For my independent research project in the Wyoming Spring Creek program, I chose to examine riparian and forest ecology in a montane environment. I wanted to see if proximity to a stream affects plant species diversity, depth of duff (dead plant material and leaf litter), and invertebrate activity. My hypothesis is that plant communities proximal to streams will contain more water-tolerant species and will grow taller and denser than those farther from streams. Woody plants are less abundant in proximity, so there will be less duff in those areas. Depth of duff will increase with distance from streams. Additionally, because plant communities are densest right near the stream, pollinator activity will be increased in those areas.
I did my data collection along the North Fork of the Little Laramie River in Medicine Bow National Forest. My methods were to first examine plant communities along the stream, then to study them as distance from the streambank increased. Along the river, I marked out two 50-meter transects, then placed flags at 0m, 25m, and 50m. At each flag, I used a Daubenmire Frame (a tool for measuring vegetation density) to record the percent ground cover, number of species, amount of plants within each species, and their heights. I recorded the amount of light passing through the area (K-lux) and the percent area covered by tree canopy.
Next, I marked out five 80-meter transects beginning at the streambank (0m) and going deep into the forest. I placed flags every 20 meters and recorded the same Daubenmire Frame data as I did for the streambank transects, except I recorded K-lux and percent canopy cover at 40m. Additionally, I marked out a 10m-diameter circle at 5m, 40m, and 80m and recorded all trees within the circles, identifying them to genus. At these same locations, I also observed pollinator activity for 15 minutes.
I have yet to analyze my data, but it looks promising for my hypothesis! I’m looking forward to sharing it with you all soon. 🙂