Laboratory 6 Measuring Community Diversity in a Forest

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1 Ecology Laboratory, BIO 30L Laboratory 6 Measuring Community Diversity in a Forest Objectives 1. Use the Wandering Quarter method to enumerate the tree species in an area of forest. Calculate diversity measures from the tree species data 3. Compare the diversity of two stands of trees (different successional stages or different environmental conditions) Introduction Biological units or levels of analysis, such as ecosystems and biomes, are often named for the dominant forms of plant life living in them, for example: grasslands, rain forests, scrub forests, and deciduous forests. These names not only describe dominant plant forms; they also reflect abiotic factors such as climate, latitude and altitude (Kricher, 1988). The terms desert, tundra, savannah, and taiga also are descriptions of particular plant associations. A community is a group of populations of different species occupying a specific area. We can speak of the animal community of a lake, the insect community in a vegetable garden, or the plant community of a city park. Specific community types are often named by describing the particular plants in that community. However, plant communities are often too heterogeneous to be described by a single dominant species or by listing all the species present. For example, over 500 species of trees occur in the eastern deciduous forest of North America (Kricher, 1988). Thus, communities are often described by the species or genera that are determined to be the most dominant in the community. The dominant species can be quantified by calculating a statistic known as 'importance value (Smith and Smith, 001). Once importance values are determined, a specific community can be described in terms of its most important species. For example, within the deciduous forest of the eastern United States are oak-hickory communities and maple-beech communities (Kricher, 1988). Importance values can be calculated after the size and number of individual trees of the various species is measured. (Formulas for these calculations are given in the Methods below). The trees with the highest importance values will be those that exist in the greatest number or are of the greatest size -- these are the trees that may have the greatest effect on the community. What is the value of knowing the physical structure of a plant community? It can tell us something about the biological structure of the community, something about interactions between species and how the community functions in gathering energy and cycling nutrients. The structure of the plant community determines the animals that can be present, so is of use in wildlife management. For instance, an oak-hickory forest produces lots of nuts. Animals that feed on nuts, like wild turkeys, blue jays, and squirrels will likely be present (Kricher, 1988). Studies of plant communities over the course of many years have allowed biologists to understand ecological succession, the replacement of species by other species over time (and therefore the replacement of communities over time). In addition to dominance and importance, community structure includes 1

2 Ecology Laboratory, BIO 30L characteristics such as the number of species, and the relative abundance of each species (Krebs, 1985). The number of species is known as the species richness; it is simply the number of different species of organisms in a community. Measuring the relative abundance of species, species heterogeneity, or species diversity is a bit more complex. heterogeneity takes into account the relative numbers of individuals of each species in a community as well as the number of species present. 'Hetero' is from Greek meaning different ; homo, is from Greek meaning same. A lawn with only one species of grass in it would be homogeneous. If it had a few dandelions in it, it would be less homogeneous since now it has two different species. A meadow with several species of wildflowers in it would be even less homogeneous and more heterogeneous than the weedy lawn. For example, compare the data from the two communities in Table 1 below. The numbers represent the number of individual organisms of each species. Table 1. richness and abundance in communities 1 and Community 1 Community A 18 7 B 1 8 C 1 5 The richness is 3 in both Community 1 and ; it is the same in both communities, but the communities are quite different. By measuring species heterogeneity we can place a numerical value on the diversity in communities and then use that value when describing or comparing communities. We can measure species heterogeneity by calculating a number known as Simpson s diversity index. Simpson s index has a scale ranging from 1 (no heterogeneity and no diversity) to a maximum equal to the species richness of a community. Values of this index are less than the species richness when there are unequal abundances of the species in a community (Ricklefs, 001). There are several ways to analyze community structure. Methods include setting up a plot of a particular size and counting and measuring all the individual plants within that plot. Methods that don't require setting up a rectangular grid are known as plot-less methods; these methods include the line intercept method, the point-quarter method (Smith and Smith, 001) and the wandering quarter method. For our study we will use the wandering quarter method to compare two different forest communities.

4 Ecology Laboratory, BIO 30L 5. Calculate the relative dominance. Express your answer in the form of a percentage. 6. Calculate the importance value of each species. Relative Dominance = Importance value = relative density + relative dominance. Calculating Simpson s Diversity Index Basal Area per species Total Basal Area Let p i stand for the proportion (a fraction of the number of species to total number of individuals in your sample). The probability of picking two individuals of this species at random is their joint probability, that is: [(p i )(p i )], or (p i ). If we add the joint probabilities for each species, and divide into 1, we get Simpson s index. ). The subscript 'i' means to calculate the proportion for each species. 1 D = s (p i ) i=1 where D = Simpson s index p i = the proportion of individuals of species 'i' in the community s = number of species in the community means sum of all the (p i ), one for each species in the community. Example Calculations: Using the data from Table 1 for Communities 1 and in the Introduction. For Community 1: For A, (p i ) = (18/0) = of 0 individuals are A For B, (p i ) = (1/0) = of 0 individuals are B For C, (p i ) = (1/0) = of 0 individuals are C = Simpson's Index is 1/ 0.815, or 1.7 for Community 1 For Community : Simpson's Index = 1/ [(7/0) + (8/0) + (5/0) ] Simpson's Index = 1/ [ ] Simpson's Index = 1/ [0.345] =.898 Community is more diverse than community 1. Literature Cited Krebs, Charles J Ecology, the experimental analysis of distribution and abundance, 3rd edition. Harper & Row, New York. Kricher, John C A Field Guide to the Eastern Forests: North America. The Peterson Field Guide Series. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts, 368 pages. 4

5 Ecology Laboratory, BIO 30L Ricklefs, R. E The Economy of Nature. 5 th Edition. W.H. Freeman and Company, New York, NY 550 pages. Smith, R.L. and T. M. Smith Ecology and Field Biology, 6th edition. Addison Wesley Longman, San Francisco, 771 pages. This study was edited and revised from: Kell, J.G Measuring community structure of a forest using the wandering quarter method. Pages 31-46, in Tested Studies for Laboratory Teaching, Volume 7 (M.A. O'Donnell, Editor). Proceedings of the 7th Workshop/Conference of the Association for Biology Laboratory Education (ABLE), 383 pages. 8/010 L. Blumer. 5

6 Ecology Laboratory, BIO 30L Forest Diversity Data Form Date: Compass direction followed: Location/Aspect: Members of Group: species dbh distance basal area 1 xxxxxxxxxxx

7 Ecology Laboratory, BIO 30L Forest Diversity Data Form Date: Compass direction followed: Location/Aspect: Members of Group: species dbh distance basal area 1 xxxxxxxxxxx

8 Ecology Laboratory, BIO 30L Location 1. Relative Density of each species Relative Density Basal Area of each species Basal Area Total basal area for all species: Relative Dominance for each species Relative Dominance Importance Value for each species (list ranked starting with most important) Location. Relative Density of each species Importance Value Relative Density 8

9 Ecology Laboratory, BIO 30L Basal Area of each species Basal Area Total basal area for all species: Relative Dominance for each species Relative Dominance Importance Value for each species (list ranked starting with most important) Simpson s Diversity Index Importance Value Richness at Location 1 = Diversity Index at Location 1 = species number p i = number/total number p i 9

10 Ecology Laboratory, BIO 30L Total number = Σp i = D = 1/Σp i = Richness at Location = Diversity Index at Location = species number p i = number/total number p i Total number = Σp i = D = 1/Σp i = 10

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