You are on page 1of 11


Name________________________________ Lab Time_____________________________

Lab 12: Ecology, Pops, Biomes

Spring 2012 Prelab: Read and understand the introduction to the lab. Introduction

Section I: Ecological Succession

Ecology is the study of interactions between organisms and their environment. This typically involves studying a community, which is defined as multiple species (plants, animals, bacteria, fungi, etc) that live and interact in the same environment at the same time. The organisms within a community interact in many ways, including mutualisms, predation, and competition. Mutualisms are interactions between two organisms in which both receive some benefit (e.g., lichens are fungi + photosynthetic partner). Competition occurs when two organisms need the same resource (mates, space, nutrients, light, water, breeding territory, etc.) and results in both organisms being worse off than they would have been without competing, although one often wins more resources. An important and often misunderstood concept in ecology is succession. Succession refers to the series of changes observed in a plant community following a disturbance event (Connell and Slayter 1977). A disturbance event, such as a wildfire, flood, landslide or hurricane, is an event that changes ecosystem structure and resource availability (Pickett and White 1985). For an example of succession, think of a severe forest fire that kills many trees. What was once a closed canopy forest with very little light reaching the ground has become an open, sunny area. Plants and seeds that were in the shade can take advantage of the new available resources, including sunlight. The plant species that will thrive in the new, open environment may be different from those that grew under the closed forest canopy. These plants are called early-succession plants because they thrive in recently disturbed environments. Over time, as colonizers grow, they change the environment again (by shading, or changing soil conditions), which creates opportunities for a different set of plants. These plant species that establish after the early-succession species are called late-succession species. They are generally less tolerant of disturbance events. These species also often grow more slowly and live longer than early-succession species and only become prevalent a while after the disturbance event. Succession does not necessarily result in the same community that existed before the disturbance. There are multiple possible outcomes, depending on many factors including the order of arrival of colonizing species, which varies over time and space and can depend on chance (Diamond and Case, 1986). Also, because disturbances can re-occur frequently, the plant community might always be in a state of flux, never reaching a climax state (Pickett and White, 1985). As plant communities change over time and space as a result of interactions, they are changing their biotic (living component) and abiotic (non-living component) environment. The concepts of succession and disturbance dynamics are timely given the extent to which human-caused disturbances, such as logging and land development, are influencing global ecosystems and the extent to which natural disturbances, such as fires and floods, are actively managed. Informed voters and citizens should know about disturbance and succession in plant communities. Knowledge of these processes will help them make decisions about land conservation, wildlife habitat restoration and natural resource management practices.

Examining the Stages of Ecological Succession

The stages that any ecosystem passes through are predictable. In this activity, you will place the stages of succession of two ecosystems into sequence. You will also describe changes in an ecosystem and make predictions about changes that will take place from one stage of succession to another.

The change of a body of water from a lake to a marsh can last for thousands of years. The process cannot be observed directly. Instead, a method can be used to find the links of stages and then to put them together to develop a complete story. The water levels of large North American lakes have fallen over time; some of the Great Lakes are currently over 18 meters lower than they once were. As the water level fell, land was exposed. Many small lakes or ponds were left behind as depressions in the land. Below are illustrations and descriptions of four ponds as they exist today. Use the illustrations and descriptions to answer the questions about the ponds.

Pond A: Cattails, bulrushes, and water lilies grow in the pond. These plants have their roots in the bottom of the pond, but they can reach above the surface of the water. This pond is an ideal habitat for the animals that must climb to the surface for oxygen. Aquatic insect larvae are abundant. They serve as food for larger insects, which in turn are food for crayfish, frogs, salamanders, and turtles. Pond B: Plankton growth is rich enough to support animals that entered when the pond was connected to the lake. Fish make nests on the sandy bottom. Mussels crawl over the bottom. Pond C: Decayed bodies of plants and animals form a layer of humus over the bottom of the pond. Chara, a branching green algae, covers the humus. Fish that build nests on the bare bottom have been replaced by those that lay their eggs on the Chara. Pond D: The pond is so filled with vegetation that there are no longer any large areas of open water. Instead, the pond is filled with grasses. The water dries up during the summer months. Answer these questions related to the ponds above: 1. Write the letters of the ponds in order from the youngest, to the oldest.

2. Black bass and bluegill make their nests on sandy bottoms. In which pond would you find them? 3. What will happen to the black bass and blue gill as the floor of the ponds fills with organic debris? 4. Golden shiner and mud minnows lay their eggs on Chara. In which pond would you find them?

5. Some amphibians and crayfish can withstand periods of dryness by burying themselves in mud. In which pond(s) would they survive? 6. Dragonfly nymphs spend their early stages clinging to submerged plants. Then, they climb to the surface, shed their skins and fly away as dragonflies. Which pond is best suited for dragonflies? 7. In which pond succession stage will gill breathing snails be replaced by lung breathing snails that climb to the surface to breathe? 8. Some mussels require a sandy bottom in order to maintain an upright position. In which pond succession stage will they likely become extirpated? 9. Why would ecologists manage a landscape to maintain multiple types of pond succession stages instead of allowing them to all exist in early or late-succession stages simultaneously? Here in West Virginia, the climax community around Gilmer County is primarily Oak-Hickory forests. As ponds fill in, the area will undergo another series of successional stages, as illustrated below. Very briefly, explain what is happening at each stage in the diagram.






