Lab Exercise 8: The Ecological
Timing note:You must carry out this lab exercise during the growing season in your area. For Minnesotans, this means any time between April and early November. Plan ahead so that you can collect data at the appropriate time for your locale.
Write down your answers to the questions in the exercise as you do the work. These are the questions you will answer in your lab report (attached to the Assignmentstool).
In this lab exercise, you will familiarize yourself with the concept of community structure by making sample plots in a community of your choice. You will be collecting both qualitative and quantitative data, reporting your observations, and answering questions. It may take you a few days to gather all the data necessary to complete this exercise.
From the lab kit you will need:
? two sheets of graph paper
You need to provide the following items:
? meter stick
? right triangle (optional)
? eight sticks or long nails
? hammer or rock
? heavy string
1. Choose a natural terrestrial community within your locale. It can be of any type. Within the community, select two 1 x 2-meter quadrants(rectangular areas) at random. Stake and rope off the quadrants, making sure that both quadrants are the same size. In order to distinguish between the plots, label them Plot 1 and Plot 2. Describe and record the physical characteristics of the plots (e.g., moisture, soil texture, degree of shade, etc.).
3. Make a chart for each plot containing a list of the various plant species that grow in it. Label each plant with a letter. Plant species that grow in both plots should be given the same letter. Otherwise, the plant species in Plot 1 should be labeled with different letters than those used to label the plant species in Plot 2. (You don’t have to identify the plants by name.)
4. Assign some height categories to the vegetation (e.g., 1–3 in., 4–5 in., 6–8 in., etc.), and record a height category for each plant species in each plot on a chart. Use the same height categories for both plots.
5. Count the number of individuals of each plant species in each plot and record this on a chart for each plot.
6. Make a chart of the animals found in each plot. Search for animals under logs, stones, leaves, and other cover, being careful to replace any object overturned. List the taxonomic groups of animals you’ve found (e.g., frogs, ants, turtles, etc.). List the number of individuals you
found in each taxonomic group.
7. On the graph paper from your lab kit, record your data about each plot in the form of bar graphs showing the relative abundance of plants and animals. Use the same measures for each graph so that the data from the two plots can be compared.
8. On paper, report:
a. the number of plant species in each plot
b. the density of individual plant species in each plot
c. the height categories of plant species that were found in both plots d. the number of animal taxonomic groups in each plot
e. the density of individual animal groups in each plot
9. Explain whether the different physical features of the two quadrants are solely responsible for the differences in species composition.
10. How reliably do your chosen plots characterize the larger community? Are the physical and biotic characteristics uniform or variable when compared with the larger community? Explain.
What to Include in Your Lab Report
Go to the Assignmentstool on the course Web site to download the worksheet on which to enter your answers.
After you complete steps 1 through 10, write your results on the worksheet.
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