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Successional Trends In Steckle Woods Biology Essay

The purpose of this study was to examine the succession trends in Steckle Woods, located in Kitchener, Ontario Canada. The woodlot is a perfect example of succession for it has endured several disturbances. In this field lab analysis we observed the Fagus grandifolia Ehrl., American beech tree, community throughout the local woods. To be able to sufficiently establish the succession of Fagus grandifolia we used the point-centered quarter method. While using this procedure we discovered an abundance of Acer saccharum L., known as sugar maple, trees as well as saplings. Furthermore, this area is known as a beech-maple woodlot, which is primarily composed of Acer saccharum L. and Fagus grandifolia Ehrl. However, much of the Fagus grandifolia foliage was dead due to disease, or not large enough to evaluate as a sapling. In conclusion, the Fagus grandifolia community appeared with natural succession, affected by numerous disturbances, and in the future the Acer saccharum community will proceed to thrive.

Introduction:

It is commonly thought that environmental disturbances cause devastation to multiple ecosystems, however, disturbances can also create new life. Mainly, disturbances produce significant changes in community composition and relationships, biomass, and rates of productivity and nutrient cycling. This intense ecological change, caused by wildfires, windstorms, and anthropogenic stressors may kill the dominant organisms of an ecosystem, which is followed by an extended period of recovery, referred to as succession (Freedman et al., 2010). Steckle Woods in the past has been influenced by an abundance of disturbances comprising of fire, cattle grazing and increasing urban impact, such as clear cutting and road expansions (Student Lab and Field Trip Manual, 2010). Inevitably, following these environmental disturbances a new ecosystem was developed. As a result, the vegetation of the woodlot was substituted by new flora.

Succession is the process by which one community is replaced by another, as they recover from a major disturbance (Freedman et al., 2010). Thus, succession is an essential consideration in examining the elements of ecosystems. For instance, in Steckle Woods over time there has been an immense amount of plant life following the woods past of misuses (Student Lab and Field Trap Manual, 2010). Furthermore, ecological rehabilitation encompasses the importance of determining the plants that occupied the area directly following a disturbance and the plants that colonized afterward. By using plant association we can indicate the environmental conditions of Steckle Woods. From this, we can predict population trends for the future given the presumption that the flora will thrive within these particular environmental conditions (Moss, 2008). Additionally, factors such as competition must be assessed before the ecosystem is rehabilitated. Consequently, establishing which plants were colonized over time and throughout the stages of succession will help decree the conditions of that area and which vegetation can flourish.

In analyzing the growth of vegetation in the woodlot we can asses the succession in Steckle Woods, by using the point-centered quarter method. In three separate groups, students set up a transect line, which had five different sampling points. At each sampling point a quadrant was created. From each quadrant the closest tree's and sampling's diameter was measured at breast height and then recorded, along with the species name and the distance from the sampling point. In concluding the lab, it was hypothesized that due to disturbances and environmental conditions in the area, Acer saccharum have become the dominate community in Steckle Woods over decades. Thus, this helps us establish the current ecosystem's conditions and anticipate potential environmental trends. In recognizing the current and future conditions of the area one can make educated decisions throughout rehabilitation.

The introduction should not exceed 1.5 pages and should include a general description of the topic, why it is relevant or important (i.e., why you are doing the study), a clear hypothesis and/or a specific purpose as appropriate, a very general description of the approach (e.g. field or lab, general type of technique), and in some cases the expected results.

TA Comments:

Grade /10

Methods:

On October 6th 2010, the three groups of students traveled to Steckle Woods, a 29-hectare woodlot located in Kitchener Ontario. The area has been subjected to multiple natural and anthropogenic disturbances, and management plans have been put into place to conserve the woodlot, for instance it is designated as an Environmentally Significant Policy Area (ESPA) as of 1976 (Student Lab and Field Trip Manual, 2010). The most recent disturbance facing the woodlot is the widening of the Bleam's Road corridor; however, restoration is evident at the northern forest edge with the replacement of timber, plant material and soil. Furthermore there was an early restoration effort using Pinus strobus L., white pines as well as Juglans nigra L., black walnut trees were planted in an old gravel pit (Student Lab and Field Trip Manual, 2010). The older part of the woodlot is dominated by vast Pinus strobus L. Where in the core of the woods, multiple Quercus ssp.. oak trees have lately been disturbed and many Fagus grandifolia are dead or dying. Enclosed, Steckle Woods is a suitable study location for succession because of the influences of numerous disturbances and restoration implementations it has undergone.

