Monday, November 28, 2011

Succession and Interaction of Nose Hill Park, by Masha and Celina

Changes are inevitable, despite whether they are pleasant or disastrous. We, as humans, cannot stop our growth regardless of how much we crave to stay away from the inescapable death. This is analogous to the planet earth, since it existed long before the first sign of life. Counting from present day, earth has been alive for 4.5678 billion years; even so, this is only one-third of the age of the universe. Hence, during this elongated period, changes developed in species of plants and animals, geographical contents changed, and separation of distinctive biomes have gradually occurred (and is still occurring) throughout the lifetime of earth. Scientifically, the world did not just appear from nowhere; there had to exist the first cell on earth. Through that first cell, the planet advanced to this collaborative world we are today – human sharing planet earth with citizens of nature. The image that readily jumps into our mind is Canada’s largest urban natural environment park – Nose Hill. Thus through this blog we will explore the different interactions between the organisms of the Nose Hill forest are, and the succession (the gradual colonization of a habitat after an environmental disturbance by a series of species) of the forest land over time.
Composition and structures will change drastically in response to the alteration of abiotic (nonliving) and biotic (living) conditions; these changes could include a rise in temperature or the introduction of a new species. An ecosystem is created from the abiotic and biotic factors, which are a community of living and nonliving things, and this is what Nose Hill Park is. The formation of the park was from a river flowing from the Rocky mountains to the west deposited gravels on top of sandstones and shale which are the hill’s bedrocks. Then, 15,000 years ago, ice sheets wore away rock and gravel, leaving Calgary situated in a glacial lake as a result of the last Ice Age. Five thousand years later, the Ice Age retreated leaving behind the foundation of Nose Hill. After the disturbance ended, which is any event that removes some individuals or biomass from a community (Freeman 2008), pioneer community began to take form and will eventually reach climax community. First, a simple description of a sere that developed in Nose Hill. It starts from rock to lichen, to moss, to grass, to shrubs, and lastly to trees. The seral stage or each phase of succession in an ecosystem is vital in leading itself to the climax community, which has stable biomass, efficient energy consumption with nutrient cycling, and high biodiversity of species. The forest area (2420 SW (510616011 N, 1140811211 W)) of Nose Hill is most likely the climax community, because of the numerous aspen trees present.
15 000 years ago, under the same glacier, there was also Edworthy park. As the glacier melted away, Edworthy turned into a temperate forest biome, while Nose Hill turned into a grassland biome. The glacier made a river that now flows through Edworthy Park. This river created more variation in species, in stabilizing temperature, and in slowing the rate of evaporating and sublimation of moisture and snow. On the other hand, because of Nose Hill’s geographic formation, which is the park’s South-facing slope, there is less sunlight that reaches and warms every part of the park. This limits biodiversity (the current rapid decline in the variety of life on Earth, largely due to the effects of human culture. (Campbell, N & Reece, J (2002), and can be proved by the sole existence of aspen tree. In comparison to Edworthy, varieties of trees such as the Douglas fir, pine trees, aspen, willow, and balsam polar can all be seen in great numbers. Hence Edworthy Park has more variety and numbers of coniferous trees than Nose Hill and these trees can serve as diverse habitat to varied species. This Nose Hill cannot.  
Edworthy Park has 408 producers in its area, out of which 325 are flowering plants, compared to Nose Hill’s 295 producers, out of which 222 are flowering plants. In the number of concentration of the flowering plants, Edworthy also has a higher percentage (75%) compared to Nose hill with a percentage of 80%. Edworthy Park also has more different habitats like river, pond and slough, grasslands, shrub communities, aspen woods, river line forests, and coniferous forests. In comparison, Nose Hill only has grasslands, shrub communities, aspen woods, and aquatic habitat types. We can notice some absences of other kinds of forests in Nose Hill, which might be caused by the elevation of the park, and where it’s located. In location comparisons, Edworthy Park is 1097 meters above sea level, and 76 meters from the Bow River. Nose Hill is 1125 meters in altitude. The upper part of Nose Hill has occasional drainage depressions. Edworthy Park is smaller than Nose Hill, because its 1.27 square kilometers in size, and Nose hill is 11.27 square kilometers. A major difference n Nose Hill and Edworthy Park is that Edworthy Park has the Bow River going through it. The river provides more habitat types for animals, and serves as a home to more species than Nose Hill can. In general, Edworthy Park has more types of species, a warmer temperature and higher levels of moisture than Nose Hill does. Now we will explore some insight into how Nose Hill revived after the last Ice Age.
