Deciduous Forests

INTRODUCTION A deciduous forest, simply described is a forest that is leafless
during the winter. Eury species make up this type of forest, meaning that the
species can tolerate a wide range of conditions. In the extreme northern
latitudes, the growing season is short causing the trees to be leafless the
majority of the year. The deciduous forest is subjected to distinct weather
cycles and temperature shifts. In this area of the northeast we experience four
distinct seasons, and for a tree species to thrive it must adapt to the stresses
corresponding to each season.

Of the three basic types of temperate broadleaf forests, (temperate deciduous
forest, temperate woodlands, and temperate evergreen forest) our lab data deals
with characteristics of the temperate deciduous forest. This forest type once
covered large portions of Eurasia, South America, and North America. As with
most native forests, they have been cleared so that the land could be used for
farming or residential use. The temperate deciduous forests of North America
were more diverse than the same type of forests in Europe due to glacial history.
Glacial action dumped till as the ice edge retreated, and North America
inherited a fertile soil base. Soil type is an important factor for which
species of trees can thrive in an area. The general dominant tree species for
temperate deciduous forests are Beech, Ash, Oak, and in our region also Tulip,
Maple, Birch, and Hickory. Developed forests consist of four layers. The layers
are: canopy, sub canopy, shrub, and ground cover. This layering affect benefits
the diversity of the ecosystem by providing a rich variety of habitats. It is a
result of adaptation and competition for sunlight and shows the continuing
process of succession. The stratification of a forest, by intercepting the some
of the available sunlight at various locations, also creates micro-climates with
a wide range of temperatures and moisture conditions. The soil composition also
greatly influences the amount of water that is available to the plant species.
The composition of the soil, the various layer development and the nutrient
content are major factors in the survival of specific species of trees. Climate
and soil type are a-biotic factors, meaning they are outside and uncontrollable
by the species itself. Insect infestations such as Gypsy moths and disease such
as the Chestnut blight are also a-biotic factors that in a relatively short
period of time can severely thin out or destroy a specific species of tree. It
might just add enough stress to one species, where a competing species will then
out-compete it and then dominate.

The cycle of dropping the leaves when the days grow short is vital for the
replenishment of nutrients in the soil. This litter layer decomposes and returns
organic material to the trees through leeching and decomposition into the upper
soil layers where they can be reused by re-absorption through the roots.

METHODS This lab involved the investigation of a deciduous forest located on the
undeveloped portion of the campus. The survey techniques used to collect data
for the vegetation analysis portion of this lab were the quadrant and line
intercept methods. Using pre-established 25 meter square plots, on opposite
sides of a stream, the tree species and sizes were mapped and recorded. Breast
height diameter measurements were made on the canopy and sub canopy trees in
each quadrant. The types of trees found and the number per species was recorded
and used to figure which species were dominate. Each quadrant also used a random
line intercept of 10 meters in length to determine the density of the bush
coverage of the quadrants. A soil analysis of both sides of the creek was also
conducted to determine the affects of a-biotic conditions on the species
recorded in the vegetation analysis. Multiple samples of the A1 and A2 horizons
were collected and analyzed using standard screening and drying stages to
determine soil particle size and moisture content. The measurement of the
specific gravity using a hydrometer while the soil particles are settling out in
a flask is used to calculate the percentages of sand, silt, and clay fractions
of the soil samples. These sampling techniques were derived from exercises #14
and #40 located in: George W. Cox, Laboratory Manual of General Ecology, seventh
edition, W.C. Brown Publishing, 1996.

RESULTS & DISCUSSION The data for this lab was analyzed in stages. In the two
charts provided, the overall differences between the two sides of the forest can
be seen. The first chart compares the tree species found on each side of the
forest and shows the relative dominance. Relative dominance compares the
presence of one species to the total presence of all species located in the
forest and expresses this value as a percentage. The overall trend in the
relative dominance