Broadbalk Wilderness

  • Experiment Code: R/BK/1
  • Experiment Site: Rothamsted
  • Objectives: To see the effects on the soil and vegetation of abandoning arable cropping
  • Description: Part of the Broadbalk wheat experiment was fenced off and allowed to naturally revert to woodland in 1882. In 1900 it was divided into two halves, one remained as regenerating woodland, in the other half all woody species were removed ('stubbed') each year, to allow open ground vegetation to develop. In 1957 the stubbed section was divided into two, one half remained stubbed, the other was mown for three years, then grazed by sheep from 1960-2000, and since 2001 has been mown each year (herbage is not removed).
  • Date Start: 1882
  • Date End: Ongoing

Key Contacts

  • Andy Macdonald

  • Role: Principal Investigator
  • Organisation: Rothamsted Research
  • Address: West Common, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ, United Kingdom
  • Margaret Glendining

  • Role: Data Manager
  • ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6466-4629
  • Organisation: Rothamsted Research
  • Address: West Common, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ, United Kingdom
  • Sarah Perryman

  • Role: Data Manager
  • Organisation: Rothamsted Research
  • Address: West Common, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ, United Kingdom

Funding

Experimental Design

Description

  • Small site (0.2ha). One half is naturally regenerating woodland. The other half is divided into two, one half native permanent grassland mown each year, the other is 'stubbed' (all woody plants are removed).

Design

  • Period: 1882 - Now
  • Number of Blocks: 3
  • Number of Replicates: 1

Crops

Crop Years Grown
Naturally Regenerating Woodland
Permanent Native Grassland Mown Once a Year
Native Open Ground Vegetation, No Woody Species (stubbed)

Measurements

Variable Unit Collection
Frequency
Material Description Crop
Soil Organic Carbon t/ha very infrequently Soil Measured in 1881, 1904, 1964 and 1999.
Plant Biomass t/ha very infrequently SpecifiedCrop Measured in 1881, 1904, 1964 and 1999. Naturally regenerating woodland

Site: Broadbalk Wilderness - Rothamsted

  • Experiment Site: Rothamsted
  • Description: The site was part of the Broadbalk wheat experiment, and had grown unmanured winter wheat since autumn 1843. Large amounts of chalk had been applied to the soil in the late 18th - early 19th centuries, and the surface soil pH is still neutral. In 1882 the site was fenced off and all cropping abandoned. In 1900 it was divided into two halves: one half remained untouched (regenerating woodland). The other half had all woody species removed annually (stubbed), to allow open ground vegetation to develop. In 1957 the stubbed section was divided into two, one half remains as 'stubbed', the other half was mown for three years, grazed by sheep each year from 1960-2000, mown since 2001 (herbage not removed).
  • Management: In 1900 it was divided into two halves: one half remained untouched (regenerating woodland). The other half had all woody species removed annually (stubbed), to allow open ground vegetation to develop. In 1957 the stubbed section was divided into two, one half remains as 'stubbed', the other half was mown for three years, grazed by sheep each year from 1960-2000, mown since 2001 (herbage not removed). No fertilizer or manure is applied.
  • Visit Permitted?: Yes
  • Visiting Arrangments: Contact Andy Macdonald
  • Elevation: 128 Metres
  • Geolocation:    51.809835, -0.375295

Soil

  • Type: Chromic Luvisol
    Silty clay loam surface overlying clay-with-flints, over chalk at a depth of several metres.

Soil Properties

Variable Value Reference Year Is Estimated Is Baseline
Soil pH 7.7 () 1999 NO NO
Clay content (%) NO NO

Datasets available

Broadbalk Wilderness accumulation of organic carbon
Soil data The accumulation of organic carbon in soil and tree biomass has been measured on two contrasting sites at Rothamsted that were fenced off in the 1880s and left to revert naturally to woodland. Broadbalk, on calcareous soil, and Geescroft Wilderness, on acidic soil.
BKWoc
Additional data is available through e-RAdata. Please register for access.

Picture Gallery

Key References

2016

  • J. Storkey , A.J. Macdonald , J.R. Bell , I.M. Clark , A.S. Gregory , N.J. Hawkins , P.R. Hirsch , L.C. Todman and Whitmore, A. P. (2016) "The Unique Contribution of Rothamsted to Ecological Research at Large Temporal Scales.", Advances in Ecological Research (eds: A.J. Dumbrell , R.L. Kordas and G. Woodward - Academic Press), Vol 55, Chapter 1, pp. 3-42
    DOI: 10.1016/bs.aecr.2016.08.002

2008

  • Jenkinson, D. S. , Poulton, P. R. and Bryant, C. (2008) "The turnover of organic carbon in subsoils. Part 1. Natural and bomb radiocarbon in soil profiles from the Rothamsted long-term field experiments", European Journal of Soil Science, 59, 391-399
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2389.2008.01025.x

2003

  • Poulton, P. R. , Pye, E. , Hargreaves, P. R. and Jenkinson, D. S. (2003) "Accumulation of carbon and nitrogen by old arable land reverting to woodland", Global Change Biology, 9, 942-955
    DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2486.2003.00633.x

2002

  • Pye, E. (2002) "Investigation of woodland regeneration within two Wilderness areas. PhD thesis", University of Hertfordshire.
  • Blake, L. and Goulding, K. W. T. (2002) "Effects of atmospheric deposition, soil pH and acidification on heavy metal contents in soils and vegetation of semi-natural ecosystems at Rothamsted Experimental Station, UK", Plant and Soil, 240, 235-251
    DOI: 10.1023/A:1015731530498

2001

  • Harmer, R. , Peterken, G. , Kerr, G. and Poulton, P. (2001) "Vegetation changes during 100 years of development of two secondary woodlands on abandoned arable land", Biological Conservation, 101, 291-304
    DOI: 10.1016/S0006-3207(01)00072-6

1999

  • Blake, L. , Goulding, K. W. T. , Johnston, A. E. and Mott, C. J. B. (1999) "Changes in soil chemistry accompanying acidification over more than 100 years under woodland and grass at Rothamsted Experimental Station, UK", European Journal of Soil Science, 50, 401-412
    DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2389.1999.00253.x

1996

  • Poulton, P. R. (1996) "Geescroft Wilderness, 1883-1995", NATO Advanced Research Workshop, Evaluation of soil organic matter models using existing long-term datasets, NATO ASI Series I: Global Environmental Change, (Powlson D. S. , Smith P. and Smith J.U. (eds) - Springer-Verlag, Berlin), Vol 38, 385-389
  • Kerr, G. , Harmer, R. and Moss, S. R. (1996) "Natural colonisation: a study of Broadbalk Wilderness", Aspects of Applied Biology, 25-32

1971

1965

  • Garner, H. V. , Witts, K. J. , King, D. W. , Jenkinson, D. S. , Yuen, P. H. and Skinner, F. A. (1965) "Broadbalk Wilderness", Rothamsted Experimental Station Report for 1964
    Get from eRAdoc: ResReport1964-219-224

1895

  • Lawes, J. B. (1895) "Upon some properties of soils, which have grown a cereal crop and a leguminous crop for many years in succession. ", Agricultural Students' Gazette, New Series, 7, 65-72 (Series 1/91)

For further information and assistance, please contact the e-RA curators, Sarah Perryman and Margaret Glendining using the e-RA email address: era@rothamsted.ac.uk