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Assessment of Ecological Features of Meadows on the Base of Vegetation Cover

Alexsander S. Bogolyubov, Russia, 2002

Michael J. Brody, USA, 2003

Assessment of ecological features of meadows on the base of vegetation coverThis manual contains a procedure for bioindication of ecological conditions in meadow plant associations according to the species composition and abundance of plants. Without any geographical, physical, chemical or historical studies, it is also possible to determine important characteristics of habitat physical conditions.

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.


This research is one of the most difficult and laborious studies within the given series, as it requires knowledge of herbaceous plant species, skills to make geobotanical descriptions of meadow plant associations, as well as the ability to process quantitatively obtained data.

The present lesson is based on one of the most interesting bioindication methods. Bioindication is the determination of different environmental characteristics according to living objects. In the given case, objects of bioindication are meadow plant associations. This procedure allows us to determine the main geographical and physical characteristics of these plant associations on the basis of only the description of the species composition of plants growing in the meadow, without conducting any geographical (geomorphological, geological and soil), physical, chemical or historical studies.

Long-term work of the Russian soil agronomist and botanist L.G. Ramensky, who carried out large-scale studies in 1940-50s, is used as the basis of the procedure. Ramensky analyzed vast materials collected in different regions of the country where he studied the species composition of meadows and their physical properties at the same time. Comparing species composition and abundance of plants in meadows located in areas with different physical properties, he determined colonization patterns of different meadow types by different plant species. Due to his works, the Comparative ecological tables of plants were developed, which are described in this manual. Using the tables, a researcher can describe values of certain physical properties of the area under study on the basis of plants found in the meadow.

L.G. Ramensky studied five ecological characteristics (scales) of meadow plant associations: 1) scale of moisture (denoted by a letter M in the tables); 2) scale of moisture variability (MV); 3) scale of active soil richness and salinity (RS); 4) scale of alluvialness (A) and 5) scale of pasture digression (PD). What the scales are, what they characterize and how researcher can evaluate the position of a given meadow plant association on the basis of each of the scales all these issues will be discussed below in the section called Characteristics of scales-gradations of ecological conditions.

Students are required to have the following equipment for conducting the studies: forms for geobotanical descriptions (or field diaries or notebooks), complete (scientific) field guides of herbaceous plants and comparative ecological tables, given in the present manual.

General organizational plan of studies

It is recommended to organize the students conducting these studies with the example of 3-5 meadow plant associations that are known to differ in physical properties of their environments. For instance, it is possible to include and describe meadows found at different distances and at different heights according to the riverbed. This will provide an opportunity to compare meadows with different types of moisture, moisture variability, soil richness and alluvialness.

The total amount of work, i.e. the number of different types of meadows studied in the course of research depends as usual on the availability and qualification of labor resources and time. Two or three students can carry out a standard geobotanical description of a meadow. Each team of students conducts the description of two or three types of meadows found in the vicinity of the field studies center. When planning the studies, it is necessary to take into account the fact that fieldwork takes relatively little time (not more than an hour for description of one meadow); most of your time will be spent processing the field material (determination of unknown species and work with tables).

Requirements for the fieldwork in the course of given studies include students knowledge of all the species of herbaceous plants or the availability of complete (scientific) field guides as well as the skills to conduct description of herbaceous vegetation.

Technique for geobotanical descriptions of meadow vegetation

Description of meadow vegetation is carried out according to a standard scheme.

A site for description of 1m x 1m in size is laid down in an average, middle part of the meadow. The corners of the site are marked with pegs for convenience and visibility, and the borders of the site are marked with strings (or one meter long ...


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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