Primary succession of Nose Hill is the recovery from the Ice Age, hence a disturbance that removes the soil along with the organisms that live in or above the soil. This succession is when bare rocks become habitats for lichens and algae, and the acids within them extract nutrients from the rock, causing them to form cracks. These tiny cracks are then widened by freezing and thawing over time to trap enough organic molecules and moisture for mosses to grow; this is known as the early successional community. These pioneering species are well adapted for growth in disturbed soils and devote most of their energy to reproduction rather than competition. As a result of their rapid growth, they tend to have a short life span, but a high reproductive rate. Afterwards, over a longer period of time, these cracks will have accumulated enough organic material to support the growth of grasses and small shrubs; this is called the mid-successional community. Subsequently these shrubs mature while the large cracks come together to form small basins so long-lived trees can invade the community leading towards late-successional stage. Lastly, as the trees mature, which in this case are the aspens, climax community will be reached. Therefore the primary succession process has been achieved.
Secondary succession follows the same process of primary succession except the organisms do not need to grow from rocks since the soil in the community is not removed by the disturbance. Hence the process is faster because there is no need for pioneer species, and the underground vegetative organs of plants may still survive in the soil. The fire that happened at Nose Hill on March 30, 2007 is a critical example of secondary succession. The fire consumed 40 hectares of land in Nose Hill, hence the organisms that live on that area of the land was observably killed; therefore the area will have to go through succession stages to recover again.
If you were only driving past Nose Hill and thinking that the land is merely a vast prairie with bald hills then you are definitely wrong. The 11 kilometers square land requires more than a passing glance to truly discover its beauty. The delicate blooming crocus, the soaring aspen towards the sky, or lovely deer with such innocence in their eyes might be easily overlooked if you have never dedicated the time to explore the inner essence of the park. Therefore, Nose Hill’s attraction to the unappreciative eye will seem subtle, but I sure do hope that you readers take the time to explore the nature of Nose Hill and seek the beauties within.
Now, we will discover the intriguing animals that live on this huge grassland biome-Nose Hill. Interactions are essential for animals to co-exist, this is the different ways that plants and animals interact with each other. The most common relations in-between organisms is the symbiotic relationship: any close and prolonged physical relationship between individuals of two different species. (Campbell, N & Reece, J (2002). One example of this type of relationship is known as mutualism. Mutualism is a symbiotic relationship between two organisms that benefit both. In Nose Hill, a mutualism relationship can be observed between bumblebees and flowering plants. During the summer, flowering plants want to reproduce, and when bumblebees land on them, they take some pollen to make honey for themselves, and as they fly away from the plant, they spread its seeds in other parts of the park. This represents a mutualism relationship because both the plant and the bumblebee benefit from this interaction.
Another symbiotic relationship is called parasitism. Parasitism is a relationship between two organisms that is beneficial to solely one organism - the parasite. This is the specie that benefits from this relationship, but the parasite causes detrimental harm to its host, which functions as the habitat for the parasite in which it spends a major proportion of its life in. However, this does not immediately kill the host, but will rather slowly damage the health of the organism. An example of this interaction is when deer ticks attach themselves to white-tailed deer that live in the forest ecosystem in Nose Hill. Those ticks get food, and a place to live in, and reproduce, so they benefit from this relationship hence they are the parasite (an organism that lives in or on a host species and that damages the host). Meanwhile, the deer suffer because they’re letting multiple different ticks (especially after reproduction) feed on its blood, and some ticks might carry disease, so the deer can get infected, hence the deer in this situation is the host organism.
Lastly, a symbiosis relationship, which literally means “at table together”, is identified as commensalism. This relationship is when the commensal benefits and the host neither benefits nor harms (Campbell, N & Reece, J (2002). This type of relationship can be seen when lichens grow on the higher branches of aspen trees in the forest ecosystem of Nose Hill. As lichens grow on trees, they receive their needed nutrients, and are able to grow, and reproduce. While this benefits the lichens, it doesn’t benefit nor harm the branch or the tree that the lichen is living on. The branch simply is a home for the lichens and provides the lichens with nutrients. In this case, the aspen tree is unmodified while the lichen is able to grow.
Through these examples of symbiotic relationships, we can summarize that animals in Nose Hill require interactions with each other, which is when both organisms of difference species live in close vicinity of each other for a prolonged time. Next, we will take a look at some of the competitions between species, which is also a type of interaction.
