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Ecosystem Analysis of Dowling's Prairie and Woods

By: Carley Farnsworth, Ryan Lensing, and Period 5 APES class


Abstract
Iowa obtains two main ecosystems, lowland forest and prairies. At Dowling, we
have a prairie and lowland forest. We found the evenness, richness, biodiversity and
biomass of the forest and the prairie in order to decide which ecosystem would more
ecologically beneficial to expand on campus. We gathered plants and insects in order to
determine many factors of the prairie and woods. Data shows that the woods have a
higher insect biodiversity and evenness yet the prairie has a higher biomass. We
analyzed the graphs and correlated our data in order to support our data. I concluded
that the benefits of increasing the prairie are greater than that of the woods on the
Dowling Catholic campus based on the research conducted in this experiment.
Introduction
The students of Dowling Catholic High School decided to analyze the prairie and
woods on campus. We are trying to answer the question of which ecosystem is more
ecologically beneficial to expand on campus, our prairie or our forest. The forest at
Dowling is 24726.29 meters squared. The Dowling forest is a lowland forest and a
lowland forest is located in an area of land that is low in relation to the surrounding
country and is often dense and species rich. Also on campus is a tallgrass prairie, which
is an ecosystem that is native to central North America and is capable of supporting
high biodiversity.the tallgrass prairie is 648 meters squared and has been deteriorated
over the past years due to the increase in cultivating athletic fields. Our forest was
deteriorated from the building of parking lots and other school structures causing it to
lower in biomass and become less productive. The forest and prairies have provided
several economic and ecological benefits for our school and the area around it. Major
trophic levels in the forest and prairie are: producers, herbivores, primary consumers
than secondary consumers. This is important to know when you're trying to figure out
the biodiversity of an ecosystem by finding out the amount of species at each trophic
level and if the environment can sustain itself. Biodiversity is the variety of different
types of life found on Earth and the variations within species. It is a measure of the
variety of organisms present in different ecosystems. Biodiversity is essential in finding
out if an ecosystem is thriving and if we should expand it to benefit the environment.
There are around 9 million types of animals, plants, protists, and fungi are on this
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earth . The ecosystems on campus have a higher chance of obtaining a higher
biodiversity if expanded. In order to determine which ecosystem would be more
beneficial to increase, we need to realize what can effect our two ecosystems and the
effect the two ecosystems have on our campus. If we increase the richness of our
prairie or woods, richness of an ecosystem increases biomass overall 2. By expanding
either ecosystem, we can be creating more producers. Plant diversity is essential to
producing biomass3. Without strong plant biodiversity the less consumers an ecosystem
can sustain. The more we can expand, the more plants can grow therefore increasing
biomass. A positive change in plant biodiversity will cause a huge increase in
productivity in an ecosystem4. With the biodiversity of plants increasing, there will be a
significant increase in animal life therefore increasing overall biomass of both

