Raising the roofs at DIRECT

It’s hard to believe that it’s already June.  For me, it means that my summer climate treatments at the DIRECT project are now underway.  Last week was a flurry of activity at the study site as we had to clean and erect 56 clear plastic roofs.  Half of these have holes which allow rainfall through but keep the microclimate the same – these are the controls for the experiment.  The other half are solid, allowing us to collect and redistribute rainfall in line with climate projections for this region.  These roofs will stay up for 3 months, and join the 12 that were already up as part of the extreme change experiement, which has treatments that last for 6 months.

Depending on your perspective, 56 roofs may not sound like a lot, but it does take a lot of work.  Luckily, I had a few friends to help me out.  Photos courtesy of Kate Luckett and John Matter.

Over the winter the roofs are stored in stacks at the study site.

stack of roofsBy spring, they often have quite a bit of algae and other accummulated dirt on them.  This means need to be scrubbed before they can be put up to ensure they allow as much light as possible through to the plants beneath.  This was mostly done on Wednesday and Thursday last week, so they would be ready to go up on Friday.

When it’s time to erect the roofs, we need to make sure they all go up on the same day so that the treatments are the same.  First, we check which plots need which type of roof.

This one!We carry each roof from the stack to the relevant plot, trying not to fall over, collide with other roofs, walk through any plots or let it get carried away by the wind.  They can be quite kite-like when the wind picks up!  Trying not to drop it, fall over (again) or walk through any of the plots!Then we’ve got to line them up and bolt them to the posts.  It can take some creative maneuvering to get them into place and secure.

Just a little to the left...Finally, we attach the guttering and put the water collection box in place for the climate change treatment roofs.

Don't forget the box or you'll just have one very wet corner!

Then repeat 55 times until the field looks like this.

line of roofs  roofs up

This is actually the fewest roofs we’ve put up at this time of year since the project started in 2008.  We recently finished the nitrogen deposition experiment, which would have added another 16 roofs, and in the first year all 196 plots were given roofs.  Despite the reduction in numbers, I still couldn’t have done it alone and would like to thank Paul Beasley, Rich Dale, Chris Culbert, Shorok Mombrikotb, Lara Meade, Jen Banfield-Zanin for all their help.

I should also note that is will be my last field season with DIRECT.  Given that all the people who helped to set up the project have now left Imperial College, it looks like this may indeed by the last season for the project as a whole unless someone new decides they’d like to take it over.   With this in mind, I’m hoping for a great summer, and will be collecting as much data as possible!

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