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How do pawpaws affect tree regeneration?

In this study, students investigate whether and how much the native understory shrub pawpaw (Asimina triloba) may affect tree regeneration in a forested habitat. During one lab period in the field, they collect data on the densities of tree seedlings and saplings under varying densities of pawpaws. During a second lab period in a classroom, they test whether tree densities are lower under pawpaws, and whether plots with higher densities of pawpaws have lower densities of trees. After discussing a guide to writing lab reports, students participate in a “writing workshop” in which they read examples of student lab reports and discuss how to improve them. Students then report their findings in a brief lab report. This project introduces students to key components of ecological research including transect and plot sampling, paired designs, statistical analysis and scientific writing.
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Primary or BEN resource type
Secondary resource type
General Biology Core Concepts
Discipline Specific Core Concepts
Life science discipline (subject)
Keywords Competition, conservation biology, deer impacts, forest ecology, invasive species, multispecies interactions, plant ecology, seedling growth, species interactions, correlation versus causation, scientific writing
Intended End User Role
Educational Language
Pedagogical Use Description This activity is designed for use near the beginning of a general ecology course, in an introductory course covering ecology, or in a field ecology or natural history course that may be open to nonmajors. It is intended for students with little to no background in ecology, statistics or scientific writing. Class size should be conducive to field work (10–25). Requires two 3-4 hour lab periods.

In the first lab period, students collect data in the field at a forested site where a focal species (e.g. pawpaw) has the potential to affect tree regeneration. This works best during the growing season. In the second lab period, in a classroom where students can bring or use computers, they analyze data and prepare to write a lab report.

This activity could be used at any institution with lab sections small enough for field work (10–25). It is suitable for biology majors in early stages of their college careers, nonmajors, and high school students. For more advanced courses, complexity could be increased. This lab could easily be adapted to any landscape with forests where an understory species— any native or invasive tree, shrub or herb—has the potential to affect tree regeneration. The native understory shrub pawpaw is common in moist forests across much of central eastern North America (range map: Flora of North America 2014).
Primary Author Controlled Name
Primary Author Affiliation Franklin & Marshall College
Primary Author email
Submitter Name ESA
Submitter Email
Rights Author retains copyright
Date Of Record Submission 2014-12-09

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