UHS biodiversity projects in Van Norden

Headwaters had a great time working with students from San Francisco University High School’s AP Environmental Science class at the end of September. This A.P. Environmental Science course joined us for an amazing weekend of science in Van Norden Meadow. Students studied water chemistry and how it relates to biodiversity in the wetland meadow. The class split into three groups with different research focuses.

The first built a project around how water chemistry in the wetland meadow is related to the biodiversity of macro-invertebrates. They found that the waterways were characterized by low levels of nutrients and dominated by aquatic macro-invertebrates that are highly sensitive to pollutants. You can read more about their project here. Another group of students looked at wetland soil nutrients and how it related to the amount of vegetation and the diversity of plants. Despite the wetland soils being low in key nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) the study area was heavily vegetated. Learn more about their research here. The third group studied how elevation affects soil nutrients. The group tested soil samples from different elevations around the meadow and on a hillside above the meadow. They found that most soils were deficient in Nitrogen and Phosphorus, but had plenty of Potassium. While the group did not find a correlation between elevation and nutrient composition, but did find a positive relationship between slope steepness and the amounts of nutrients found. The group largely attributed this to finding higher concentrations of nutrients in the flatter wetland meadow than on the steeper hillside.

A huge thank you to the Truckee Donner Land Trust for letting us study in Van Norden Meadow. This meadow is a valuable subalpine meadow habitat that is about to undergo restoration. There is a dam at the end of the meadow that had previously held water back in a small reservoir. The recently exposed soils of the reservoir bed made for a compelling research system where students got to study how well the meadow is adjusting to the reduction in reservoir size. It has been great to see all the improvements in meadow health as a result of the dam holding less water.

 

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