Section II: Population Biology

Due to the extreme complexity of nature, ecologists often increase the confidence of their studies by focusing on the effects the environment has on a single population. Analyzing a population involves sampling the population to get a reasonably accurate estimate of the entire population size. In this procedure, the organisms in a few small areas are counted and projected to the entire area. For instance, if a biologist counts 10 squirrels living in a 200 square meter area, she could predict that there are 100 squirrels living in a 2000 square meter area (2000/200=10; 10x10=100). 1. If a biologist collected 1 gallon of pond water and counted 50 Paramecium. Based on the sampling technique, how many Paramecium could be found in the pond if the pond were 100 gallons? 2. What are some problems with this technique? What could affect its accuracy?

Estimating Population Size: Mark & Recapture technique

Simple population estimation by sampling may be inaccurate for a variety of reasons. As such, ecologists use more intricate techniques to obtain more accurate population estimates. In this activity, you will estimate the size of a sample population using the mark-recapture technique. If you were in charge of a biological research team given the responsibility to determine the number of mudpuppies in the Little Kanawha watershed, discuss with your group how you would accomplish this task and describe your plan below.

Using the Mark & Recapture Technique: In this procedure, biologists use traps to capture live animals and then mark them in some way. The animals are returned unharmed to their environment. Over a long time period, the animals from the population are continually trapped and data is taken on how many are captured with and without marks/tags. A mathematical formula is then used to estimate population size. Procedure:

You will receive a box (i.e., Little Kanawha) of pennies (i.e., Mudpuppies) that represents your population Capture 10 animals by removing them randomly from the bag. Place a mark on them using tape that has been provided. Return the 10 marked mudpuppies to the Little Kanawha). With your eyes closed, randomly capture more mudpuppies (i.e., grab a small handful). This is the recapture step. Record the number of mudpuppies recaptured (i.e., with marks) in total and the number that have a mark on them on the data table below. Return the animals to the box and repeat for 10 recaptures. When the ten recaptures are completed, enter the totals on the data table below

Trial Number 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Total:

Number Captured

Number Recaptured with mark

Calculations: Use the equation below to determine your population estimate. Estimated Size after 10 recaptures: ___________

Trial Number Number Number Captured Recaptured with mark 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 Total: Count your total population. Compare the actual size to the estimated size. Were you more accurate during the first 10 trials, or after 20? Why?

Were other groups in the class, on average, more accurate after 10 or 20 trials?

Did you overestimate or underestimate the population?

A theoretical West Virginia Division of Resources biologist marked 30 Marbled Salamanders in Cedar Creek State Park and then monitored the population all summer. During that monitoring, she captured a total of 220 Marbled Salamanders, of which 87 of them had marks. What is the population size? Show your work.

Deer Population Biology: Predation or Starvationyou decide.

In the early-mid 1900s, hunters killed off most bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions, and wolves that once existed in an isolated forest reserve in northern Arizona. The deer population grew (the reserve is so isolated it receives no human hunters) until it exceeded its carrying capacity (the maximum number of individuals that can be supported by the environmentyes, all food resources are limited) and subsequently crashed almost to extirpation. The deer population slowly began to recover until it reached about 2000 individuals in 1970. In the continued absence of most predators, forest managers feared that overgrazing might lead mass starvation again and decided to bring in natural predators (i.e., wolves) in the hopes that natural predation would keep the deer population from becoming too large and also increase the deer quality (or health), as predators often eliminate the weaker members of the herd. In 1971, ten wolves were transported to the forest. The results of this program are shown in the following table. The Population Change is the number of deer born minus the number of deer that died during that year. Fill out the last column for each year (the first has been calculated for you). Wolf Population 10 12 16 22 28 24 21 18 19 19 Deer Population 2,000 2,300 2,500 2,360 2,224 2,094 1,968 1,916 1,952 1,972 Deer Offspring 800 920 1,000 944 996 836 788 766 780 790 Deer Predation Starvation Population Change 400 480 640 880 1,120 960 840 720 760 760 100 240 500 180 26 2 0 0 0 0 +300

Year 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980

Graph the deer and wolf populations on the graph below. Use one color to show deer populations and another color to show wolf populations.

Analysis 1. Describe what happened to the deer and wolf populations between 1971 and 1980.

2. What do you think would have happened to the deer on the island had wolves NOT been introduced?

3. Many biology textbooks describe that predators and prey exist in a balance. This "balance of nature" hypothesis has been criticized because it suggests a relationship between predators and prey that is good and necessary. Opponents of this hypothesis propose the following questions: o Why is death by predators more natural or "right" than death by starvation?

o How does one determine when an ecosystem is in "balance"? o Do predators really kill primarily the old and sick prey? What evidence is there for this statement?

