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Responding to a Changing Climate

How Vernal Pool Plant Communities React



Co Authors:

Christopher J. Javornik
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Colorado
christopher.javornik@colorado.edu

Akasha M. Faist
Department of Animal and Range Sciences
New Mexico State University
afaist@nmsu.edu

Abstract:

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.

Objectives:
  • Understand the following plant responses to climate change: elevational range shifts (attrition and community shifts); phenological shifts (over extended time periods); community shifts (novel competition and species response); and changes in biodiversity (resistance and resilience).
  • Assess how specific vernal pool plant communities have responded to fluctuations in annual weather patterns.
  • Predict how specific vernal pool plant communities may respond to future climate events.
Keywords: plants; weather variability; community shifts; vernal pools; range shifts; altered biodiversity; climate change; changing phenology
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: N/A, Directed, Interrupted, Jig-Saw
Language: English
Subject Headings: Ecology   Environmental Science   Natural Resource Management   Botany / Plant Science  
Date Posted: 2/16/2018
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

Teaching Notes


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Answer Key


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Supplemental Materials


The PowerPoint presentation below can be used to help explain the nature and ecological importance of vernal pools (see teaching notes to this case study for details).

  plant_responses.pptx (~5.6 MB)



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