The main purpose of this study was to observe the Fagus grandifolia community. In determining the succession of the community, a plotless sampling process was used. To start, a 75 meter transect line was established at three separate locations in the center of the woodlot. The transect line was then divided into five sections, at a 15m, 30m, 45m, 60m, and 75m sampling point. At each section the area was split into quadrants, numbered 1, 2, 3, and 4. Within each quadrant the nearest tree and sapling were measured and recorded, resulting in 20 trees and 20 saplings being measured per each group. In this lab a tree was described as having a greater or equal to 10cm dbh (diameter at breast height) and a sapling was described as having a less than 10cm dbh yet more than 3cm dbh. The diameter was measured with a dbh tape, where the transect line was measured with a 50 meter tape. In finding the closest tree and sapling that fit the descriptions, the distance from the bottom of the tree to the center of the quadrant on the transect line was calculated. The next step was to identify the species of the foliage, by using the supplied field guide book called Trees of Canada. However, some trees were too tall and in order to see the leaves and identify the species binoculars were used. After the specie was identified it was recorded next to its related measurements on a data sheet, which was divided into sampling points and quadrants. Following this, on October 27th, the data recorded was then used to calculate the basal area, relative dominance, and absolute frequencies for each specie. These results created a measured analysis of Acer saccharum and Fagus grandifolia communities within Steckle Woods' 29-hectare park.

The methods section should not exceed 1.5 pages and must include IN YOUR OWN WORDS what was done and how it was done. There should be enough detail on the sampling or experimental steps that someone could repeat your study. Use the past tense passive e.g. "Samples were taken at . . .". Include a description of the study area (may be a sub-heading) - location, general description of the area, significant features, and you may want to use a map. Include field data collection and analytical techniques, date, time, and place (if not included in study area subheading), steps in sampling described (not a list from the lab manual), equipment and replication (It is not necessary to list all equipment like scissors, tape measure etc., but the model and type of instruments used are usually described). Cite method of analysis, including any statistical analysis used.

TA Comments:

Grade /20

Results:

In investigating the Acer saccharum and Fagus grandifolia communities within Steckle Woods, many successional trends are evident. As mentioned before most of the Fagus grandifolia discovered were dying and unsuitable as a sample, or their dbh was too little to be a sapling. Thus, the majority of the Fagus grandifolia specie was not sampled. Table 1 is a brief example of the data collected earlier and offers an outline of the Data Sheets formulated.

Table1: Data Sheet: date collected from Point-Center Quarter method, for Area #3 within Steckle Woods

Sampling Point

Quadrant

Nearest Tree

Species

Distance

dbh+

1

1

Sugar Maple

285

17

2

Sugar Maple

43

57

3

Sugar Maple

295

11

4

Sugar Maple

390

14

2

1

Sugar Maple

290

28

2

Sugar Maple

350

19

3

Sugar Maple

352

11

4

Sugar Maple

311

14

3

1

Sugar Maple

136

12

2

Sugar Maple

337

17

3

Sugar Maple

331

5

4

Sugar Maple

226

17

4

1

Sugar Maple

39

14

2

Sugar Maple

315

39

3

Sugar Maple

296

20

4

Sugar Maple

245

21

5

1

Sugar Maple

50

14

2

Sugar Maple

170

106

3

American Beech

237

29

4

Sugar Maple

350

28

From this calculations were formed from the Data Sheet to recognize the significance of each specie sampled. In Table 2, the results for relative dominance and relative density for the observations from Area #3 within the park are expressed.

Table2: Data Analysis and Calculations formed from Data Sheet, for Area #3 within Steckle Woods

Trees

Species #

Species

Basal Area (ΣBAx)

Relative Dominance (%)

Relative Density (%)

1

Sugar Maple

51415.70

96.12

95

2

American Beech

2075.08

3.88

5

Total

53490.79

100

100

The relative dominance for Acer saccharum was 96% and the remaining 4% was Fagus grandifolia. The second calculation, for relative density, is equivalent, where Acer saccharum was 95% and Fagus grandifolia was only 5%. Next, Table 3 articulates the results for absolute frequency and relative frequency for the samples taken from Area #3 within the woodlot.

