Thursday, December 2, 2010

Nose Hill Grassland Blog, by Soomin

On Tuesday, September 21 our Biology 20 class took a trip to the second largest park in Calgary, Nose Hill. Where the name originates from is unknown but one of the stories say that a Canadian explorer asked the name of the hill, and the aboriginal translator replied that it was called “Nose” ill because it resembled the nose of their chief. The park itself is just as interesting as its name. For one thing, it is massive. Even when you drive beside it, it almost seems endless. To be exact, Nose Hill is 1127 hectares in size (City of Calgary, 2004). It is even bigger than some of the smaller countries of the world. Nose Hill is also filled with many different types of habitat, with grassland being the main one. When our class arrived we could see ponds, some spots of trees, and fields and fields of grass.

Figure 1.0: An overview of Nose Hill 

Grasslands in North America are endangered, so they’re very important to preserve. Grasslands cover about 87.1 % of Nose Hill (Parks Operations, 2010). This means that Nose Hill is primarily grassland. Since it takes up such a significant portion of the park, there must be a reason why. Most people can take one look and say, “That Park is mostly grassland,” because it is obvious to see. Not all people know why. Our group looked into the conditions and different factors that allowed large grassland habitats to exist in Nose Hill.  
Figure 2.0: A welcoming/caution sign also includes a map.
            Nose Hill is home to many animal and plant species. The plant samples that we preserved and identified from our transect (10m x 1m) included species such as smooth brome, white sage, Canada thistle, Canadian gooseberry and parry oatgrass. From our research, it was found that these plants preferred the grassland soil. Nose Hill is covered by a unique type of soil called Chernozem. It has a dark color, one of dark brown to black. It also has 7-15% of humus (Wiki, 2010) in it which makes ideal growing conditions. Chernozem is known to be mostly found in Canadian prairies and very suitable for grasses. When a soil test was done with soil samples from the Forest habitat and the Grasslands, it showed a considerable amount of difference in the mineral levels. More minerals in the soil contribute to more grass growth. The reason that there are more nutrients in the soil has partly to do with the grasses. When grasses with a shorter life cycle dies, they add to the layer of humus and contribute to more grass growth. In a forest, trees live for a long time and even after they die, decompose very slowly.

Type of habitat
Phosphate(PO43- (s))
Calcium (Ca(s)) (mg/L)
Nitrate (NO3- (g))

Table 1.0: Soil test results in varying types of minerals comparing Forest and Grassland habitat, taken from transect 1m x 10m in Nose Hill.

Figure 4.0: A picture taken of a plant sample,
the Canadian gooseberry, in the transect at Nose Hill.

Another reason that grasslands are able to take up most of Nose Hill is their ability to spread out and survive. Many of the grasses growing in the grassland habitat, such as the most common Canada thistle, are invasive weeds that spread out quickly in a large range. They are tough plants that are even able to steal nutrients from other plants. Perennial grasses and herbs that live in Nose Hill have very strong underground roots and stems that allow them to survive under a lot of conditions, even a fire. Nose Hill has fires occurring often that can be fatal to forests, but not to grasslands. They are fire proof because of their underground root system and can recover very quickly.
Nose Hill Park’s grassland is an important ecosystem as it supports many species living in that area. Nose Hill’s grassland should continue on being preserved as it is today, so it does not disappear like the other grasslands of North America. The factors that allow grassland to take up so much space in Nose Hill should be taken into consideration when trying to preserve it, because if the factors are gone, Nose Hill will be gone with it. It was amazing to find out the actual reasons that make Nose Hill primarily grassland, since we never gave it much thought. In our minds, it was always just there. Nose Hill’s grassland taught us that it is able to exist still today in such a big area because of its characteristics that keep it going.

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