This is a great example of a new wave of ambitious environmental experiments - in this case an experiment to assess the impact of climate change on natural grassland ecosystems.
More than $200,000 is being spent to set up an experimental glasshouse experiment where 6-tonne intact samples of steppe vegetation and soil will be exposed to various temperature and drought regimes. The aim is to assess the impact of climate change on grassland ecosystems - for example changes in growth, carbon storage (in vegetation and soils) or plant communities.
Crucially, the experiment has been set up with the aim of providing data to scientists who model the response of vegetation to climate change - an attempt to bridge the gap between modelling and field-based scientists.
Until recently, “there has been limited crossover between experimentalists and modellers”, says Jeff Dukes, an ecologist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.Typically, “we would turn to modellers years after an experiment has begun and then realize things that we should have measured are not measured”, adds Richard Norby, an ecologist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. “We would have made a lot faster progress if the two communities had worked closely together from the very beginning.”