Table 3: Data Analysis and Calculations formed from Data sheet, for Area #3 within Steckle Woods

Trees

Species #

Species

Absolute Frequency (%):

Relative Frequency (%)

1

Sugar Maple

100

83.33

2

American Beech

20

16.67

Total

120

100

Similarly, the absolute frequency for Acer saccharum was 100%, where Fagus grandifolia's relative frequency was merely 20%. Conversely, the relative frequency was calculated, showing that Acer saccharum were over 83% of the species examined, and the Fagus grandifolia were less than 17%. Finally, from these results the following importance values, seen in Table 4, can be determined.

Table 4: Data Analysis and Calculations formed from Data sheet, for Area #3 within Steckle Woods

Trees

Species #

Species

Importance Value (%):

Absolute Density

(Tree per m²)

1

Sugar Maple

91.48

6.0520472

2

American Beech

8.52

0.3185288

Total

100

For this certain study area, Acer saccharum achieved a value of 91.5% and Fagus grandifolia achieved the remaining 8.5%. In addition, the absolute density for the Acer saccharum specie was approximately 6 trees per 1m², where the likelihood of finding a Fagus grandifolia within 1m² is only 32%. Overall, it is clearly evident in the sampled Area #3 that Acer saccharum specie has dominated, only 1 Fagus grandifolia was observed. Thus, reinforcing the hypothesis; that due to disturbances and environmental conditions the Fagus grandifolia specie is dying, while the Acer saccharum are thriving.

The results section should be not more then 1.5 page of text and should identify the significant findings from the lab. The experiments and quantitative observations are augmented with Figures and Tables that are all described within the text i.e. what do they show?

TA Comments:

Grade /20

Discussion:

Overall, the results from this study emphasize the succession of the Acer saccharum specie at the Kitchener site, seen in Figure 1, labeled as 'Maple.' Furthermore, it is important to mention the

Figure 1: Google Earth Image of Steckle Woods, at the corner of Bleams Rd. and Homer Watson Blvd.

facilitation model, which suggests that earlier species of the area, such as Pinus strobus L. and Fagus grandifolia species, are important in changing abiotic conditions in ways that enhance the environment settings for invading species like Acer saccharum (Freedman et al., 2010). From our results it is evident that the Acer saccharum have thrived from the past vegetation, as they are dominating the area. In addition, past disturbances can affect the conditions of resources available, changing the vegetation drastically. Relating to fire ecology, which involves "two vegetation succession cycles, one large and the other small, the large "maintains the existence and distribution of forest habitat types" that reach a climax stage, such the Acer saccharum specie (Kuusela, 1995).

Conversely, the results from the study only reveal 20 trees in the given Area #3, along a 75 m transect line. To reveal the possible future community in this area, Table 5 was composed with the measurements of 20 saplings. By sampling a number of saplings, it is still obvious the area will be

Table 5: Data Analysis and Calculations formed from Data sheet, for Area #3 within Steckle Woods

Saplings

Species

Basal Area

Relative Density %

Absolute Frequency %

Relative Frequency %

Sugar Maple

2371.79

90

100

71.43

Alternate Dogwood

199.86

5

20

14.29

European Buckthorn

157.91

5

20

14.29

Total

2729.56

100

140

100

dictated by Acer saccharum in the future. Thus, comparing the outcome from this research project with further published articles is imperative in order to make overall conclusions. In comparing this study to John Litcher's, huge differences can been detected between the Lake Michigan study and Steckle Woods. While observing tree succession, Litcher noted that, Fagus grandifolia seldomly occurred as seedlings, and Acer saccharum were not analyzed at all within the study (Litcher, 1998). Another study by Stacie Holmes, examines the influence of disturbances, where after a" five year gap creation, Acer saccharum dominated the taller sapling classes across the entire [area] examined (Holmes et al., 2010).

Apparent bias can be detected from the comparison of these studies, as they were all carried out on Canadian soil. Overall, analyzing the results from Steckle Woods is imperative to be able to foresee what rehabilitation methods can be implied. Given that the community in Area #3 has very low biodiversity, it is proposed that Steckle Woods implements new plant life that can prosper in these particular conditions.

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