Each episode listed below has a brief description, a link to the associated YouTube video, and an lesson plan that goes along with the video. Click on the linked video titles below to get started!
Things to remember about vernal pools:
Many forests contain vernal pools. They are not just a bunch of springtime mud puddles!
There are tens of thousands of them across the Lake States, though we don't know where they all are located.
They vary in shape, size, and depth but they all share the qualities of being temporary, have no fish, and host a variety of life adapted to pools that dry out by high summer.
They are critical habitat elements for range of woodland species, including some rather unusual things, such as fairy shrimp!
Wildlife Habitat Basics
Habitat requirements for different animals are diverse and ever-changing. Most Lake States vertebrate species require or prefer at least one forest type for part of their life cycle. Wildlife need habitats for food, water, shelter, breeding, raising young, and other uses. Habitat needs change with the seasons, too. And, habitats change as forest succession and disturbance occurs. With every change, there are “winners and losers”. Any habitat is good for somebody, even a parking lot!
Things to remember about wildlife habitat:
Any and all environmental conditions will favor some species and discriminate against others.
Forests constantly change through forest succession & disturbance - which means habitat conditions also change.
With the change of habitat conditions, there are wildlife “winners” and “losers”.
Snags and fallen trees are important habitat elements.
Animals often find their needs in different habitats, and those needs change with the season.
Winter food shortages mean; 1) tough it out, 2) migrate, or 3) a form of dormancy.
Most of life on Earth consists of carbon-based molecules. And forests play a big role in Earth’s carbon cycle! Understanding the role of trees and forests contributes to a better understanding of climate change. Moving carbon among the pools of the carbon cycle has little long-term atmospheric impact. Adding carbon from fossils is the main cause of climate change.
Things to remember about the carbon cycle:
Forest carbon sequestration can offset 11-19% of U.S. carbon emissions (Janowiak etal 2017).
Actively-managed forests sequester more carbon than UNmanaged forests.
Using some forest products result in long-term carbon sequestration.
Substituting wood fuels for fossil fuels leads to better forest management and lower fossil fuel use.
Fossil fuel carbon is NOT part of the carbon cycle.
Tree Identification, Part 1
Trees are awesome! Learning how to ID trees and learning about their “personalities” is like making new friends. The more time you spend with trees and in the forest, the more you will understand about some of the neatest places on Earth. But we have to begin somewhere and ID is a great first step. This first tree ID video talks about different identification characteristics, such as bark, buds, fruits, and leaves. It was shot in the winter, so the focus in on non-leaf attributes. Also, we introduce the idea of Latin/scientific names for living things.
Things to remember about identifying trees:
All species, including trees, may have many different common names, but only one scientific name.
When it comes to identification, deciduous trees lack leaves during most of the year (in the Lake States).
There are many other features of a tree besides leaves that can help with identification.
Starting with easy-ID species, such as conifers--and the most common trees--is a great jump-start.
Tree Identification, Part II
Let's keep practicing different ways to identify trees! This second tree ID video, shot in the summer, focuses on the use of dichotomous keys, a tool to help people learn to identify trees on their own. We also discuss various leaf attributes. Beginning with conifers is a good route, as they are pretty easy to ID and there are less than 20 species in the region.
Learning to identify trees takes time! Spend some time with an expert if you can.
Dichotomous keys can be a very useful tool, if you can't learn from a tree ID guru.
Starting with easy-ID species, such as conifers, and the 10 most common trees is a great jump-start.
In urban/residential areas, there are many ornamental varieties that can be hard to ID using keys designed for woodland-growing trees.
Related links for more information:
How do trees regenerate? (more coming soon)
Main Theme: Trees reproduce through several methods under a variety of optimal environmental conditions. Different tree species have different regeneration requirements. Forest management practices in the Lake States employ this knowledge to encourage the natural regeneration of trees and forests. Most of the time, trees do not need to be planted after harvests, otherwise known as “regeneration cuts”.
Natural vs. artificial regeneration
Seeds, sprouts, suckers, layering
Light, soil type, moisture, litter layer
~ Tree Regeneration Strategies ~
There are four ways Michigan trees regeneration themselves.
2. Root Suckers
3. Stump Sprouts
4. Vegetative Layering
All trees can reproduce by seeds. Each species has a unique set of requirements for seed production and germination. Seed dispersal strategies vary widely, from wind-driven seed to seeds carried by certain species of animals.
Sprouts and suckers are similar, in that dormant buds "come alive" to form new shoots of parent trees. Sprouts are shoots from stumps or the base of a tree. Suckers are shoots that originate from buds on the root systems. Often times, sprouts and suckers will not grow until the parent tree dies or becomes very sick. The buds are held in dormancy by hormones produced in the leaves. When these hormone levels drop below a certain point, the dormant buds will grow.
Vegetative layering is uncommon, occurring mostly in white-cedar and Canada yew (which most would not consider a tree!). When branches or stems come in contact with the soil, cambium tissue sometimes form roots. In this way, former branches of a fallen cedar might become trunks of several "new" trees.
Source: Michigan Forests Forever
Crowns, Roots and Trunks! (more coming soon)
Theme: Much of what makes a tree is the basic structure and form. The crown (leaves) does the photosynthesis. The trunk provides advantageous height to the crown and transports food and fluids. The roots provide stability and absorb water and nutrients. Single stems (trunks) and at least 30 feet in height, at maturity, often defines a “tree”.
Trees have three main collections of parts.
The crown collects light and converts light energy to chemical energy (photosythesis).
The roots serve as nutrient storage, and collect water, nutrients, and minerals (with the help of mycorrhizae).
The trunks puts the crown up as high as possible and transports materials between the roots and the crown.
Michigan Forests Forever - Tree Physiology.
More about Michigan Tree Basics.