Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How will climate change affect the diversity of plants in Nosehill Park in the future, by Tanica and Sally

September 26, 2011. Mission I: Code Name: Investigation
                My partner and I were assigned to investigate the hilly forest at Nose Hill, not too far north of the pond that was near the entrance to an unknown land of discovery. Through a narrow and barely visible trail, we hiked upwards, unprepared for what we were to face. Having done minor research beforehand though, we knew that Nosehill Park in Calgary, Alberta, Canada was a large area of land reserved for the preservation of native Alberta prairie grassland. However, what we hoped to answer as we left the road behind us was how, as the climate slowly changes in the area as a result of greenhouse gas effects, the diversity and species of plants will be greatly affected by changes in weather and unexpected happenings that may damage the Nosehill environment. As a way to prove that the temperature in Calgary was rising as the years go by, my partner and I did some additional research on Environmental Canada and found the following data to prove our point. (Insert Graph 1 here)

September 26, 2011. Mission 2: Code Name: The Overall Condition
                Nosehill municipal park is an open system, meaning the park continuously interacts with the surrounding environment instead of conserving all the energy produced inside the park like a closed system. The atmosphere, a layer of gas surrounding earth, provides the carbon dioxide and oxygen for the plants to carry out photosynthesis and cellular respiration as well as various other gases in minute amounts. The hydrosphere, the combined mass of water found on earth, supplies water for plants on Nosehill to carry out photosynthesis and cellular respiration. Through fossil fuel combustion, the burning of hydrocarbons with oxygen gas producing water vapour and carbon dioxide, additional carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. This causes global warming, the overall increase in temperature around the globe, as the carbon dioxide acts as a blanket covering earth and trapping in the heat. As carbon dioxide levels increase, plants will also increase due to the effects of global warming because when carbon dioxide is more readily available, the plant does not need to open up their stomata to let more carbon dioxide in. Therefore, the water drawn up from the hydrosphere cannot be released as a coolant into the atmosphere since the increased number of plants results in a higher demand for water to perform photosynthesis. An increased temperature in the atmosphere will increase risks for forest destruction, a disruption in a woodland ecosystem, by increasing risks for fire threats since the temperature is so high. This is a direct effect on the forests of Nosehill from fossil fuel combustion and climate change. Additional toxic substances are also created from manufacturing, such as persistent organic pollutants like PCB's (polychlorinated biphenyls) that builds up through biomagnification in the hydrosphere and cause liver damage in humans. Ozone depletion, the thinning of earth's stratosphere due to man-made products and processes such as carbon fluorocarbons, will also affect plants on Nosehill as damaging UV rays will shine through the ozone and damage the pigments in plant leaves. This increase in temperature on the earth also means that the growing seasons for plants will be elongated, providing more time for plants to grow stronger and healthier, however, this may also lead to an increase in weed populations.

September 26, 2011. Mission 3: Code Name: Quest for Knowledge
                The diversity and species of plants present in a biome is greatly affected by climate. Consequentially, as the climate gets of Alberta becomes warmer due to the effects of global warming, the types of plants that are able to grow in Nosehill will alter. With this in mind, we had to find a way to find and identify the types of plants that were to be discovered. After much thought, we created a quadrant, and our calculations be done inside its parameters. Taking pictures of the plants, we decided, would be in our best interests, not only could we have the plants on file for later data collection; we could also identify them using these pictures instead of having them mould over time. Thus, we set up a quadrant of 10.000 ± 0.005 m by 1.000 ± 0.005 m within the tall depths of the aspen poplar trees using merely a string, 4 wooden stakes and a tape measure. From here, we began our search. (Insert Figure 1. here)

September 26, 2011. File 19342: Code Name: In Search for the Berry Roots
(insert Figure 2. here)
                Ribes hirtellum or the wild gooseberry. This plant tends to survive more often in a dry environment; thus, the plant can grow successfully in dry environment of Calgary, and hilly terraces like Nosehill with success. Therefore, an increase in temperature of Calgary will bring advantages to the development of the berry-bearing plant, since, in Calgary, as the temperature increases; the weather tends to become drier. This is why there is such a great abundance of this plant in the quadrant we studied. This species, however, is an invasive species originally from the British Isles, meaning that they will compete with the native species of Nosehill Park.

