Global Change Experimental Facility (GCEF)

Global Change Experimental Facility (GCEF)
Aerial view.
(Picture: Tricklabor / Service Drone)

General information

The GCEF (Global Change Experimental Facility) is a large field experiment for the investigation of the consequences of climate change for ecosystem processes under different land use options. The GCEF consists of 50 plots with a size of 16 m x 24 m. The experiment started in 2014 and is planned to be conducted for at least 15 years.

Research focus

  • Impact of climate change on ecosystem functions under different land-use regimes
  • Influences on community structure, especially food web structure and species interactions
  • Effects on soil functions, especially structure and function of the soil biota community and processes related to nutrient cycling
  • The importance of and the effects on genetic diversity and microevolutionary processes


The field site is part of the field research station of the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research in Bad Lauchstädt near Halle, Saxon-Anhalt, Germany (51° 23’ 30N, 11° 52’ 49E, 116 m a.s.l.). The site is characterized by a low mean annual rainfall and a mean temperature of 8.8 °C). The field site is a former arable field with the last crop in 2012.
The soil of the study site is Chernozem. This highly fertile soil type is typically developed upon carbonatic loess substrate under summer-dry climatic conditions and characterized by a high content of humus down to a depth of more than 40 cm.

Climate treatment

The 50 plots are arranged in 10 blocks (5 plots per block). Half of the blocks are subjected to a climate change treatment. For this, all plots are equipped with a large steel constructions (5 m heigth), mobile shelters and side panels as well as an irrigation system. Shelters and panels automatically close from sundown to sunrise to increase night temperature. During the summer months, the roofs are additionally controlled by a rain sensor to reduce summer precipitation by c. 15%. The irrigation system is used to increase precipitation in spring and autumn by c. 5%. This treatment is a consensus scenario across several models of climate change in Central Germany for the years between 2070 bis 2100.

Control plots (ambient climate) are equipped with the same steel constructions (but without shelters, panels and irrigation system) to mimic possible microclimatic effects of the experimental set-up.

(GCEF - the movie: (english) (german))

Land use
The 5 land-use types are randomly arranged in blocks, which are subjected to ambient or future climatic conditions.
(Figure: Tricklabor / Marc Hermann)

Land-use types

Five different land use types are established in every block: (1) conventional farming ; (2) organic farming ; (3) intensively used grassland consisting of different cultivars of forage grasses and used by frequent mowing; (4) extensively used grassland consisting of a wide range of native and common grasses, herbs and legumes originating from different local populations and used by moderate mowing and (5) extensively used grassland used by moderate sheep grazing and the same plant species composition as in (4).

Team and partners

  • Scientific coordination: Dr. habil. Martin Schädler (
  • Project initiators: Dr. Stefan Klotz (, Prof. Dr. Francois Buscot (, Dr. Harald Auge (
  • Coordination third-party funding: Dr. Thomas Reitz (
  • Technician: Konrad Kirsch (
  • Coordoination of agricultural management: Dr. Ines Merbach (

Cooperations (to be updated...):

  • University of Halle
  • University of Leipzig
  • German Centre for intergrative Biodiversity Research - iDiv (Halle-Jena-Leipzig)
  • University of Cologne
  • University of Hohenheim