ecosystems. We found the biomass and biodiversity in both ecosystems to help us


make a proper conclusion.
Biodiversity can become a driving factor for an ecosystem 4. Dowling used to be
an area made up of prairies and woods, but due to building and tearing down our prairie
and woods we have lost biodiversity and biomass on campus. As biodiversity increases,
it helps the ecosystem around it therefore driving the importance to increase
biodiversity. Positive effects of biodiversity on an ecosystem increase productivity over
time3. Ecosystems with a higher biodiversity will have greater negative impacts on the
function of an ecosystem3. If we expand either they then will have a higher chance of
being beneficial ecosystems that can therefore help our campus and the area around it.
High diversity has major impacts such as greater use of limiting resources, decreased
disease, and increase in supply rates over time 4. Loss of biodiversity will alter the
ecosystem in a negative way1. Loss of biodiversity and species may majorly contribute
to the long term negative effects of ecosystem functioning 6. Therefore we should stride
to increase the biomass and biodiversity to decrease the negative impacts on the
ecosystem.
Different species help different ecosystems at different times, causing biodiversity
of plants and animals being essential to an ecosystem. Many species are needed to
maintain multiple functions at many times and many different ecosystems 7. The way
animals interact in an ecosystem promote biodiversity8.This just emphasizes the
importance of maintaining biodiversity. Biodiversity helps maintain community and
ecosystem processes9. Population and ecosystem traits have determined a strong
relationship between biodiversity and stability9. Biodiversity conservation and
maintenance are important to maintaining an ecosystem 10.
I think that expanding the prairie will be more environmentally beneficial because
the more prairie we have, the larger amount and variety of consumers we can sustain. I
think the benefits of a prairie are also greater than those of a forest in the case of the
Dowling campus. Increasing the prairie will lower the chances of negative impacts
happening to it, will increase general biodiversity and will help restore our campus to a
little bit of what it originally was.
Methods
We used several methods in order to collect our data. Plant biomass was
collected from a .25 meter squared quadrat. Plant biodiversity was analyzed in a 1
meter square quadrat. Insect biodiversity was collected from 5 meter transects using
swing nets.
In order to do our research, we used typically used methods to test and analyze
our results. All of our data was used by scientifically supported ways of testing and was
tested multiple times in order to be accurate. We used the t-test, found the R-value for
Figure 6, and found the P-value for all of our graphs. We used the first Shannon index in
order to find the evenness for the plants and the insects. The methods we used are
scientifically supported methods and are the normal practices of testing.
Data

Photo 1

Photo 1: A picture of the Dowling Catholic tallgrass prairie which is 648 meters squared
that we used to conduct our experiment.
Photo 2

Photo 2: This is a picture of Dowlings lowland forest which is 24726.29 meters squared
and was used to conduct this experiment.
Figure 1

Figure 1: This graph compares the biomass of the Dowling Catholic prairie and woods
biomass in grams per meter squared. The biomass is of the prairie is greater than the
woods according to our research. The P-value shows a strong correlation in the woods
and prairie biomass.
Figure 2

Figure 2: This graph compares the average richness of the plants in the woods and
prairie on campus. The woods has a higher plant biodiversity according to this graph.
This P-value shows a strong correlation between the data.
Figure 3

Figure 3: This graph compares the average evenness (Shannon Index) of the plants in
the prairie and the woods. The woods has a much higher amount of plant biodiversity
evenness compared to the prairie. The P-value shows a not very strong significance.
Figure 4

Figure 4: This graph compares the insect biodiversity richness in the woods and the
prairie. The woods has a greater insect richness than the prairie according to our
research. The P-value was shows a lack of significance.
Figure 5

Figure 5: This graph compares the average insect evenness (Shannon Index) in the
woods and the prairie. The evenness of the woods is higher compared to that of the
prairie. The P-value shows a low amount of scientific significance.

Figure 6

Figure 6: This graph compared the biomass of the woods and prairie to the biodiversity
richness of woods and prairie. The R value was .702. The P-value shows a strong
amount of significance.
Discussion
All of our graphs are made up of data that we collected and we analyzed in order
to support our hypothesis. P-values were collected for our graphs in order to show the
significance of our data. Each graph is a different aspect of our data from our
experiments.
Figure 1 shows the biomass of the woods and prairie on the Dowling campus in
grams per meter squared. This shows the effectiveness of the forest and prairie. It also
compares which ecosystem is more beneficial in means of biomass to the environment.
The p-value found shows a strong amount of significance in our data.The graph helps
implicate the biological matter of our ecosystems, we can therefore relate that to the
richness and evenness of each ecosystem. Biomass overall will increase if richness
increases2. The biomass in the prairie is greater and we should then increase size of
the prairie to increase the biomass to make it more beneficial.
Figure 2 shows the plant richness compared between the woods and the prairie
on campus. The richness shows the different amount of species and the richness of the
woods was significantly more than that of the prairie. The P-value found shows a strong
amount of significance between the data. If we expand the prairie then it will be capable
to support more variety of species and hopefully will exceed that of the woods. Plant
diversity is essential to producing biomass3. If we increase the plant richness, that will
then increase plant biodiversity therefore increasing plant biomass overall.

