Deciduous Forests


Deciduous Forests Essay, Research Paper

Deciduous Forests

INTRODUCTION A deciduous forest, simply described is a forest that is leafless

during the winter. Eury species make up this type of forest, meaning that the

species can tolerate a wide range of conditions. In the extreme northern

latitudes, the growing season is short causing the trees to be leafless the

majority of the year. The deciduous forest is subjected to distinct weather

cycles and temperature shifts. In this area of the northeast we experience four

distinct seasons, and for a tree species to thrive it must adapt to the stresses

corresponding to each season.

Of the three basic types of temperate broadleaf forests, (temperate deciduous

forest, temperate woodlands, and temperate evergreen forest) our lab data deals

with characteristics of the temperate deciduous forest. This forest type once

covered large portions of Eurasia, South America, and North America. As with

most native forests, they have been cleared so that the land could be used for

farming or residential use. The temperate deciduous forests of North America

were more diverse than the same type of forests in Europe due to glacial history.

Glacial action dumped till as the ice edge retreated, and North America

inherited a fertile soil base. Soil type is an important factor for which

species of trees can thrive in an area. The general dominant tree species for

temperate deciduous forests are Beech, Ash, Oak, and in our region also Tulip,

Maple, Birch, and Hickory. Developed forests consist of four layers. The layers

are: canopy, sub canopy, shrub, and ground cover. This layering affect benefits

the diversity of the ecosystem by providing a rich variety of habitats. It is a

result of adaptation and competition for sunlight and shows the continuing

process of succession. The stratification of a forest, by intercepting the some

of the available sunlight at various locations, also creates micro-climates with

a wide range of temperatures and moisture conditions. The soil composition also

greatly influences the amount of water that is available to the plant species.

The composition of the soil, the various layer development and the nutrient

content are major factors in the survival of specific species of trees. Climate

and soil type are a-biotic factors, meaning they are outside and uncontrollable

by the species itself. Insect infestations such as Gypsy moths and disease such

as the Chestnut blight are also a-biotic factors that in a relatively short

period of time can severely thin out or destroy a specific species of tree. It

might just add enough stress to one species, where a competing species will then

out-compete it and then dominate.

The cycle of dropping the leaves when the days grow short is vital for the

replenishment of nutrients in the soil. This litter layer decomposes and returns

organic material to the trees through leeching and decomposition into the upper

soil layers where they can be reused by re-absorption through the roots.

METHODS This lab involved the investigation of a deciduous forest located on the

undeveloped portion of the campus. The survey techniques used to collect data

for the vegetation analysis portion of this lab were the quadrant and line

intercept methods. Using pre-established 25 meter square plots, on opposite

sides of a stream, the tree species and sizes were mapped and recorded. Breast

height diameter measurements were made on the canopy and sub canopy trees in

each quadrant. The types of trees found and the number per species was recorded

and used to figure which species were dominate. Each quadrant also used a random

line intercept of 10 meters in length to determine the density of the bush

coverage of the quadrants. A soil analysis of both sides of the creek was also

conducted to determine the affects of a-biotic conditions on the species

recorded in the vegetation analysis. Multiple samples of the A1 and A2 horizons

were collected and analyzed using standard screening and drying stages to

determine soil particle size and moisture content. The measurement of the

specific gravity using a hydrometer while the soil particles are settling out in

a flask is used to calculate the percentages of sand, silt, and clay fractions

of the soil samples. These sampling techniques were derived from exercises #14

and #40 located in: George W. Cox, Laboratory Manual of General Ecology, seventh

edition, W.C. Brown Publishing, 1996.

RESULTS & DISCUSSION The data for this lab was analyzed in stages. In the two

charts provided, the overall differences between the two sides of the forest can

be seen. The first chart compares the tree species found on each side of the

forest and shows the relative dominance. Relative dominance compares the

presence of one species to the total presence of all species located in the

forest and expresses this value as a percentage. The overall trend in the

relative dominance data shows a clear change from one side of the creek to the

other. On the north side of the creek, the dominant tree species is the Beech

tree, occupying over 50% of the canopy area. The Beech tree is also the most

dominant tree species in the sub canopy layer as well. The data shows that the

Beech species is doing well and has an assured future in the area as indicated

as the dominance of the same species in the sub canopy. On the northern sites,

the canopy is relatively well developed and has virtually no bushes, just

saplings mostly of the parent dominant Beech. On the southern side of the creek,

the Tulip tree is the dominant tree type in the canopy layer with almost half of

the area occupied. In the sub canopy layer, the Sugar Maple is clearly dominant

at 90%. It seems that the Tulip trees are at the end of there life cycle and are

unable to produce any offspring to allow the species to continue to dominate

that area, as there were no young Tulip saplings found in the sub canopy. The

southern side is heavier in the bush layer due to the opportunities to gain

sunlight through the failing canopy. The second chart shows the soil analysis.

The differences in the soil content are also clear. The total percent of water

held in the A-1 horizon of the soil on the Beech side, is approximately 6% more

moist than the Tulip side. The amount of organics in the Beech side are also

higher by approximately one to two percent than the Tulip side soil. The

specific gravity measurements indicated that the Tulip side is primarily sandy

(A1 horizon) side but the Beech side data s does not show a clear composition.

Both the amount of water and the amount of organic nutrients in the soil are

important a-biotic factors that can affect the ability of any species to thrive

in an area. The northern side also contains a high concentration of large rock,

virtually not present in the Tulip side. This indicates that there is a

difference in the soil construction, given that soil is produced by the break

down of local parent material. This lab showed how the species in a mixed forest

are influenced by a-biotic factors. The general trend of the data does show

that there are distinct differences in the construction of the forest. The

differences in the soil composition may have pushed the beech tree into a

dominant state in their location. However, it would be difficult to say that the

decline in the Tulip tree population is due to soil depletion alone. It may be

due to the natural life span of the species or a stress from a previous decease.

The tulips are not producing any new seedlings, possibly suggesting that the

conditions that once allowed the Tulip to thrive no longer exist, but the

current conditions now favor the Sugar Maples.

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