Future-facing experiment helping to combat climate change

Climate Change Research
Studying the effects of climate change on pastoral agriculture

A prescient experiment known as Free Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (FACE) is providing enduring benefits for scientists to study and manage the effects of climate change on pastoral agriculture. AgResearch set up an experiment in the late 1990s that uses purpose-built technology to control elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide on pastures. The programme and field facility based at a research farm in the lower North Island. Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels are artificially elevated to 500 parts per million (levels expected by the year 2050) across plots of pasture measuring 12 metres in diameter. The pasture within these rings is commonly found on many New Zealand farms.


Climate Change Research
22 years worth of data sets

The experiment is unique in that it includes grazing animals and has been running for so long. Now 22 years old, FACE has produced data sets that scientists from all over the world are still finding new and innovative applications for as well as becoming the established and key plank of our “Climate change and the pastoral sector: Impacts and adaptation” programme funded by MBIE’s SSIF.

FACE experiment’s data sets are used to verify models and contribute to meta-analyses, as well as to improve climate change impact studies and adaptation testing. Adapted technologies (such as climate proof plants) can also be directly tested in the FACE to see if they are going to work as expected under climate change. Data and key outputs of the FACE experiment have also been integrated into an international model: the Agricultural Production Systems sIMulator (APSIM).

Scientists can use APSIM to simulate agricultural systems that cover a range of plant, animal, soil, climate and management interactions and visualise potential future scenarios, allowing them to explore potential impacts and plan adaptation strategies. APSIM’s AgPasture module can accurately simulate pasture systems in New Zealand, across a wide range of soil types and climates.

The data sets from the FACE experiments are used to check that the output from APSIM gives a valid projection of the future. This provides confidence that impact and adaptation studies for the pastoral sector give a realistic assessment of a future under climate change.

For more information

This information sheet provides more information about the FACE experiment and future directions for the programme, including the effects of elevate carbon dioxide on other insect pests, weeds and animal health.

Free Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment ( )
What does more carbon dioxide mean for farmers?
A globally unique study called Free Air Carbon Dioxide Enrichment (FACE) has been running for more than 20 years and looks at the impacts of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels on grazed pastures. The aim is to help farmers and New Zealand adapt to the changing conditions. Our scientist Zac Beechey-Gradwell explains how it works.

Latest Work

Our Research

Get in touch with our team

Contact us

Send an email to one of our team or check out our facilities located across Aotearoa New Zealand.

Send another enquiry

Something went wrong and the form could not be submitted. Please try again later.