Biology 476

BIOL 476

Forest and Wetland Ecology
Catalog Entry

Biology 476: Forest and Wetland Ecology (4)
Three hours lecture; three hours laboratory

Prerequisites: A grade of "C" or better in BIOL 131, BIOL 132, BIOL 231, and BIOL 232; or BIOL 131 and GEOS 241, GEOS 335, or GEOG 305.

Pre- or Corequisite: STAT 219 or STAT 200

This course studies the structure and function of forest and wetland communities and factors influencing the distribution and abundance of species in these systems. We will examine the influence of environmental characteristics (climate, topography, hydrology, soils, disturbance) and plant physiological adaptations in forests and wetlands; methods of vegetation sampling, description, and classification; and current management and conservation issues. Laboratory investigations will emphasize collection of field data, vegetation and site characterization, and analytical techniques.

Detailed Description of Content of Course
1.    Introduction to forest ecosystems
a.    environmental influences – climate, soils, topography, light
b.    structure, physiognomy, and diversity of major types of North American forests
c.    forests as wildlife habitat
d.    timber and non-timber forest resources

2.    Introduction to wetland ecosystems
a.    ecological wetland definition - hydrology, soils, vegetation (hydrophytes)
b.    legal wetland definitions / wetland delineation
c.    wetland function – erosion / flood control, nutrient transformations, fish and wildlife habitat
d.    major types of North American wetlands

3.    Plant ecophysiology / physiological adaptations
a.    photosynthesis (C3, C4, CAM), adaptations to light environments
b.    plant-water adaptations – drought tolerance, adaptations for wetland environments
c.    plant mineral nutrition, adaptations for nutrient limitations
d.    seed dormancy and germination requirements

4.    Population structure, growth, distribution
a.    plant architecture - clonal growth and vegetative reproduction
b.    life history strategies, resource allocation, phenology

5.    Inter- and intra-specific interactions
a.    mutualisms (pollination ecology, seed dispersal, mycorrhizal associations)
b.    competition, allelopathy
c.    herbivory, plant physical and chemical defenses

6.    Community concepts, attributes, and quantitative description
a.    defining plant communities - historical concepts and debates, modern views
b.    physiognomy, species composition, dominance, diversity measures
c.    diversity - scale-dependence, latitudinal gradients, regional and global patterns, diversity and stability
d.    sampling methods
e.    gradient analysis / classification and ordination of plant communities / spatial analysis and mapping

7.    Disturbance and ecosystem recovery
a.    disturbance frequency and intensity
b.    fire ecology, altered fire regimes
c.    flooding and hydrologic alterations (wetlands)
d.    anthropogenic influences - deforestation, historical land use impacts, introduced species, large mammals as forest pests
e.    1o and 2o (old-field) succession, theoretical succession models

8.    Forest and wetland ecosystems
a.    nutrient cycling in forests and wetlands
b.    forest and wetland productivity
c.    global climate change – biodiversity losses, habitat fragmentation, wetland degradation and mitigation, introduced species, elevated atmospheric CO2 models, acid precipitation / nitrogen deposition

Detailed Description of Conduct of Course
In addition to traditional lecture formats, lecture classes may include discussions of primary and secondary literature, evaluation of qualitative and quantitative evidence from case studies, and problem-based and team learning. Labs will include field trips to study regional vegetation patterns, environmental site influences, and methods for sampling forest and wetland vegetation. Labs will emphasize field data collection, sampling methods, and quantitative, computer-based data analyses (i.e., vegetation description, classification, Geographic Information Systems mapping).

Goals and Objectives of the Course
After successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
1.    explain the major factors influencing the structure and composition (distribution and abundance of species) of forest and wetland plant communities, including interactions between species and the environment
2.    characterize wetland ecosystems based on vegetation, hydrology, soils, and ecosystem functions
3.    describe physiological stresses and plant adaptations for forest and wetland environments
4.    correctly employ field sampling and data collection techniques to characterize forest and wetland vegetation and site characteristics
5.    evaluate qualitative and quantitative data
6.    analyze vegetation data to characterize plant communities quantitatively, including vegetation description and classification
7.    read and critically analyze primary and secondary ecological literature
8.    apply ecological principles to current conservation issues

Assessment Measures
Assessment of student understanding and application of course material may include essay, short-answer, and objective questions on written lecture exams; practical field and laboratory quizzes; individual and small group research investigations; written research / laboratory reports; oral presentations; reading, discussion, and evaluation of primary and secondary literature, and written assignments. Other assessment measures may be used to evaluate understanding of content and skills when appropriate.

Other Course Information

Review and Approval

March, 2010