Our work on the Grassland ARCC project depends upon an existing, long-term experiment at Buxton Climate Change Impacts Laboratory (BCCIL) set up and run by Prof. Phil Grime and Dr. Jason Fridley, and currently supported by the NSF.

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The plots and rain shelters at the Buxton Climate Change Impacts Laboratory, UK

At BCCIL, a semi-natural grassland has been exposed to over 17 years of experimental climatic manipulation to simulate the anticipated effects of real climate change. These climate treatments include decreased rainfall and increased temperatures, which are applied using automated rain-shelters and heating cables respectively. Work at BCCIL has shown that the grassland community under study has been surprisingly resistant to climate change
1,2. This resistance may be partly due to heterogeneity in soil depth at BCCIL, which offers refuges for species with different climatic affinities 3. A further possibility is that genetic variation present within populations may allow them to adapt to a changed climate, via selection.

Very little is known regarding the presence and extent of evolutionary responses to climate change within natural plant communities. Our research at Liverpool will help us understand whether grassland species can adapt to a changing climate
in situ within their natural communities. Ultimately, this should help us to better understand and predict human impacts on plant life.

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1. Grime, J. P., V. K. Brown, K. Thompson, G. J. Masters, S. H. Hillier, I. P. Clarke, A. P. Askew, D. Corker, and J. P. Kielty. 2000. The response of two contrasting limestone grasslands to simulated climate change. Science
289:762-765.

2. Grime, J. P., J. D. Fridley, A. P. Askew, K. Thompson, J. G. Hodgson, and C. R. Bennett. 2008. Long-term resistance to simulated climate change in an infertile grassland. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA
105:10028-10032.

3. Fridley, J. D., J. P. Grime, A. P. Askew, B. Moser, and C. J. Stevens. 2011. Soil heterogeneity buffers community response to climate change in species-rich grassland. Global Change Biology 17:2002–2011