Global warming research with Dr Stewart Plaistow

Frequent visitors to Ness may well have noticed a large array of water tanks and solar panels at the far-end of the gardens, however, their purpose remains a mystery to many. Here we outline the crucial work being undertaken.

A background to the research

Ness Botanic Gardens is home to the largest facility in Europe for investigating impacts of warming on ponds and shallow lakes. The array of 50 artificial ponds is next to the solar farm and meteorological station. These ‘global warming tanks’ have been used by the University of Liverpool since the mid-1990s for exploring effects of fertiliser run-off and climate warming on fish, water quality and other aspects of ponds and lakes. After a lull in activity in recent years, the facility is being revived and upgraded. Major actors in this revival are new staff from the University.

The current project

Over the next 2½ years, a major experiment will attempt to understand the ways in which wildlife adapts to rapid environmental change, and what will happen to the detailed working of ponds if key species don’t adapt fast enough. The new experiment is part of a £1.2M grant to Dr Stewart Plaistow, Dr David Atkinson and Prof Steve Paterson of the University’s Institute of Integrative Biology.

This autumn, the tanks will be covered, and you may see sheep graze the vegetation around the tanks. At this first stage of restoration, wildlife that may be found in the long grass will find sheep grazing a gentler, more natural way than a strimmer for producing short turf. After that, new staff working on the project – Dr Franziska Brunner, Dr Alan Reynolds and Mr Stephen Price – will prepare the tanks for the new experiment, and a completely new heating control system will be installed so that the effects of heat waves on the ecology of ponds can be investigated.

Our weather station is part of the school of Integrative Biology's £1.2 million investment at Ness Gardens, which aims to measure the effects of anthropogenic global warming.

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