Ecologists are getting ready to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the worlds oldest ecological experiment. The Park Grass Experiment was set up at Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire in 1856 – three years before Darwin published Origin of Species – to answer crucial agricultural questions of the day but has since proved an invaluable resource for studying natural selection and biodiversity.
To mark the occasion, a major review of Park Grass is published today in the British Ecological Societys Journal of Ecology, and on 22nd-24th May 2006 Rothamsted Research is hosting an international symposium exploring the unique value of long-term ecological research.
Park Grass was originally designed to test the effect of fertilisers and manures on hay yields. However, it soon became apparent that the treatments were also affecting the botanical make-up of the plots and the ecology of this 2.8 ha field has been studied ever since. In spring, the field is a colourful tapestry of flowers and grasses, some plots still having the wide range of plants that most meadows probably contained hundreds of years ago.
"Today, Park Grass has acquired new relevance for the study of fundamental ecological processes and for nature conservation. It has inspired new ecological theory and has helped ecologists to recognise the value of long-term experiments in ecological studies," the authors say.
Becky Allen | EurekAlert!
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