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Activity 02: Collecting data

Counting plant and animal species within a fenced area

Objective: Students learn how to determine the amount of biodiversity in a fenced area and to draw conclusions for a larger investigation area. Additionally, questions related to the plants‘ usefulness might be encouraged.
Learning outcomes: Learners are able to determine an investigation area and carry out a purposeful inquiry and analysis of biodiversity data.
Previous knowledge: Meaning of the terms “biological variety” and knowledge of species within the investigated area”
Duration: 45 - 60 min
Materials / Conditions: Paper, pen, material for fencing the investigation area in:
Rope, timber needle, hammer, measuring tape, shovel if needed
Methods / Techniques: Individual, pair or group work, estimating, determining and counting, comparing, analyzing
Learning subject: Biodiversity / Module 3: Collection, processing and analysis of environmental data / Level: Expert Learning

Imagine a new road is going to be built in your area. This road will cross a green space. The people living in your village/town are very upset and want to prevent this as the new road would be a threat to endemic plants living in the green space. You are chosen to be a mediator. You talk to the construction managers, trying to convince them that the area the road is planned to be built on deserves protection. As a response you hear that “Only a small amount of pants grow there, if there was a huge amount, the construction would be cancelled off.” To get an overview of the real amount of plants present in the spot, a counting has to take place. In this unit, you will learn how to carry out such a counting.

1) Fence an investigation are of 3×3 meters in (cf. Resources).

2) Estimate how many plant species exist on your fenced area.

3) Now count the actual amount of plants in your investigation area. Concentrate on one species and its population first. Describe the plant and its features. Think about this plant’s relevance/importance. In order to visualize your results, create a table. Work systematically, until you’ve determined every plant in your investigation area.

4) Is there a difference between the estimated amount of plant species and the actual number? If yes, what could be the reason?

5) What conclusions can you draw related to the entire green space and the issue of constructing a road here?

To fence an investigation area, you need some material and knowledge.
In case you want to fence a small part of a larger area in, make sure the plot you choose is representative of the entire space. It would be unsuitable, for example, to have a green area with a small pond on it represented by an investigation area that is made up of a water area of 50 %.
To fence an area of 3×3 meters in you need the following material:
4 timber needles, one hammer, one long rope and one measure tape.
After having found a representative space, you hammer the first needle into the ground. Afterwards you measure 3 meters in two direction, hereby bearing in mind to create a right angle*. At 3 meters, you hammer two further needles into the ground etc. At the end, you should have a more or less exact square. To improve your orientation, connect the needles with a rope.

*For facilitation: to receive a right angle in this case, drive in the first needle and measure 3 meters. Now tie a rope of 4.2 meters to needle 1 and a rope of 3 meters to needle 2. Place needle 3 where these two lose ends meet and you will receive an exact right angle. Finally, tie a rope of 3 meters to needle 1 and 3 and place needle 4 where these ropes meet.

(own drawing)

Possible results / Results:
1) Learners are able to pick a representative are as an investigation area

2) The estimated number of plants can be exceeded → true amount of biodiversity is not visible with the naked eye
the estimated number can be higher than the actual one → the area seems to have a higher biodiversity than this is the case in reality
→ one has to collect data in order to come to objective results

3) Biodiversity in the investigation area cannot be transferred to the direct environment. In order to notice changes, one would have to erect another plot in proximity to the first one.
Based on the results one can argue for or against the road construction

Related activities:

Author: Silvia Al-Umaray and Laura Hinz
Aus dem Deutschen übersetzt von Jana Prokaka

en/learning/courses/subjects/s01/m03/expert-learning/a02.txt · Last modified: 2015/09/17 17:20 by sschoeffer