Thursday, December 2, 2010

Forest Soil, by Rebecca

Healthy soil is the key to all forests. No healthy soil means no healthy plants can grow from it. When you do not have healthy plants, you do not have a sustainable environment for animals, let alone an ecosystem that can thrive. So if that is the case, what is healthy soil? How does it affect a forest biome?
From Nose Hill Park in Calgary, Alberta, samples of a small forest transect have been taken. These results allow people to understand how soil and its health can affect the biome. To begin though, we must first understand what characteristics define soil as healthy. Healthy soil carries in it certain nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, and phosphate that plants rely on in order to grow. These nutrients are extremely important in plant development and helping fight off diseases. By taking a sample of the soil from the transect in Nose Hill Park, it can be identified just how much of each important nutrient the soil has. From this it can be learned how healthy the soil is and how much the biome relies on it.
Nitrate is one of the three major nutrients in soil. In order for the soil to be healthy it needs to contain a certain amount of nitrate. This helps with the growth of plants and fighting off any diseases that the plant may encounter. The soil sample from Nose Hill Park, after being tested, showed that it contained 7mg/L per 100mL. Nitrate is available to plants when the pH of the soil is greater than 5.5. In the tests it was concluded that the pH of the soil was about 6.5. Therefore from that data it is evident that the soil contains a healthy amount of nitrate.
           Phosphorus is essential in soil as it is used by plants for photosynthesis; animals that obtain it through the plants use it for energy transformations. A lack of phosphorous in an ecosystem results in stunned, sickly, and wilted looking plants, these plants then go on to produce lower quality of flowers and fruits. By looking at the plants in the Nose Hill Park transect, they all appear to look healthy giving the impression that phosphorus in abundant in the soil. Further testing shows that the soil in the transect contains 0.10mg/L of phosphate, an ideal amount for a healthy ecosystem. On average, phosphorus is most available for soil with a pH between 6 -7; the soil tested contained a pH of 6.5, right in the middle. This further suggests that there is an ideal amount of phosphorus in the soil, making it perfectly healthy.
Potassium is found in many different organisms; most of the time these organisms get their potassium from the soil. In order for soil to remain at a healthy level there must be potassium. Potassium regulates the opening and closing of the stomata in a plant. While the stomata is vital in water regulation, the potassium helps reduce any water loss from leaves and increases the drought tolerance. As noted by the healthy plants in the forest transect, it is very clear that there must be a healthy amount of potassium in the soil so that the leaves can thrive.

So what is healthy soil? Healthy soil must contain certain levels of Nitrate, Phosphorus, and Potassium. Without these nutrients it can have damaging effects on plants and can cause difficulty in fighting off any diseases. Based on the results from tests of soil from a transect of a forest on Nose Hill, the soil is concluded healthy.

"Temperate Deciduous Forest Biome",, 11/4/00
This website was helpful as it mentioned all of the factors that contribute to a healthy forest ecosystem. It provided key points, and pictures to go with them. I would rate this a 4/5.

The world biomes website gave factual information on a forest ecosytem that allowed us to relate it to the forest ecosystem on Nose Hill Park. However this website was not as helpful as Soil pH, because it did not focus on our main topic. I would rate this website a 3/5.

C. Spector, Soil Science Education. “About Soil pH,”
This website was extremely helpful. It provided us with most of the information we needed to help draw a conclusion to our research question. This website included helpful diagrams and facts on soil nutrient levels. I would rate this website a 5/5

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