Silwood ponds are part of the EU network of mesocosms facilities for research on marine and freshwater ecosystems.
Interested in conducting research on this experimentMap of Silwood Park pond mesocosm [PDF, 889KB]

The impacts of climate change on natural ecosystems remain poorly understood as complex interactions between biological systems add emergent properties that can only be understood using an interdisciplinary and holistic approach. Two sets of artificial ponds (mesocosms) at Silwood Park are helping to assess the impacts of warming and drought in freshwater systems by studying multiple levels of biological organisation, from genes to food webs and whole ecosystems.

We are studying the impacts of warming and extreme temperature events using an array of 96 pond mesocosms. From spring 2018 we will start a long-term warming experiment with treatments that match climate projections, including constant warming at 2 or 4oC above ambient temperature and events of periodic extreme warming that mimic heat waves. This experiment is part of a NERC-funded project that integrates information generated from a global collection of naturally warmed freshwater habitats across a circumpolar ring of geothermal activity, hundreds of large-scale artificial streams and ponds (mesocosms) in the field, and thousands of robotically-assembled microbial communities  in the laboratory (microcosms).  

With a new set of 32 pond mesocosms we aim to help understanding the effects or warming and drought in freshwater systems. Starting in summer 2018, ponds will be warmed 4oC above ambient temperature and receive drought or flooding treatments. This experiment replicates the design used in a network of six mesocosm facilities located along a thermal gradient in the Iberian Peninsula (freshwater systems).

The Silwood Park pond mesocosm is one of the experiments of The Grand Challenges in Ecosystems and the Environment Initiative (GCEE) and the Aquacosm, an international network of experimental infractrusctures that facilitates transnational research in marine and freshwater ecology.  This experiment is part of a NERC-funded grant awarded to Professor Guy WoodwardDr. Thomas Bell, Dr. Alex J. DumbrellProfessor Mark Trimmer and colleagues from Imperial College London, University of Essex, Queen Mary, University of London, and other institutions in the UK.  

Mesocosms video playlist

GCEE Research Focus - Dr. Guy Woodward

Professor Guy Woodward talk about the goals for Silwood mesocosm project and his research exploring the effects of environmental stress on multi-species ecosystems 

Listen to Dr. Woodward talking about the mesocosms

GCEE Research Focus - Dr. Guy Woodward

Professor Guy Woodward talk about the mesocosms and his research program

Professor Guy Woodward talk about the goals for Silwood mesocosm project and his research exploring the effects of environmental stress on multi-species ecosystems 

Birdview of the ponds in October 2016

Silwood pond mesocosm

Birdview of the ponds in October 2016

Birdview of the mesocosm in October 2016 before Masters students sampled the ponds

The making of Silwood mesocosm

The making of Silwood mesocosm

Teamwork in a sunny day!

Teamwork in a sunny day!

Experimenting with pond bacteria in the lab

GCEE Research Focus - Dr. Thomas Bell

Experimenting with pond bacteria in the lab

Dr. Bell explain the importance of bacteria in ecosystems and his research describing natural communities and experimeting with them in the lab to understand how community assembly is affected by environmental stress.  Some of these microcosm experiments will address the effect of temperature in communities of bacteria collected in Silwood pond mesocosms.

Mesocosm google map

details pond mesocosm

Experimental design

The 96 pond mesocosms are artificial 1000L tanks set above ground in fall 2015 and then filled with a thin layer of sand and gravel and with tap water to the top. During March 2016, all ponds were seeded with a similar pool of freshwater organisms. Seeding consisted on adding to each pond a combination of water and sediment from creeks in Silwood Park and neighbouring regions. A long-term warming experiment is planed to start in spring 2018 after the pond communities have reached a stable state.

The 32 pond mesocosms are a set of artificial 1000L above ground tanks that in Summer 2017 were filled with a thin layer of sand and gravel and then with tap water to the top.

Data

Core data includes:

  • Metagenomic and metatranscriptome data from ponds to characterize the microbial community composition and gene expression with focus on genes related with C and N cycling.
  • Rates of breakdown of leaf-litter and cellulose.
  • Ecosystem respiration and primary production
  • N2 fixation, N2 and N2O production, plus production and oxidation of methane
  • Invertebrate sampling

Find here the metadata file for this experiment (71KB)

seeding March 2016

Seeding of tanks with help of master's students, March 2016 (courtesy of Bruno Gallo)

G8 tank

Artificial ponds

mesocosms pond

Algal growth in mesocosms ponds by November 2016