Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Forest, by Ali and Rob

Nosehill Ecology
Figure 1. This is a photo of Nosehill’s forest
As a class we headed to Nosehill Park, located in northwest Calgary.  It was an intriguing experience as we all picked up some sort of knowledge in an indescribable way. Nosehill Park exhibits a variety of ecosystems. Along with the variety of ecosystems, Nosehill promotes biodiversity. Focusing on the Forest ecosystem, the biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) factors provided an opportunity to observe and absorb the wonderful surroundings. The focus of our research was on the health of the forest.
            A few aspects led us to determine the state of the forests health. Soil samples played a major part in determining the soils health.
Figure 2. Table shows results from
soil testing. The soil sample
was collected from Nosehill
Park forest ecosystem.
It is said that “Forests are only as healthy as the soil they grow on.” (Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry et all..., 2010)The soil data strongly supports that the forest is not healthy as it can potentially be. The table shows that the forest soil contains low amounts of calcium. This data suggests that the forest is not at optimal health. Calcium is essential to plants in many ways, such as proper cell division and cell wall development. These processes require Calcium in order to keep various species of plants at their healthiest. Enzyme activity is fuelled by calcium, which is important for maintaining a healthy population of plants. An example of the importance of enzymes can be understood by the modification of isoflavonoids, natural plant products that help plants resist fungal infections. The pH of the soil also allows us to identify the health of the soil. A pH of 4 was recorded after a pH test, which was another indication that the forest was not at optimal health. A pH of 6-7 promotes availability of plant nutrients. However, Nosehill has an acidic soil structure, which creates obstacles for bacteria. Bacteria are vital for decomposition and the formation of healthy, fertile soil. Nitrate and ammonia are connected by processes in soil, and are very important in the development of healthy, fertile soil. All life depends on nitrogen fixation, a process where nitrogen gas is converted to ammonia. Without nitrate in the soil important processes such as cellular respiration cannot be performed. With the levels of nitrate at 2.5 mg/ L (ppm), and ammonia at 0.12 mg/L (ppm), Nosehill has a reasonable amount of nitrate and ammonia concentration, which is vital for life on Earth.
Figure 3.  A hand-drawn picture showing the
importance of soil bacteria resulting in the
nutrition of plants
The interactions and the diverse arrangement of species supported our research on the health of the Nosehill Park forest.

Figure 4.  Yarrow was found throughout the forest. Yarrow thrives in poor, dry soil, suggesting that Nosehill Park does not have the healthiest soil.

Figure 5. Wood’s Rose (Rosa Woodsii)

          A Wood’s Rose is a deciduous shrub that is capable of living in a variety of climates. Wood’s Rose prefer access to sunlight, but are able to tolerate shaded areas. The Nosehill forest does not provide the best living conditions for Wood’s Rose as canopy of foliage blocks some sunlight.         
Although the forest is not ideal for species such as Yarrow and Wood’s Rose, it does support other species. The forest has a diverse arrangement of species including insects, animals, and plants. This suggests that the forest is adequately healthy and allows for the development of various forms of life.
Figure 6.  An external view of the forest is
shown in this photo.
  With the data and observations recorded, we have questions regarding the treatment, lack of nutrients, and sub-optimal pH levels. Should urban planners take these signs as a cause of human development? Or are the changes a result of the natural course of these forests? The answers to these questions can help shape public policy regarding urban green space, or help obtain the most durable forests.
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