New search

Christopher J. Javornik
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Colorado
Responding to a Changing Climate: How Vernal Pool Plant Communities React

This case study uses a jigsaw activity to introduce students to four specific plant responses to climate change: elevational range shifts, phenology shifts, community shifts, and changes in biodiversity. Students become "experts" on one of these responses by reading an article (from Nature, Science, or American Journal of Botany; not included with the case) on their assigned topic and then sharing their expertise with others in class. In order to hone their understanding and increase retention on these topics, students then learn about plant communities found in a specific system-vernal pools or seasonal wetlands typical of Mediterranean climates (a PowerPoint presentation on this topic is included). Students accomplish several small group tasks to assess how different vernal pool plant communities have responded to fluctuations in annual weather patterns and predict how these communities may respond to greater weather variability resulting from future climatic change. This case was written for mid- to upper-level ecology, plant ecology, botany, or environmental studies courses. The material covered may also be suitable for classes examining the role of weather variability/climate change in relation to plants.