Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Plants and Animals in Our Plots

Liam avoiding sunburn at all cost
 We are getting close to finishing our burn piles.  We have finished all of the small quadrats, and today we started another set of thirty burn piles using 1 m quadrats.  Charlie was saying that viola's will sometimes be very early in recolonizing a burnt patch because they are dispersed by ants.  The strawberries also recolonize  quickly because the stolon can move over the surface regardless of the soil quality.

The gophering is also helping repair the scars from the burn piles.  That is another part of the overall project. At every plot, we measure the amount of gopher activity.  The gophers loosen up the soil, pull some plants from the surface below, and generally mix things up.  These little mini-disturbances seem to make a big difference.  We saw a western toad hopping out of an underground mammal burrow yesterday.  I wonder how many organisms rely on gopher tunnels to escape the heat in the Summer or the freeze of the Winter.  A lot of animals rely on tortoise tunnels in the desert in the same way.  How would you survey the animals living in gopher tunnels?

Red columbine, Aquilegia formosa
Alice Eastwood's daisy, Erigeron alicea

Shannon, Liam, and I have been taking turns helping Nikolas with his part of the overall project.  Niko is surveying all of the seedlings that have grown since the trees were removed from the meadow.  This will measure whether or not the trees are reestablishing themselves, and how fast they are doing it.  Niko  walks through each subplot and measures every tree that is taller than 5 cm.  He records the species, the age and how healthy it is.  I did not know that as a tree grows, every year it retains a growth scar and those scars can be used to determine the age of the tree.  The plot shown here has many seedlings because it is close to the edge of the forest.

This is fungal smut that can parasitize some grasses and sedges

Beetles eating flowers

Liam hauling equipment
We are noticing more often that whenever we put our stuff down in the meadow, the grasshoppers start chewing off the edges.  There is a portion of my Rite-in-the-Rain notebook that has a hole chewed through it.  The grasshoppers also left a pile of poop all around the perimeter of my book.  It was a tremendous amount of grasshopper poop for just a few short hours.  Many of our data sheets look old and worn if they are left in the grass.  Charlie says that they seem to prefer paper treated with chemicals.  When we sit for lunch, the ground is in constant motion.  I have seen spiders walking among the grasshoppers which to me seem strange.

A spider of the inflorescence
of a Bromus carinatus 

 I think that this is a painted lady butterfly.

Longhorn beetle

Introduced yellow salsify, Tragopogon dubius
also called "Jack-Go-To-Bed-At-Noon"

Western Coneflower, Rudbeckia occidentalis

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