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Learn about microclimates and how are especially important for species diversity in this lesson.
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Worksheet: Download just the worksheet or there’s a copy included in the packet.
A microclimate is a local set of atmospheric conditions that differ from those of the surrounding area. Your house is a microclimate from the outside atmospheric conditions. What causes a microclimate in the environment is local differences in the amount of heat or water received or remaining near the earth’s surface. A microclimate can form by an area receiving more energy. It can be as small as a few square feet or as large as square miles.
Because microclimate environments are so unique, their biological processes such as decomposition, nutrient cycling, and habitat selection can be specific and complex. A small change in temperature and moisture can determine the growth or mortality of an organism. For example, moisture needed for fungi growth can vary depending on the width of a tree canopy. The Earth has 3 main climate zones: tropical, temperate, and polar. There are many microclimates found in each of these climates all supporting diverse life forms.
Microclimate explanation – A simple explanation of how microclimates work.
Examples of microclimates and climate change – an explanation with rich visuals detailing how microclimates work, and providing some photographic examples of microclimates in California.
Sample Research Project:
Description: Investigate the microclimates at your school. Where is the temperature the highest? Where is there more wind? Are there differences in ground temperatures around the school?
Methods: This guide to microclimate school study from London’s Royal Geographical Society provides sample research questions, methods, and materials to check out microclimates at school.
Sample Research Questions:
How does being close to a building impact temperature?
Are temperatures higher or lower in areas with dense brush?
Where is the most wind present?
What are the major components of soil near a developed area (parking lot or building) versus a vegetated area (playground or field)?
where on campus is the humidity the highest?
MS-LS2-3; MS-LS2-4 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
HS-LS2-6; HSLS2-7; HS-LS2-8 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
- Analyzing and interpreting data
- Constructing Explanations and designing solutions
- Planning and carrying out investigations
- Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
- Cause and effect
- Stability and change
- Systems and system models