Setting the Context: Biodiversity and photosynthesis at Riley Woods

  • We categorized part of the species list out on Riley Road by each species role in the trophic diagram; that is, the way energy flows from producers (plants) to consumers and up to the carnivores!

  • Beechroot is a weird "green" plant -- it has lost it's ability to photosynthesize by becoming a parasite on the roots of beech trees. Beechroot still makes flowers and seeds, but the plant is pink, not green!

  • After a dry summer, the decomposers are beginning to pop out after a September rain.

  • A sneak peek at a great blue heron near Bridge Lake (the south end of Riley Woods).

  • Our classes researched the role of species identified at Riley Woods in the past two years. They identified primary producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers and top predators. (And that was BEFORE we saw the bobcat on the trail camera!)

Alex and Giannie
September 20, 2018

Each species has its role

Middle September 2018

Today in class we began by discussing Biodiversity. We discussed how Biodiversity in the measurement of the number of species in a given area; this includes both native species and alien species (either invasive or non-invasive).

            We then began to go off of last classes discussion on the Flow of Energy through the Trophic Diagram and the distinctions between primary producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers, and tertiary consumers. At first glance, a food chain appears to be a simple, uncomplicated chain of producers and consumers. However, when tangled in the web of nature, this chain becomes increasingly intricate. We also realized the convoluted nature of omnivores in the grand scheme of things. This made me wonder how this labyrinth of a system is applicable to human life. Humans are an immense part of the food chain, and become increasingly involved in the complexity of it when they consume animal products, as well as kill animals for other reasons. Knowing the general structure of the food chain (and the food web) serves to connect people on a deeper and more profound level.

 We were given a list of species in the area and categorized them into their given positions on the Trophic Diagram. We worked together in order to classify all the species (including birds, arthropods/annelids, herps, and mammals) and created our own Trophic Diagram by the end of our exercise. Some interesting facts our class discovered is how some of the species dietary classifications changed due to its maturity. We also decided as a class to add the section of omnivores to our diagram, since there was an abundance of them on our list.

            Afterward, we discussed the differences between animals who consume blood/meat. Just because an animal eats meat/blood, it does not mean they are considered a top predator / tertiary consumer on the food chain. There is a difference between those who feed off of carcasses/dead things (parasites) and those who feed off of their kills.      

In photosynthesis, plants are “fixing Carbon.” The gaseous CO2 is transformed into an aqueous form in order to create glucose so the plants can build themselves to produce energy. This energy is stored in chemical bonds between Hydrogen and Carbon. Mary Ellen said poetically, “Photosynthesis is when energy becomes matter.”

            After this, we learned about biodiversity, which can be defined as the diversity of species. In our spot in northern Michigan, we are between different biomes, and our land is vastly biodiverse. We also discovered that the biodiversity is generally higher in the Equator. Learning about biodiversity works to increase our awareness of where we are, and the wide variety of plants and animals that surround us daily.