Wetlands Ecology (1.5 hours)
The classroom component will consist of a discussion of what wetlands are, based on soil
types and characteristics. Students will be given the six basic concepts of
what wetlands are: 1) not always wet; 2) with or without plants; 3) associated
with, or distant from, bodies of water ; 4) water present in the soil for
extended periods on a recurring basis (which include flatland, depression and
slope wetlands); 5) may be manmade and; 6) are both fresh and saltwater
environments. Students will learn five major functions of wetlands (water
storage, reduce flooding, nutrient retention and cycling, sediment retention,
provision of substrate for plants) and their values.
Though defined by their
soil (a result of prolonged submergence), wetlands can often be identifed by
the type of plant or plant communities present. Students will be introduced to
the concept of indicator plants. An explanation of how wetlands
affect plant communities (anaerobic soil conditions place restrictions on oxygen
uptake by certain plants) will conclude the classroom lecture.
Students will then be
led out on the trails to hike down and through the wetland study area. Along
the trails, indicator plants will be identified and examined; wetland boundaries
will be delineated; soil samples will be taken, examined and compared. Soil
organisms will be observed and discussed, as well as the other animal
communities including species typically found in wetland type environments.
What ephemeral (vernal) ponds are, and what their importance is, will be
highlighted and discussed. Students will learn how wetlands are defined,
described and delineated, on the basis of soil characteristics and plant
communities, as well as gaining an appreciation of the importance of wetlands
and the functions they serve.