Automated rainfall manipulation system: A reliable and inexpensive tool for ecologists

Laureano A. Gherardi, Osvaldo Sala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Water availability is the major limiting factor of the functioning of deserts and grasslands and is going to be severely modified by climate change. Field manipulative experiments of precipitation represent the best way to explore cause-effect relationships between water availability and ecosystem functioning. However, there is a limited number of that type of studies because of logistic and cost limitations. Here, we report on a new system that alters precipitation for experimental plots from 80% reduction to 80% increase relative to ambient, that is low cost, and is fully solar powered. This two-part system consists of a rainout shelter that intercepts water and sends it to a temporary storage tank, from where a solar-powered pump then sends the water to sprinklers located in opposite corners of an irrigated plot. We tested this automated system for 5 levels of rainfall, reduction-irrigation (50-80%) and controls with N = 3. The system showed high reduction/irrigation accuracy and small effect on temperature and photosynthetically active radiation. System average cost was 228 USD per module of 2.5 m by 2.5 m and required low maintenance. Copyright:

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberA18
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 8 2013


  • Automated rainfall manipulation system (ARMS)
  • Irrigation system
  • Manipulative experiment
  • Methods
  • Precipitation manipulation
  • Rainout shelter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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