Lancaster Environment Centre professor calls for support for world’s longest running climate change experiment

Experimental area at The Buxton Climate Change Impacts Lab (BCCIL)
The experimental field area at The Buxton Climate Change Impacts Lab (BCCIL)

The world’s longest running climate change experiment has launched a fundraising campaign to continue its vital work.

The Buxton Climate Change Impacts Lab (BCCIL) has been operating for 30 years this month, but now the site - and the unique insights it gives into the effects of climate change - are in danger of being lost.

Lancaster Environment Centre (LEC) Professor Carly Stevens, who sits on the steering committee for BCCIL, and has worked there on different projects over the last decade, said the longevity of the site, and how it helps to predict a changing climate means it is especially important in the face of the current climate crisis.

A crowdfunding campaign has now been launched with support from zoologist and TV wildlife presenter Megan McCubbin, who said the site is too important to lose.

The experiment was originally set up by world-famous ecologist and Fellow of the Royal Society Professor Phil Grime, to find out how climate change will affect grasslands.

It has since applied drought, warming and watering treatments to a species-rich native grassland across three decades.

This has global significance - no other experiment has exposed vegetation to different climate treatments for this length of time - giving an unprecedented view of the future of grasslands.

As well as supporting many species of plants and animals (some of which are found nowhere else), they are used as pasture for livestock, support pollinators, store carbon, are used by people to find wellbeing and are a distinctive part of our heritage and landscape.

Carly is a professor in plant ecology and soil biogeochemistry at LEC and has been working at the site on a number of different projects over the years, using the experimental plots to address different ecological hypotheses.

She said one of the biggest challenges the BCCIL currently faces is finding funding to continue the experiment.

“Long-term experiments are vital to help us understand how ecosystems respond to change, especially in the face of the current climate crisis,” she said.

“As the longest running climate change experiment in the world the Buxton Climate Change Impacts Lab is especially important, helping us to predict how our changing climate will impact on biodiverse ecosystems and consider how we can manage those impacts to protect these ecosystems.”

There is no dedicated research or government funding available for these long-term experiments, and without further funding, the UK will lose a unique asset in the fight against climate change.

Dr Raj Whitlock, senior lecturer in Evolution, Ecology & Behaviour at the University of Liverpool, and chair of the steering committee for the site said: “We’ve lost more than 95 per cent of our native species rich grasslands in the UK, and now the remaining isolated fragments face the threat of climate change.

“The unique long-term view that the Buxton experiment gives us is vital in understanding how climate change alters ecosystems, earth’s vital life support systems.

“Without long-term experiments like this one, we are missing an important piece of the puzzle that will help us predict and mitigate the impacts of climate change.”

Best known as one of the faces of BBC Two’s Springwatch, Autumnwatch and Winterwatch, as well as Animal Park on BBC One, University of Liverpool alumna Megan McCubbin is lending her support to the campaign.

She said: “It was fascinating to visit the lab with my previous university lecturer, Dr Raj Whitlock.

“The fact that this project has run for 30 years is a phenomenal achievement by all involved, but we have to look forward to the future.

“We need this type of long-term research more than ever as the climate and biodiversity crisis continues to tighten its grip.

“We’ve got to fight for this project—it’s too important to lose.”

To find out more about the campaign or make a donation, visit HERE.

Back to News