September 26, 2011. File 04393: Code Name: Scarlet Shade
                (insert Figure 3 here) Cornus sericea or the red osier dogwood. Prefers an environment that is fairly moist, like swamps, red osier dogwood is a shrub and is able to grow in shaded areas like the aspen poplar forest we investigated. A native species to Nosehill, the berries were used by Native Americans in North America. This increase of temperature will lead to a decline of the red osier dogwood populations, hence the loss of the members of a native species. This will affect Nosehill greatly since the park is set aside as conservation ground for native Alberta grassland. (insert Figure 4. here)

September 26, 2011. File 492573: Code Name: Invasion
                Taraxacum officinal or the dandelion. This plant usually prefers damper soil for growth; however, the plant can also succeed in growth in a variety of areas and in most areas with temperate but dry climates on earth, such as Calgary. Taking advantage of Calgary warmer climates will increase the population of this species since the growing seasons will extend further, thus allowing more time for this invasive species to flower and spread seeds. Originally hailing from Europe for culinary purposes, the dandelion has proved strong after being introduction into North America and has spread that strength among descendants of the original plants. (insert Figure 5. here)

September 26, 2011. File 628201: Code Name: Blue Recruit
(insert Figure 6. here)
                Aster oolentangiensis or the azure or sky blue aster (asters are a type of daisies). This flowering plant can grow in a majority of environments such as the rocky soil of the hills at Nosehill Park. Asters are available all over the world; but only a couple types of aster, such as the azure aster, are native species in both North America and Eurasia, thus these asters can be considered a native plant to Nosehill. The subspecies of asters that grows in North America can tolerate cold temperatures and can grow in clay soil. An increase in temperature may decrease the population of this subspecies of asters since it is used to cold weather, but the entire genus of asters will not be affected majorly. 

September 26, 2011. File 294727: Code Name: Winter Memories
(insert Figure 7. here)
                Symphoricarpos albus or the snowberry. Snowberries tend to grow in shaded areas across moist mountains and forest habitats such as the hilly landscape of Nosehill. This species is a native species to Nosehill; the berries were used by Native Americans in North America. An increase in temperature of Calgary will decrease the numbers in population of this species since an increase in temperature will increase the rate of evaporation of water in soil, which make the environment unfit for growth of snowberries. Hence, the loss of a native species is possible.

September 26, 2011. File 284291: Code Name:  Piercing Thorns
(insert Figure 8. here)
                Rosa rubiginosa or the prickly wild rose. A flowering plant that prefers to grow in damp areas. However, the prickly wild rose tolerates drought, a large range of cold to hot temperatures, and wind. The climate of Nosehill fits the preferred climate for the prickly wild rose, as Calgary is very dry, and the temperature fluctuates throughout the year, and it is very windy on the hills. An increase in temperature will increase the numbers in population of this species since Calgary is a fairly cool location, the same species is shown to be able to strive in much warmer areas such as New Zealand, and thus an increase in temperature will not negatively affect the population of this plant. This is an invasive species; the rose originated in Eurasia for commercial cultivation, and was introduced to North America. (insert Figure 9. here) 

September 26, 2011. File 38109: Code Name: Native Snow
                Symphoricarpos occidentale, also known as the wolfberry or western snowberry. A plant that flowers and usually prefers to grow in shaded areas across moist mountains and forest habitats such as the hilly landscapes of Nosehill. An increase in temperature of Calgary will decrease the numbers in population of this species since an increase in temperature will increase the rate of evaporation of water in soil, which make the environment unfit for growth. This species is a native species to Nosehill, as Native Americans in North America used the berries. (insert Figure 10. here) 

September 26, 2011. File 241420: Code Name: Trembling Autumn
                Populus tremuloides or the aspen poplar is a tree common to the Northern Hemisphere. Aspen poplar habitats range from warmer regions to high altitudes in the mountains. Thus the aspen poplar is able to strive in Nosehill as the park has a high altitude and temperature changes from warm to cold year round. An increase temperature in Nosehill will increase in number of population for aspen popular, since an increase in temperature will increase the evaporation of water, thus increasing risks of fire. Aspen poplars tend to survive after fires since their roots are not burned out and the tree prefers exposure to light. This species is native to Alberta. 

September 26, 2011. Mission 4: Code Name: Message of Regret
                In conclusion, the majority of the invasive species tend to strive quite well in if the climate of Nosehill became warmer while the native plant species tend to decrease in numbers when temperature increases. This proves that an increase in temperature will slowly deprive Nosehill’s original plant ecosystem, and replace the native plants with plants that are more adaptable to heat. (insert Figure 11. here)

September 26, 2011. Mission 5: Code Name: Before Dark
                We, as people, are able to save the natural native forest ecosystem of Nosehill Park. Climate change has always been a natural force but humans have become catalysts for this reaction. Each day, many activities performed by humans have been contributing to the work of global warming. We must not let this happen. There will be no change unless we strive for one, work for one. Individuals must take their own step to change the future. If every person made a small change to their lifestyle, we could make a difference and preserve the hidden nature around us.

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