Long-term climate manipulation

The Buxton Climate Change Impacts Lab (BCCIL) was established in 1993, making it the longest-running climate change experiment in the UK and one of the oldest in the world!
Using a combination of heating cables, automated rain shelters and a watering system, research at BCCIL tests our understanding of how future climate change will affect grassland ecosystems.

The main experiment

The main experiment at BCCIL comprises 45 plots, measuring 3-m x 3-m each, which are set up in five blocks.

The following treatments are randomly distributed among the plots within each block:

  1. control: ambient climatic conditions.
  2. winter warming: continuous elevation of temperature to 3ºC above ambient from November 1st to May 1st using heating cables.
  3. summer drought: rainfall excluded in July and August using automated, retractable shelters and pipework.
  4. supplementary rainfall: applied as required to raise precipitation to 20% above the long-term monthly average in June to September.
  5. warming + drought: combines treatments (2) and (3).
  6. warming + supplementary rainfall: combines treatments (2) and (4).

In each block there are three spare plots which have allowed new experiments to be introduced during the course of the main experiment. These currently include investigations of the impacts of climate on invasibility and transplant experiments examining the effects of soil depth on the fitness of contrasted plant species.

Temperatures and soil moisture in the plots are logged continuously, and all plots are strimmed to simulate sheep grazing (with removal of clippings) each October. Plant surveys have been conducted regularly since the start of the experiment.