Intraspecific competition is the competition between members of the same species for the same limited resource (Campbell, N & Reece, J (2002). An example of this type of competition can be observed in Nose Hill is when the tallest tree and other shorter trees compete for sunlight. The height of the tree gains an advantage over absorbing the sunlight first and cast shadows over all shorter tress which makes less sunlight available for nearby trees. In the section we studied (10m by 1 m), the tallest tree was 7.3 meters high, while the others ranged from 2.1 meters to 6.5 meters. Thus makes this an exploitative competition type of interspecific completion. In this scenario, the 7.3 meters high tree will be able to absorb more sunlight than the shorter trees and will cast shadows over them.
Figure 1.0 Aspen Polar trees in the transect we
   studied at the forest area (2420 SW (510616011 N, 1140811211 W)
of Nose Hill on September 22, 2011.
A competition that’s similar to intraspecific competition is called interspecific competition. This type of competition between members of different species is for the same limited resources (Campbell and Reece, (2002). In Nose Hill, interspecific competition can be seen when spiders and wasps compete for the consumption of ground beetles. If the beetle is attacked or frightened by another species, it will release an obnoxious and irritating fluid from its abdomen. They can also use their powerful jaws to bite their attacker if provoked. This links us into the next type of interactions between organisms where animals imitate other animals to protect themselves as opposed to the beetles releasing stench fluids.
                Figure 2.0. Black ground beetle that was found in our transect of the forest area,
      located at (2420 SW (510616011 N, 1140811211 W)) of Nose Hill on September 22, 2011.
Mimicry is the most intriguing interactions in-between organisms. There are two different types of mimicriy:  Batesian mimicry and Mullerian mimicry. Mimicry is a phenomenon in which one species has evolved to look and sound like another species. First, Batesian mimicry is a form of mimicry in which a harmless species resembles a dangerous or poisonous species. In Nose Hill, this type of mimicry can be seen when spiders imitate ants. The spiders use the disguise of ants to escape their predators, which is any organism that kills another organism for food (Campbell and Reece, 2002).  In this case the birds and wasps are the predators of spiders. Second, Mullerian mimicry is a natural phenomenon when two or more harmful species, that may or may not be closely related, resemble each other (Campbell and Reece, 2002). This type of mimicry can be seen when various bees have the aposematic yellow and black stripes. Females of most of these species are potentially harmful to predators, fulfilling the second requirement of Mullerian mimicry. However, in essentially all such species, the males are harmless, and can thus be considered automimics of their harmful females. The males will win, and their predators will loose, because they will confuse the female and male wasps with each other. Protective coloration is another way that mimicry can be described. This is when species camouflage, or make themselves blend in with the environment that they live in by their colour, so that their predators doesn’t see them.
Figure 3.0 This specie is a daddy long-leg that was found in the transect we studied in the forest area of Nose Hill (2420 SW (510616011 N, 1140811211 W).
The picture is taken by a picture motion microscope provided by Sir Winston Churchill High School under the 400X view. As many people might consider them as spiders, because they have eight legs, and they look like them, but actually, they’re not spiders, nor insects. It’s a pholcidae, or cellar spiders. Their oval body, which connects all of its eight legs, acts as the abdomen. This part is about 0.5 centimeters, and their legs are about 3 centimeters. Their second legs as people might think are legs, but actually are antennae. They’re most active in the summertime, but can be seen in the fall, and colder months of the year. They’re native to North America, as the fossil records, and are about 300 million years old, as scientists age the fossils. They’re omnivores (an animal whose diet regularly includes both meat and plants. Freeman (2003), and eat anything form insects to fecal material. This is another trait that’s different from the spiders’. The daddy long-legs usually live about a year and will die because of the cold weather. They reproduce sexually, and females lay eggs from days to months. The eggs are laid and hatch in the ground somewhere during early spring until mid-summer. The males often protect the eggs from the egg-eating females. If it’s attacked, it can play dead, or release on or two of its legs, which twitch due to a “pacemaker”. Their color can be either dark brown or grey which makes it a camouflage color (a colour that blends in with their habitat or environment). These creatures also have fangs for predation, but it doesn’t contain venom glands, and therefore, they aren’t poisonous. This allows the daddy long-legs to escape if the predator is distracted.

Pinel, H. (1980). Calgary’s Natural Areas, Calgary:
The Calgary Field Naturalists Society
Freeman, S (2003) Third Edition Biological Science. San Francisco:
Pearson Education
Campbell, N & Reece, J (2002) Biology Sixth Edition. San Francisco:
Pearson Education
Walker, L.R & Moral R. (2003). Primary Succession and Ecosystem Rehabilitation
            Cambridge University Press

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