A wildlife biologist may need to determine the carrying capacity of a forest ecosystem for selected species. A general description of the forest will not provide sufficient information to determine the amount of habitat available. The biologist must make a quantitative analysis of plants in the forest. This type of study can provide information regarding the biodiversity of the forest — the types of plants present, their population densities, and their importance.
Data showing the types and sizes of trees in the forest allow the wildlife biologist to determine the forest’s ability to produce mast (acorns and other nuts and fruit that lie on the forest floor), an important source of food for some forest residents. The population density of certain species of shrubs is important when calculating the carrying capacity of the ecosystem for animals that feed on the buds (distinct from mast).
• Use the point-quarter method to analyze a forest ecosystem.
• Determine the relative density, relative dominance, and relative frequency of trees, shrubs and herbs in the forest ecosystem.
• Identify evidence of animals in the forest ecosystem, and make inferences about the ability of the forest to support a large population of these species.
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This is part of a series of activites on Science in the Environment from No More Boring Science.
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