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Study of the Ecology of Early Flowering Plants

© Alexsander S. Bogolyubov, Russia, 2002

© Michael J. Brody, USA, 2003

Study of the ecology of early flowering plantsThis manual is devoted to studies of early flowering plants. The manual describes important biological peculiarities of these plants, the procedure for assessment of their distribution and numbers within the area under study as well as methods for the recording of observation data and presentation of studies results.

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.

Introduction

Peculiarities of early flowering plants

Early flowering plants are the plants of early spring flora, which blossom right after snow cover melts away. In the central part of Russia, these plants blossom in April (in some warm years, starting from the end of March) until mid-May.

What is the biological sense of such early blossoming for this group of plants?

The first and the most important reason is sunlight. It is well known that photosynthesis takes place in photosynthetic (green) organs of plants in sunlight, when organic substances, carbohydrates, are formed out of inorganic substances (water and carbon dioxide). Plants use carbohydrates for their growth and development. Thus, a sufficient amount of sunlight is a necessary condition for the normal development of plants.

Forests located in the temperate climatic zone are richest in sunlight in early spring. Trees and bushes are not covered with foliage yet and nothing prevents the sunlight from freely reaching the ground.

This factor is the main reason that many plant species have in the course of their evolution “chosen” early spring to blossom. That is why most early flowering plants are found in deciduous, especially broad-leaved, “dark” forests.

There is another reason that plants use the “transparency” of spring forests that are free from leaves. Pollination occurs easier in a spring forests where there is no foliage. It affects wind-pollinated early flowering plants, such as well-known birches (different representatives of the Betula genus), aspen (Populus tremula), alder-trees (speckled and black alder – representatives of Alnus genus), hazel or nutwood (Corylus avellana). Nothing prevents the wind from transferring pollen from the male flowers of these plants (which are combined in polliniferous catkins) onto female flowers, which consist of small sticky pistils in early spring. When leaves on trees and bushes come out, they will prevent the wind from moving freely in the tree crowns.

Insect-pollinated plants also use this season in their own way. They first attract insects with their bright flowers of yellow, blue and pink. Flowers of low-growing plants are poorly seen in the twilight of summer forest (incidentally, the flowers of plants found in the lower forest layer and that blossom in summer – oxalis, trientale, may-lily and others – are white in color, as it stands out the most brightly under conditions of insufficient illumination).

One more reason for the early flowering of plants is the availability of moisture. The soil is saturated with moisture after the snow melts, and the moisture is necessary for the normal development of plants.

Ephemeroids

Favorable spring factors (sufficient illumination and moisture) are better used by small plants, which belong to a group called ephemeroids. It is the most specific group of early flowering plants, which is narrowly adapted to early blossoming.

The word “ephemeral” is associated with something beautiful, but passing, or short-lived. It is ascribed to early spring ephemeroids in full. They are remarkable for their exceptional "speed," they appear right after the snow melts away and quickly develop despite the spring coolness. They blossom a week or two after they have appeared, and in two or three weeks they have fruit with seeds. The plants themselves begin to...

 

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 ecosystema.ru/eng/eftm/CD_Demo.iso. 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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