Figure 3 shows the average biodiversity evenness of the plants of the woods and
the prairie. Evenness measures the relative abundance of the different species that
make up the richness of different areas. The evenness was needed in order to compare
with figure 2, that shows the richness of the plants in the woods and the prairie. The
woods has a greater evenness compared to the prairie. Biodiversity conservation is
important to to maintain an ecosystem 10. If we make the prairie bigger, it can gain a
greater amount of evenness which will cause it to function better and it will be more
beneficial compared to now. In order to keep this current amount of evenness, we need
to conserve our prairie.
Figure 4 shows the insect biodiversity richness of the woods and prairie. The
richness is the amount of species in the sample that we collected. This is important
because the insect richness will rely on the plant biomass. If there is a low amount of
plant biomass than there will be a low amount of insect richness. Many species are
needed to maintain multiple functions at many times and many different ecosystems 9.
We need to maintain a healthy amount of plant biodiversity in order to maintain insect
richness. Plant diversity is essential to producing biomass 3. This is important to know
because we need a high amount of richness to provide many different services to the
ecosystem and therefore make a variety of species of insects essential for our
ecosystem to that they can remain functioning. We also need to have a large amount of
plant diversity in our ecosystem, shown in figure 1, so that we can produce a larger
amount of biomass. Richness in the woods is greater than that of the prairie so we
should expand the prairie to increase the richness and exceed that of the woods.
Figure 5 shows the insect biodiversity evenness of the woods and prairie on the
Dowling campus. The insect evenness is greater in the prairie, showing that the
biodiversity in the prairie is greater than the woods. This graph relates to figure 4
because it is important to know the biodiversity evenness and richness of an ecosystem
in order to determine how it is functioning. Biodiversity helps maintain community and
ecosystem processes9. With a greater insect biodiversity evenness, we can maintain a
stable ecosystem and have a well functioning forest and prairie. It would be more
beneficial to increase the prairie because it is already strong in insect biodiversity which
would support plant biomass and it would increase even more if we expanded it.
In Figure 6 we are comparing the plant biomass and plant biodiversity and seeing
the correlation between them. We need to see how they impact each other and how the
different amounts of one impacts the others. Plant biomass helps increase plant
biodiversity. Figure 1 helped us compare the biomass of the woods and the prairie, but
this graph compares plant biomass specifically. A change in plant biodiversity will
cause a huge increase in productivity in an ecosystem 4. If we increase our prairie
biomass, it will increase our biodiversity. Biodiversity helps make the prairie more
productive.
This year on average, the weather was warmer so it affected the biodiversity of
insects we caught and the biomass of our plants and insects. There may be more bugs
in the woods due to the climate this year. There was an extended warm summer and a
wetter season causing an change in biodiversity and environment as a whole. With
climate change there will be more and more anomalies and an increase in anomalies
will change the ecosystem. Anomalies are bleeding into insect and plant biodiversity
and there is strong evidence of this compared to previous years. This may be the

hottest weather based on global averages. The average summer high is 86 and it was
around 70 degrees in mid-October.
Some issues with this research is the anomalies affecting the amount of plants
and animals in the woods and prairie that we found. There may have also been errors in
our research due to the time of year that we did our research and found our plants. In
future research we should compare the evenness, biomass, richness and biodiversity of
all four reasons in each ecosystem and see how they change throughout the year and
change of weather.
I have concluded that expanding the prairie would more ecologically beneficial
based off the research conducted. The prairie has a higher biomass and is more
beneficial to our school and provide more services. If we increase the biomass of the
prairie there will be a higher amount of evenness compared to the woods. Both
ecosystems are ecologically and economically beneficial to our school. Expanding the
prairie would help the area around it and be the most beneficial overall.

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