KPA375 FIELD BOTANY - OBJECTIVES, ACTIVITIES & ASSESSMENT


OBJECTIVES

At the completion of this unit, students should be able to:
  •     demonstrate an understanding of the major types of plant communities found in Tasmania

  •     describe the key elements of the vegetation that differentiate these communities,
  •     identify major environmental factors affecting plant growth,
  •     describe the differences between the more common families,
  •     identify a wide range of the more common plant species,
  •     describe morphological & physiological strategies evolved by plants in response to their environment,
  •     describe & distinguish between the patterns of, & processes leading to, variation within & between species, using eucalypts as specific examples, &
  •     undertake vegetation & population surveys.


OUTLINE OF ACTIVITIES

PART 1. PLANT COMMUNITIES OF MT FIELD & SOUTHWEST TASMANIA

An outline of the week's activities at Mt Field follows, although the weather will dictate to some extent what can be achieved, & in what order.

Day 1: Altitudinal transect & associated changes in physiognomy & community types
  •   Examination of sub-alpine sclerophyll woodland, moor, mixed forest & wet sclerophyll communities & the basis of community classifications.
  •   Species recognition, species identification, plant collection.
  •   Altitudinal variation in plant communities & its causes.
Day 2: Alpine vegetation (Tarn Shelf, Newdegate Pass, Rodway Range)
  •   Examination of communities including: herbfields, microshrubbery (cushionplants), coniferous shrubbery, alpine rainforest.
  •   Species recognition, species identification, plant collection.
  •   Community identification in relation to microenvironment.
  •   Growth habit & general morphology of microshrubbery.
  •   Effect of fire on alpine vegetation.
Day 3: East-West variation in vegetation
  •   Illustration of the association of vegetation types with geology & soils,
  •   Study of rainforest & buttongrass communities, plant collection.
  •   The nature of boundaries between vegetation types.
Day 4: Succession in wet sclerophyll forest & the impact of forestry practices
  •   Temporal changes in vegetation type & physiognomy following disturbance by fire / clearfelling from year zero to 400 years.
  •   Ecological basis of silvicultural practices in wet sclerophyll vegetation.
Day 5: Bryological diversity & mophological variation in eucalypts - patterns & processes.
  •   Identification of moss & hepatic species & ecological preferences at Growling Swallet
  •   Morphological changes in the E. vernicosa complex on Tim Shea/Mt Field with altitude & exposure.
  •   Inter- & intra-specific variation in E. nitida & E. coccifera on Tim Shea.
PART 2. PLANT COMMUNITIES OF SOUTHEASTERN TASMANIA & CONSERVATION STRATEGIES
Day 6: Long term ecological monitoring site at Warra
  •   Applied ecology of silvicultural practices in high productivity wet sclerophyll forests.
Day 7: Population ecology & conservation of endangered species
  •   Establishment of a long term monitoring project for the rare & endangered E. morrisbyi at Calverts Hill
  •   Floristic changes in the absence of sheep grazing
  •   Seedling recruitment & population demography
Day 8: Field test
  •   A description of a range of vegetation communities & the ecological factors shaping the vegetation on Mt Wellington.

NOTES ON FINAL REPORTS

ASSESSMENT

The assessment of student performance in this course will be based on:

  •     a field test (50%) of plant identification skills, vegetation description and ecological processes likely to be shaping the vegetation,
  •     two (2) reports on set topics (40%) due on the Monday of Weeks 3 and 5 (word-processed documents only), late penalty of 5% per day applies and
  •     a group plant collection (10%) due on the Monday of Week 7.

  • FIELD TEST (50%)

    Each student will complete reports at THREE (3) nominated sites in the field on the final day of the course (Day 8) to assess your ability to:
    · Identify the flora at the: family, generic & specific levels (progressive scores),
    · Describe the structure of the vegetation (% cover, approximate height, layers, habit),
    · Describe the most important ecological factors shaping the vegetation (earth, air, fire & water, & biotic interactions).
    Approximately 40 minutes will be allowed at each site. This handbook & written notes may be consulted, but not picture books. Each report is to be handed in at the completion of each site. This is an individual assessment, rather than a group exercise, and so collaboration is not allowed.

    REPORTS (40%)

    Each student will present TWO (2) practical reports analyzing data collected in the field. These reports should be written as scientific papers, not as class exercises, and in the format suggested by the Scribble site:
    http://www.utas.edu.au/scribble/Report%20Writing/RW_homepage.htm and/ or one of the second year report-writing templates.
    These topics will be nominated for each student by the course co-ordinator and so it is important too collect data for all exercises.

    Report Topics
    These topics are an opportunity to explore the similarities & differences between communities & the underlying factors that have shaped them.
    One (1) of the following:
    (a) Changes in community structure & species diversity with altitude;
    (b) Changes in community structure & composition across marked boundaries, due to fire, waterlogging and temperature;
    (c) Effects of fire on alpine communities;
    (d) Ecological replacement of species within families or genera, e.g. epacrids, proteaceae, eucalypts;
    (e) Changes in vegetation types associated the East/West transition in geology & climate;
    (f) Temporal changes in community structure & composition following disturbance in Tasmanian lowland forest;
    (g) Ecology of rainforest moss & liverwort species;

    All students will present a report on:

    • Seedling recruitment in the rare and endangered species, Eucalyptus morrisbyi

    Acknowledgements:
    Where data or information is obtained in common with other students, this must be stated. If any section of the essay is written in collaboration with any other student or staff, acknowledgement of the collaboration must be made & its extent defined, e.g. (transect data with B. Smith).

