Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Field Of The Future: Ecological Experiment Simulates Conditions In 2100

Date:
October 6, 2008
Source:
Imperial College London
Summary:
A new experiment to find out how British plant ecosystems may be affected by future changes to climate and biodiversity is underway at Imperial College London.

Research students carry out biodiversity manipulations on the experimental plots.
Credit: Image courtesy of Imperial College London

A new experiment to find out how British plant ecosystems may be affected by future changes to climate and biodiversity is underway at Imperial College London.

The experiment will simulate predicted future rainfall patterns in a semi-natural grassland at Imperial's Silwood Park campus in Berkshire, and scientists will assess how differing levels of plant diversity affect the ecosystem's response to climate stress. The study will reflect the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) prediction that southern England will experience up to a 30% decrease in summer rainfall and a 15% increase in winter rainfall, by the year 2100.

The study is led by Dr Sally Power and Dr Pete Manning, and has been set up with funding principally from Imperial's Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the NERC Centre for Population Biology. The research is being carried out by Grantham Institute PhD student Ellen Fry and a team of researchers. It will focus on how important functions performed by ecosystems, such as water processing, nutrient cycling and carbon storage, are affected when there are significant changes to the patterns of rainfall they receive.

Importantly, however, in a novel approach to the issue, this study will also examine the extent to which climate-driven effects on these key functions are modified by changes in levels of plant biodiversity in the ecosystem. The research team have chosen to include different levels of plant diversity in their study because global biodiversity decline, associated with climate change, pollution, changing land use patterns and other human impacts on the environment is now well documented and is predicted to increase during this century.

Dr Sally Power from Imperial's Division of Biology said: "Ecosystems will be facing a multitude of challenges in the coming years. Changing rainfall patterns are likely to affect the ability of ecosystems to perform important ecological functions such as nutrient cycling; a key challenge is now to understand the implications of biodiversity loss for ecosystem functioning and the sustainability of these functions in a changing climate."

The experiment comprises 168 rain shelters, each covering 2.4 m x 2.4 m plots within a grassland ecosystem. The shelters are left on throughout the summer, enabling the scientists to accurately manipulate the amount of rainwater that reaches the plants underneath, with some groups receiving natural levels of rainfall, and others receiving the lower levels of rain predicted for 2100. In the winter the shelters are removed, and the 2100 simulation plots will be given extra water by Miss Fry and her colleagues, to reflect the anticipated rise in winter rainfall.

In addition, the researchers have manipulated the biodiversity of the plants found in each plot to reflect different levels of plant trait diversity within experimental plots. Plant traits that affect ecosystem functions, such as root length, nutrient uptake and photosynthesis rate were measured at the beginning of the experiment for all of the species found at the study site. Species were then categorised into three groups on the basis of measured attributes, with members of each group sharing similar characteristics. The experimental plots were then manipulated by the researchers so that so that either a single trait group, multiple pairs of trait groups, or all three trait groups are present in different plots, reflecting a gradient of increasing diversity.

Dr Pete Manning explains that manipulating the diversity of the plants in this way, using traits to group them together, allows the research team to relate changes in plant diversity to effects on key ecosystem processes particularly in light of changing rainfall patterns:

"We now realise that when it comes to biodiversity, it's not simply the number of different species living together in a place that's important, but what those species do in the ecosystem", he said.

"For example, losing species with bulb-like storage organs and deep roots may make the ecosystem more sensitive to climate change, as these are the species that are most likely to keep performing useful functions, like storing carbon, during periods of drought. This experiment allows us to test these sort of ideas, in a way that hasn't been possible before. Ultimately, we may be able to identify which species are the most likely to decline under future conditions and whether these declines will affect important ecosystem functions", he added.

Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial said: "Because this experiment tackles the issues of summer droughts and winter floods in a full ecosystem context, but one with decreasing plant trait biodiversity all at the same time, means that it promises one of the most realistic pictures to date of how ecosystems in the UK may react to the environmental changes caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Imperial College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Imperial College London. "Field Of The Future: Ecological Experiment Simulates Conditions In 2100." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 October 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080926100636.htm>.
Imperial College London. (2008, October 6). Field Of The Future: Ecological Experiment Simulates Conditions In 2100. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080926100636.htm
Imperial College London. "Field Of The Future: Ecological Experiment Simulates Conditions In 2100." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080926100636.htm (accessed August 27, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Calif. Quake Underscores Need for Early Warning

Calif. Quake Underscores Need for Early Warning

AP (Aug. 26, 2014) Researchers at UC Berkeley are testing a prototype of an earthquake early warning system that California is pursuing years after places like Mexico and Japan already have them up and running. (August 26) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Hurricane Marie Brings Big Waves to California Coast

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 26, 2014) Huge waves generated by Hurricane Marie hit the Southern California coast. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Brazil Tries Genetically Modified Mosquitoes to Fight Dengue

Brazil Tries Genetically Modified Mosquitoes to Fight Dengue

AFP (Aug. 25, 2014) A factory in the industrial state of Sao Paulo produces genetically modified mosquitoes to fight dengue, a deadly tropical disease more prevalent in Brazil than anywhere else in the world. Duration: 00:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Prime Minister at Japan Landslide Site

Raw: Prime Minister at Japan Landslide Site

AP (Aug. 25, 2014) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Hiroshima on Monday as rescuers expanded their search for dozens still missing from landslides around the western Japanese city that killed at least 50 people. (Aug. 25) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins