Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Grasslands, by Maggie and Becky

At first glance, Nosehill Park looks pretty desolate. There’s just grass with a few areas of trees. But when you venture into the park you start to notice that this blank canvas is actually a masterpiece in disguise. Within this protected park, there are 3 very distinct biomes: Pond, Forest, and Grassland. The last one was studied by Becky T. and Maggie H. of Dr. Pike’s and Ms. Wilson’s Biology 20 period 4 class.
We were going on this field trip in order to answer a research question. Our group’s research question is “what are the symbiotic relationships seen in Nosehill Park?”
First of all, what is a grassland biome like typically?
Grasslands are characterized as areas dominated by grasses rather than large shrubs or trees. The determination of which species of grass grows better in a particular grassland ecosystem, the factors greatly include temperature, precipitation, and soil conditions.
              Specifically, Nose Hill is classified as temperate grassland due to the fact that Calgary is a city in the middle of the prairies. Temperate grasslands, more specifically, are known for having grasses as the dominant flora. Trees and large shrubs are absent. The climate that is typical of temperate grassland is they have hot summers and cold winters with a moderate amount of rainfall. Much like the soil sample that was taken by us in Nosehill, temperate grasslands have deep and dark soil with very fertile upper layers. We found numerous plants that were in the process of decomposition (like that of the plant pictured to the left) which greatly influences the health of the soil.
         What you expect to be a field of grass is really a composition of various species of not only grasses but wild thistle and other wild grasses and flowers (as well as a berried plant shown on the right). There are numerous examples of symbiotic relationships.
On the day in which we took our samples from Nosehill, the weather varied as the day went on. Though we were only there for 3 hours, the temperature changed greatly which is not atypical of a temperate grassland biome. (see Figure  3)
Various mammals inhabit the temperate grassland biome. Typical animals that we saw were deer, hawks, owls, orb spiders (see Figure 4), and pocket gophers.

What is a symbiotic relationship?
         A symbiotic relationship (or symbiosis) can be defined as an interaction between different species.

         These interactions can further be classified as mutualism, commensalism, or parasitism.

          First off, mutualism is any relationship between individuals of different species where both individuals benefit. An example of mutualism in Nosehill is between the pocket gophers and plants. These organisms benefit from each other because when gophers build their tunnels underground, it allows more oxygen and other nutrients to enter the soil, making the soil healthier and more fitting for plants to thrive.
            Secondly, commensalism, which describes a relationship between two organisms where one benefits and the other, is not harmed nor does it benefit from this interaction. Commensalism in Nosehill can be found between the thistle and spiders. This is an example of commensalism because the spider benefits because it’s a place for the spider to capture prey while the thistle neither benefits nor harmed.
             Lastly, parasitism, which is a relationship between two organisms in which one organism benefits while the other, is harmed. In Nosehill Park, this type of interaction can be seen commonly; especially among the plants due to the nature of the thistle. Thistles are an invasive species in which they take away nutrients as well as space from other

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