    PLANT COLLECTION (10%)

    In an effort to minimize the impact on the flora, & to reduce the (considerable) expense incurred by students, plant collections may be submitted as a group effort (max. no. per group is 5 students). Students will be required to indicate the contribution of the other members of the group (from 0 to 100%) in a confidential covering statement.

    Each plant collection will consist of a minimum of six (6) representative species from each community. Each specimen should be pressed, mounted on paper, & identified by family, genus & species. It should be described briefly by growth habit, size, habitat, etc. (see labelling requirements below). Alternatively, students may submit a photographic (digital or film-based) collection. See Dr Wiltshire for details.


    A GENERAL GUIDE TO THE COLLECTION AND PRESERVATION OF PLANTS 

    A. Collection of Specimens

    Whenever possible, material should be pressed immediately after collection, and for some species, particularly herbs, this is the only manner in which high quality specimens can be obtained. However, it is not always convenient to carry a field press, and in such circumstances, satisfactory results can be obtained for most species by storing the material in a sealed plastic bag until ready for pressing providing they are stored under cool conditions and pressed within 24-48 hours of collection.

    B. Choice of Specimens

    Ideally, all stages in the plant life history should be represented for each species.

    1. Ensure that the specimen has flowering or fruiting parts present. (Vegetative material alone may be exceedingly difficult to identify, and its value for comparative purposes is limited).

    2. If the species is herbaceous, try to include the underground parts to show their character.

    3. Select healthy specimens free from insect damage, fungal infestation, etc.

    4. Choose specimens from typical plants, not from the occasional rare oddity.

    C. Arrangement of Specimens for Pressing

    1. Wherever possible, arrange one or more leaves with the lower side uppermost.

    2. Ordinarily, a specimen should be restricted to the size of the pressing paper.

    3. Herbaceous specimens longer than the pressing paper may be accommodated intact by folding .

    4. Springy stems may be held in place by slipping slitted slips of paper over the bent parts.

    5. All roots or underground parts should be washed free of soil before pressing.

    D. Equipment required for Pressing Specimens

    1. Plant Press

    The efficiency of a plant press is determined largely by its ability to hold material under a constant and firm pressure, whilst at the same time, allowing the specimens to dry. Field presses are conventionally comprised of a pair of wood or metal frames which can be tightened as the situation demands. Where weight is not an important factor, the design of presses can be more versatile. Home presses may be constructed from a combination of wooden slabs (to provide a flat base) and bricks, books or sundry other weighty objects which can be used to maintain a firm even pressure.

    2. Absorbent Paper

    Absorbent paper is used to remove water as the plant dries. The type of paper may vary, but blotting paper is ideal. Paper hand towels are also satisfactory providing the high profile embossed towels are not used - the pattern may become imprinted on the leaf surfaces, petals, etc. Tissues are not

    recommended because with succulent stems, leaves with glandular secretions or flowers with high quantities of nectar, they become stuck to the specimen and cannot be removed easily.

    3. Pressing Paper

    Pressing paper is used to surround the absorbent paper. Folded newspaper is fine for this purpose.

    4. Dividers

    Dividers provide a firm base for each layer of pressing paper. Theoretically, they are not essential but, in practise, their absence may result in curved or misshapen specimens.

    E. Pressing Specimens

    Several sandwich layers arranged in the order, divider, pressing paper, absorbent paper, specimen(s), absorbent paper, pressing paper, divider, are stacked on top of each other, and a firm, even pressure is applied. Care must be taken that excessive pressure is not applied resulting in squashed specimens having a misleading appearance e.g. flat stems which should be round. The amount of pressure is variable depending on the hardness of the specimens involved.

    F. Drying Specimens

    Specimens should be arranged appropriately and allowed to press for 24 hours. The press should then be opened and the absorbent papers changed. Specimens are then allowed to dry from 10-14 days. For some species, particularly succulents or nectar producing plants, it may be necessary to change the absorbent paper several times.

    G. Mounting Specimens

    1. Specimens should be mounted on A4 paper and enclosed in clear plastic sheet protectors.

    2. Glue or paste is recommended to fasten specimens to the mounting

    3. A commercially available glue, "Aquadhere", may also be used but is not always satisfactory with species whose leaves are highly cutinized. Neither of the techniques, (a) and (b) above, is successful with this glue which quickly forms a tough surface on exposure to air. "Aquadhere" is probably best applied directly from the container or by playing small amounts on a thin lid and continually replacing it as it hardens. A match or small stick is suitable for applying the glue to the specimen. Care must be taken that all parts of the specimen in contact with the paper receive a supply of glue.

    H. Labelling of Specimens

    Every specimen should have its own label recording relevant data. Such data should include:-
    Species name
    Family  
    Location   Note that site 1.5 is not sufficient
    Altitude
    Habitat
    Date
    Collector's name

    Any additional data considered relevant may also be included e.g. plant size, colour of flowering and fruiting parts, etc.