World’s longest running climate change experiment launches fundraising campaign


Celebrating its 30th Birthday today (1 November 2023), the Buxton Climate Change Impacts Lab is now the world’s longest running climate change experiment - but the site, and the unique insights it gives, are in danger of being lost.

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.

Understanding the effects of climate change on grasslands is vitally important. 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.

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% of our native species-rich grasslands in the UK, and now the remaining isolated fragments face the threat of climate change. We need to understand, predict, and mitigate the effects of climate change on these grasslands, so that we can safeguard these beautiful habitats and all that they give us.

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. Researchers at the Universities of Liverpool, Sheffield and Lancaster are now hoping to raise enough funds to enable the experiment to continue in the coming years.

Raj said: “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.

Megan 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.”

The Buxton Climate Change Impacts Lab will feature in a new episode of the YouTube series 8 Out of 10 Bats, which will air on the platform today (1 November 2023).

The crowd funding campaign to support the experiment at Buxton hopes to resource the running costs of the site into the years to come. To find out more about the campaign or make a donation, visit:

Image caption L-R - Megan McCubbin and Dr Raj Whitlock at the Buxton Climate Change Impacts Lab site