Saturday, October 1, 2011

Soil Ecology Class Field Trip

Students from the Soil Ecology course at University of Michigan spent a few hours this past week looking at 6 different soil pits in Stinchfield Woods. Stinchfield Woods (aka Peach Mountain) is a kame-complex glacial landform that is mainly composed of calcareous parent material. Glaciers act like conveyor belts moving material from one place to another. The calcareous parent material (or geologic material that soil is formed from) was once in the bed of the ancient Lake Erie, but glaciers transported it here.

The 6 soil pits are located on different slope positions and aspects (meaning compass direction). The students got to observe that the soil at the top of a slope and facing the sun (southwestern aspect) are the least developed and most shallow, while the soil that is near the bottom of a slope and shaded from the sun (north facing slope) are the deepest and most developed. They also observed that the plant community and tree size was different depending on soil conditions.

The students took soil and forest floor samples to be analyzed later in the laboratory. They will compare this oak-hickory forest to other forest types such as a black and white oak forest and a jack pine forest.

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