and many hotels are available in the vicinity of the campus.

Special rules