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Integrated Study Based on Landscape Profile

© Alexsander S. Bogolyubov, Russia, 2000

© Michael J. Brody, USA, 2003

Integrated Study Based on Landscape Profile This manual continues the study of landscape components along the line of a complex landscape profile on the slope of a river or stream valley. The procedure for a standard geobotanical description of a vegetative cover as well as general rules for a soil profile and its description are provided. The lesson is aimed at describing plant associations and underlying soils and their interrelations.

This field study has instructional video featuring real students conducting the ecological field techniques in nature. Each video illustrates the primary instructional outcomes and the major steps in accomplishing the task including reporting the results.


An important aspect of the study of ecological relationships is the determination of spatial distribution of ecosystem components within the borders of the given territory. The main task is to reveal interrelations between vegetation and its environment. Such data can be obtained by two major methods: by making a geobotanical map or as a result of laying an integrated landscape profile.

The lesson is aimed at describing all plant associations and underlying soils along the landscape profile, as well as revealing their interrelations.

This study represents a continuation of activities based on laying a profile of a river valley slope with the help of a leveling survey (Lesson 3, fall). Remember that the earlier lesson should result in a relief profile of a small river valley slope at a site of 100-300 meters long with a difference in attitude from 5 up to 15 meters. With the present lesson, students will study all plant associations found along the profile line and soils underlying these phytocenoses at the same site.

Additional objects of study may be some components of the animal world (for example, invertebrates found in ground litter) and microclimate. Larger landscape components (such as geological foundation, surface waters, vertebrates, etc.) cannot serve as objects for study due to the small size of studied area.

The following items are required for completion of this educational task: 50 meter measuring tape, previously drawn profile of relief, forms of geobotanical and soil descriptions (one form for each plant association) and spades.

Laying a Landscape Profile

Information on the procedure of laying down a complex landscape profile is given in the manual for lesson 3. Here we will only recall the main rules of choosing the site for studies.

1. It is advised to choose a site which is not just a slope of a hill or a mountain, but is a part of the slope of a water-course valley. Ideally, such a site should include such parts of the valley as: a riverbed, a river channel bank, high floodlands, low floodlands (for example, a plant-filled old bed of the river), a slope of terrace over the floodplain, one or several terraces, watershed slope, watershed.

2. It is recommended to choose a site with a slope of about 100-300 meters long with difference in elevation from 5 up to 15 meters. Study of a shorter site or a site with a different slope cannot reveal spatial differences in landscape components; whereas studies of a longer site will be too laborious.

3. It is recommended to make a profile line, along which the leveling survey is carried out and the soil and geobotanical research will be conducted: a straight line, so that the whole slope is well observed.

A thoroughly planned profile will allow students to trace plant association distribution depending on environmental conditions, to understand ecological peculiarities of plant associations found along the profile, and to carry out their comparative analysis. If the profile has not been laid in advance and the area of study is flat, it is recommended to choose a small site (300-500 meters long) with as many different types of vegetation as possible, with different degrees of wetness or different soil types. It is always possible to find such a site in any river valley. In any case it is recommended to pick out a site for studies within a river valley.

Geobotanical Research at the Profile

Geobotanical studies at the profile are aimed at identification of plant associations and their boundaries along the profile line; geobotanical description of these plant associations and their mapping on a scheme of the area (in our case, on the profile (section) of relief).

Geobotanical study starts with the determination of the composition of plant associations found along the profile line. It is the most “intellectual” part of work, requiring from students not only the knowledge of certain plant species, but also familiarization with typical phytocenosis or, conversely, determination of only one plant association (for example, “forest”). Determining plant associations can be quite subjective, especially for beginners. In order to make the performance of this initial stage of work easier for students, a teacher can show and name plant associations along the profile line.

In a typical case, i.e. when studying a profile along the river valley slope from the riverbed up to the watershed slope, researchers can find 5-10 plant associations. They can include, for example, the following plant associations: flood plain meadow (of 2-3 types depending on moisture conditions and composition of plants), floodplain (valley) forest...


This was only the first page from the manual and its full version you can see in the

Ecological Field Studies 4CD Set:

It is possible to purchase the complete set of 40 seasonal Ecological Field Study Materials (video in mpg + manuals in pdf formats) in an attractive 4 compact disk set. These compact disks are compatible with Mac and PC computers. The teacher background information and manuals can be printed out for easy reference. The videos are suitable for individual student or whole class instruction. To purchase the complete 4CD set write a request to the authors (in a free form).

Ecological Field Studies 4CD Set

Some of these manuals you can also purchase in the form of applications for Android devices on Google Play.

Ecological Field Studies Demo Disk:

We also have a free and interesting demonstration disk that explains our ecological field studies approach. The demo disk has short excerpts from all the seasonal field study videos as well as sample text from all the teacher manuals. The disk has an entertaining automatic walk through which describes the field study approach and explains how field studies meet education standards.

You can also download the Demo Disc from This is a virtual hybrid (for PC and Mac computers) CD-ROM image (one 563 Mb file "CD_Demo.iso"). You can write this image to the CD and use it in your computer in ordinary way. You also can use emulator software of virtual CD-ROM drive to play the disk directly from your hard disk.

Ecological Field Studies Demo Disk


Other Ecological Field Studies Instructive Manuals:

Autumn Season

  1. Orienteering in the Forest
  2. Procedure of the Geological Exposure Description
  3. Plotting a Profile of a River Valley Slope
  4. Simple Procedure of Soil Description
  5. Assessment of the Vital State of a Forest Based on Pine-tree Analysis
  6. Study of Species Composition and Number of Fungi
  7. Study of Species Composition and Census of Birds Using the Line Transect-counting Method
  8. Integrated Study Based on Landscape Profile
  9. Complex Environmental Assessment of Human Impact on an Area
  10. Assessment of Air Pollution by Lichen Indication Method

Winter Season

  1. Making a Campfire
  2. Simple “Eye” Survey of the Field Study Site
  3. Study of Growth Dynamics of Trees Based on Annual Rings
  4. Mapping Forest Vegetation
  5. Green Plants Under Snow
  6. Methods of Observation of a Chickadee Flock's Territorial Behavior
  7. Procedure of Winter Mammals Route Census by Footprints
  8. Study of Mammal Ecology According to Their Tracks
  9. Physical and Chemical Properties of Natural Waters
  10. Study of Snow Cover Profile

Spring Season

  1. Let's Help Birds!
  2. Study of the Ecology of Early Flowering Plants
  3. Phenology of Plant Florescence
  4. Assessment of the Vital State of Coniferous Underbrush
  5. Study of Forest Invertebrates (Part I: Forest Litter, Wood)
  6. Studies of Species Composition and Abundance of Amphibians
  7. Studying Minerals and Rocks in Your Area
  8. Studies of the Day Activity of Singing Birds
  9. Studies of Bird Populations Size by Different Methods
  10. Study of Fauna of Spring Temporary Water Bodies

Summer Season

  1. Making a Herbarium
  2. The Study of Plants in Your Local Environment
  3. Study of the Vertical Structure of a Forest
  4. Study of Forest Invertebrates (Part 2: Grass Layer, Tree Crowns and Air)
  5. Study of Birds’ Nesting Life
  6. Complex Comparative Description of Small Rivers and Streams
  7. The Study of Water Invertebrates in a Local River and Assessment of Its Environmental State
  8. Study of Plankton
  9. Assessment of Ecological Features of Meadows on the Base of Vegetation Cover
  10. Assessment of Environmental State of the Forest Based on Leaves’ Asymmetry

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