Understory Growth

Topics: Species richness, Shannon index, Measurement of biodiversity Pages: 29 (3173 words) Published: November 13, 2013

Analyzation of the Diversity of Understory Vegetation from the Hilltop to the Marsh in the Sackville New Brunswick Waterfowl Park

In locations such as the Sackville New Brunswick Waterfowl Park, the understory layer of the temperate forest contains a diverse array of vegetation species. The diversity and composition of the understory can vary according to abiotic and biotic factors in the environment. In this experiment, the diversity of the understory between the hilltop and marsh locations in the Waterfowl Park was tested for understory community diversity and variation. This was done using the quadrant sampling method, with three samples taken at each location, with the collected data being used to calculate importance values of species present, Sorenson’s index of similarity, Shannon-Weiner and Simpson’s Diversity index. The importance values and rankings of the species locations were found to be dissimilar, with grass being the most important species at the hilltop and lesser duckweed at the marsh. Only four of nineteen species were similar between the two areas, giving a Sorenson’s index of 0.381. With these results it was concluded that the composition and diversity of the understory vegetation is significantly different between the proximal location of the hilltop and marsh, likely due to differences in abiotic factors and accounting for succession in the marsh. These results may be significant in terms of species conservation and the potential for future disturbances and development within the park. Introduction

In the temperate biome of New Brunswick, forests are vertically stratified, with different vegetation growing at different levels. The understory layer refers to plants growing beneath the highest canopy layer, usually comprising of shade tolerant seedlings, saplings, shrubs and herbs. The understory layer tends to be moister than exposed areas, as the canopy blocks much solar radiation (Molles, 28). Within the temperate forest, there exist areas with different characteristics, rendering certain habitats appropriate for some organisms while others find their realized niche elsewhere. Characteristics that can affect vegetation composition include the soil composition, the soil moisture and pH, and the density and rock content of the ground (Monk, 174). In adapting to different conditions, plant rooting depth and distribution can vary, with those in drier areas possessing deeper tap rooting systems (Zenich, 8). In addition, a plant’s environment is subject to much variation, particularly in successional habitats, for example the marsh formed by flooding in recent decades. In these areas, the canopy is not as developed and provides less of a buffer from environmental conditions than in established stable forests (Bazzaz, 352). The Sackville Waterfowl Park was created by flooding a former saltwater marsh (Hanson, 521). In this area, a range of different environments and habitats can be observed. In the location of this experiment, the hilltop location near the field is much drier and more protected by the canopy than is the marsh downhill. The purpose of this experiment was to survey the vegetation composition between these proximal but unique locations, to determine if there is a difference in understory composition and diversity. This is important to know so that species’ realized niches are known and because the vegetation present in the understory can determine what other organisms may find their realized niche in the areas. In a location such as the Waterfowl Park which is subject to much human disturbance, this information may be important to know in the conservation of certain species. It is hypothesized that in surveying the understory vegetation from the hilltop to the marsh, there will be significant changes in vegetation characteristics. There are many different indices that are utilized by ecologists when comparing communities, each of...

Bibliography: Bazzaz, F. A. “The Physiological Ecology of Plant Succession.” Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, vol. 10 (1979). 351-371).10.1007/s00442-001-0855-7.
Molles, C. and Cahill, F. Ecology Concepts & Applications: Second Canadian Edition. McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 2011. p.274-276.
Monk, Carl D. “Tree Species Diversity in the Eastern Deciduous Forest with Particular Reference to North Central Florida.” The American Naturalist, vol. 101 (n.198), 1967. 173-187.
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