Extend the Findings

The warming meadow experiment


Explore the Data – It’s Your Turn to be the Scientist!

PG4 Chiara Forrester Soil Corer

You may notice that in some years, there is a larger difference in melt date between control and heated plots. Or that soil carbon values are very similar in some years, even between the control and heated plots. What could cause those differences or similarities? How do you explain the following patterns in the data?

The heated plots have earlier snow melt dates than the control plots. Soil carbon is lower in the heated plots than the control plots, with the exception of the very beginning of the experiment. In general, the heated plots have less forb and more shrub biomass – the control plots show the opposite relationship, with more forb and less shrub biomass.

Remember, this experiment is not conducted in a laboratory setting, but is a manipulation of natural conditions. How might changing abiotic conditions, like temperature or amount and timing of precipitation, affect conditions in the control and heated plots?

Changing Climatic Conditions


For the sake of illustration, the summer of 2003 was much drier than average throughout the southwestern US, as seen in the maps below from the Drought Monitor Archives. The variability in extremes of climate conditions has also increased in the western US – increased climatic variability can weaken tree species, such as quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), leaving them vulnerable to attack from fungi or bark beetles, an explanation for the ongoing Sudden Aspen Decline.

Citizen Scientists – Start Asking Questions!

Here are a few more questions to help you get started with your exploration:

  • Did the 2003 drought affect the area around RMBL?
  • How might drought impact the warming meadow?
  • Can you explain the patterns in the summary data?
  • What other environmental events, besides drought, might play a role?
  • What else would you need to know to evaluate the patterns you see in the summary data from the warming meadow?

Next Step – go to Additional Resources.