✓ an adult
✓ hula hoop (or a home made hula hoop made ofwire or some other bendable material)
✓ 2 bordering ecosystems, such as a forest and afield, a pond and a grass land, or a desert and a semiarid dryland
✓ meterstick or yardstick
✓ hand shovel
✓ science notebook and pencil
✓ field guides (optional)
✓ magnifying glass (optional)
How do the life-forms in twoneighboring ecosys tems compare to those in the area where the two ecosystemsmeet?
Ecosystems do nothave clear, well-defined edges. \ou may even find it hard to say exactly wherea forest ecosystem starts and where it stops. That is because the edges ofneighboring ecosystems merge into one another. The area where two ecosys temsoverlap is called an ecotone. (See Figure la.) Ecotones provide homes forliving things from both ecosystems.
Inthis experiment, you will see how the biodiversity, the variety of livingthings, in two ecosystems affects what lives in the ecotone between them. To doso, you will sample the plant and animal populations in three locations: twobordering ecosystems and their mutual ecotone.
Findtwo neighboring ecosystems, plus their ecotone, that you want to study. Forexample, a forest and a nearby field are two ecosystems that share an ecotonewith traits of both. A pond ecosystem and a scrubland ecosystem are joined by amarshy area. If you live near a desert, the area between the
An ecotone isformed in the area where two ecosystems overlap.
desert and thesemidry region nearby forms an ecotone. Always go with an adult.
Withyour science notebook, pencil, hula hoop, hand shovel, and a magnifying glass, if you have one, walk at least 9 meters (10 yards) into one of the ecosystems. Measure the dis tance with a meterstick or yardstick. This will be calledEcosystem 1. Toss the hula hoop on the ground. Your first toss represents Trial1 within Ecosystem 1.
Carefullylook at the area inside the hula hoop and count the number of different kindsof plants, or evidence of different kinds of plants, such as leaves, twigs, bark, and berries. (See Figure 1b.) If the leaves or stems of any trees orshrubs are hanging over the hula hoop, count them too. In your sciencenotebook, make a tally mark for each different plant type you find within thearea of the hula hoop. Record the total number of tally marks in your sciencenotebook.
Nowlook in the hula hoop for animal life or evidence of ani mal life (items like aspiderweb, an anthill, or a chewed acorn). If you have a magnifying glass, useit to get a better look at the tiny animals. Do not just inspect the top of thesoil; dig under neath fallen leaves or a few inches into the soil. In yournotebook, make one tally mark for each kind of animal you see, as well as amark for each kind of animal evidence. Count the tally marks and record thetotal in your notebook.
Pickup your hula hoop and toss it somewhere else within this same ecosystem. Thiswill be Trial 2 within Ecosystem 1.
Count thenumber of plants you see inside the marked off area.
Once again count the number of different plantand animal species and record the totals. Repeat the process a third time forTrial 3 in Ecosystem 1. Record your data. Calculate the aver age number ofdifferent types of plant and animal life for all three trials and record thesenumbers in your science notebook.
Take your sciencenotebook, pencil, hula hoop, shovel, and magnifying glass at least 9 meters (10yards) deep into the second ecosystem. This will be Ecosystem 2. Repeat theprocess of tossing the hula hoop for three different trials. Record yourresults for Ecosystem 2. Calculate the average once you complete three trials.
Forthe last sampling, take the hula hoop into the zone where these two ecosystemsmerge. Repeat the tossing tech nique in this area. Record your findings in yourscience notebook. Then calculate your average and record it.
Whichof the three areas showed the largest number of plant species? Animal species? How does biodiversity within an eco - tone compare to biodiversity in thesurrounding ecosystems?
Science - Project Ideas
Extend your experiment bydescribing the characteris tics of the plant and animal life in the twoecosystems and their ecotone. How are the plants and animals located in theecotone alike? How are they different?
*£ Design and perform anexperiment to compare the non living factors between the two ecosystems andtheir ecotone. Some factors that could be used for comparison include airtemperature, soil temperature, light intensity, amount of water, and amount ofwind exposure.
If you hypothesize that ecotones are more diverse than theecosystems they border, describe why it would be wise to sample a variety ofdifferent ecosystems and ecotones in your experiment. Do you think the size ofthe ecosystems and their ecotone would impact your hypothesis?