Figure 1. This is the area where we worked. Note the uneven distribution of trees and shrubs.
saplings and seedlings were all present, and we managed to identify quite a few of them. The most obvious one was Populus tremuloides, commonly called trembling aspen. It was found in great quantities, at a density of 0.8/m2 within the transect. Other common sights were Rosa woodsii (Wood’s rose), various species of Salvia, Rosa acicularis (Wild Rose) and also Symphoricarpos (Snowberry). These types of plants suggests that either the area is commonly disturbed or the soil quality is bordering on poor, as Wood’s Rose is most often found in disturbed and poor soil, along with the Wild Rose, and to a lesser extent, the Snowberry. A rather interesting observation we made was that the vegetation tended to congest together in segments, rather than spreading themselves out. 9 Aspen trees, 33 shrubs, 11 herbs, 12 saplings, and 7 seedlings were counted in our 10 m by 1 m transect (thus a density of 7.2 plants/m2), but in a 1 m by 1 m quadrate we randomly selected within our transect, we counted 2 trees, 5 herbs, 16 shrubs, 1 sapling, and 4 seedlings. This generated a density of 28 plants/m2, which is significantly larger than the average density within our transect. As previously mentioned, vegetation within the forest biome in Nose hill Park tends to congest together; within our transect, there were areas were very little vegetation was present. Soil samples extracted from areas with dense vegetation and areas with sparse vegetation within our transect indicated that the soil was harder and more compacted in areas where vegetation was abundant, and looser in areas where vegetation was sparse. The data collected supports a positive feedback system; because the soil is more compact, nutrients and minerals are more likely to be retained and not washed away by rain, therefore aiding vegetation growth. Vegetation then start to develop in the nutrient-rich soil, and drop roots; these roots secure the soil and prevents the soil from eroding away.
Figure 1. A picture of a Rosa acicularis hip taken in the forest
As the vegetation is severely clustered together, they compete for light, water, nutrients, among other things. This can lead to starvation for certain types of vegetation; for example, the relatively larger Aspen blocks most of the incoming sunlight from the smaller shrubs, therefore slowing and rejecting their development. Also, since only Trembling Aspen were found in our transect, we can assume that they are better competitors than perhaps other species of trees, and have driven them away from the area by means of interspecific competition, or between-species. Similarly, we observed that even though the Aspen was populous, they were not very tall, nor were they well-built, and their foliage and branches were invading into the space of nearby Aspen. This competition for space, light and nutrients is intraspecific, or within-species; the low-lying shrubs also exhibited this kind of competition, which is further compounded by interspecific competition with the Aspen trees. Competition, such as the ones mentioned above, can be detrimental to the health of vegetation within Nose Hill Park, but it can also be a good thing; introduced species often cannot survive because they are not adapted to the competition that occur, and native species, being adapted to the competition, will come out ahead. In addition to lowering numbers of introduced and invasive species, competition keeps the vegetation population in check; too many plants can be negative for the ecosystem, as with too few plants. There are natural ‘checks’ to the growing number of vegetation; competition is one, and other organisms is another one.
If allowed to flourish and grow at the current rate, the vegetation in Nose Hill Park would soon overrun much of the park, and other organisms would become rarer and rarer. What keeps the number of vegetation in check? One effective method that Mother Nature utilizes is insects. Within our transect, an innumerable quantity of insects were found: different types of ants, flies, wasps, mites, and arachnids (mostly spiders); we also discovered a hawkmoth larvae, hyles gallii, lurking on the outskirts of the forest biome. Most of these insects consume foliage and vegetation as their primary source of food, especially the moth caterpillar (a small number of caterpillars can ravage vegetation if left unchecked). These insects keep the vegetation population in check, but not so much as to wipe them out entirely.