Follow-up Exercise 1
Review Questions 3a. Match the terms on the left with the phrases on the right. Phrases on the right will only be used ONCE. ______ Community ______Abiotic component B. tolerant of disturbance; rapid growth rate ______Biotic organism ______Early-successional species ______Late-successional species ______Mutualism E. a rock ______Succession F. populations of organisms living together in the same place and at the same time. G. a mushroom C. Interaction between organisms in which both partners benefit. D. not tolerant of disturbance; slow growth rate A. changes in the plant community after a disturbance

Follow-up Exercise 2
Logic Problems

1. Glenville is in Gilmer County. All of Gilmer County is in West Virginia. All of West Virginia is in the United States. Is Glenville in the United States?

2. Bats are in Subphylum Vertebrata. All of Subphylum Vertebrata is in Phylum Chordata. All of Phylum Chordata is in Kingdom Animalia. Are bats in Kingdom Animalia?

3. Sand Fork is also in Gilmer County. Is Sand Fork in West Virginia?

4. A Platypus is also in Subphylum Vertebrata. Is a platypus in Phylum Chordata?

5. Weston is in West Virginia. Is it in the same country as Glenville?

6. An amphioxous is in Phylum Chordata. Is it in the same kingdom as a platypus?

7. Is Weston necessarily in the same county as Sand Fork?

8. Is an amphioxous necessarily in the same taxonomic class as a bat?

9. All towns in the United States hold elections on the first Tuesday in November. Did Glenville hold elections on the first Tuesday in November?

10. All animals are multicellular. Are bats multicellular?

11. For these comparisons, what is North America analogous to? (analogous means comparable. In this analogy [teaching comparison] West Virginia is analogous to Phylum Chordata).

12. Write your own pair of questions like the ones listed above. Make a statement (or two) about biology and ask an analogous question about biology. Answer your questions correctly.

Section III: Biome Presentation Preparation

This week you will have time to plan for your upcoming group presentations the week after Thanksgiving break. You will learn who the members of your group are and which biome you will be teaching about in lab. (refer to Ch. 29) Map Work: Obtain a world map and follow the instructions below. On the map: 1. Label the equator and write 00 on it. 2. Label the Tropic of Capricorn and write the appropriate latitude on it. 3. Label the Tropic of Cancer and write the appropriate latitude on it. 4. Put a star where Glenville, WV is. 5. Label all seven continents. 6. Label the Sahara Desert. 7. Label the Amazon Basin Rainforest. 8. Put a small m on Madagascar. 9. Put a small NZ on New Zealand. 10. Label the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

Presentation Planning: 1. Name the other students in your presentation group and their email addresses.

2. Name your biome. 3. List three human impacts to your biome.

4. List at least four countries on two different continents where your biome can be found.

5. Shade your biome on the map.

6. What will your organism type be? 7. What organisms are you considering presenting on?

8. What's your groups plan for giving a great presentation?

Biology 101 Presentation Guidelines: Your group will give a 12-minute oral presentation on your biome (chapter 29). It must be rehearsed, illustrated, and professional. Every member of your group must speak. As a professional presentation, no gum, chew, hats, caps, stomachs or cleavage (front or back) should be visible. As a group, you will need to explain: 1) What are the characteristics of the biome? (wet, warm, dry, grassy, forested . . . ?) 2) Where is the biome? (including specific continents and countries, as well as latitude)

3) What is unique and interesting about the biome? Each individual will need to explain their chosen organism in your biome. Your number (second digit) is the kind of organism that you are assigned to, but you choose the actual species that lives in that biome that you find interesting (i.e., if you are D4, you are in group D [desert] and are number 4 [vertebrate] and you could pick a road runner or a gila monster or a kangaroo rat, all of which are vertebrates that live in the desert). You will need to explain: 1) What is your organism? 2) What adaptations your organism has that make it well suited for your biome (e.g., explain the morphology/physiology of your organism that facilitates its survival in your biome)? 3) What is interesting and unique about your organism? Group Biome (letter) 13. Arctic Tundra 14. Tropical Rain Forest 15. Temperate Grasslands 16. Desert 17. Savanna 18. Temperate Deciduous Forest Individual organism within group (second digit) 1. fungus, protist, archaea or bacteria 2. plant 3. invertebrate animal 4. vertebrate animal The total presentation is worth 30 points. Shared Group Presentation Grade: Presentation organized & clear Presentation covers critical elements of biome Presentation within time (-2 if under 10 minutes or over 14) Visuals easily seen from entire classroom and add to presentation Presentation interesting Individual Presentation Grade: Your effort as rated by other group members Your rating 3 other presentations in lab (and providing good comments) Organism in right group & correctly identified Adaptation to biome clearly explained Presenter enthusiastic and knowledgeable Speaking clear, audible, clear enunciation and no overt hesitation Speaker confident, makes eye contact, does not fidget, smiles Grades from peers Points will be deducted for the following: reading from a power point slide (and hence, not observing your audience) creating a power point slide with font type that makes folks squint interrupting or distracting from another presentation (yes, this includes texting) atrocious mispronunciations acting unprofessionally during your group's or other's presentations 2 3 2 2 2 6 3 2 2 1 1 1 3