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Will the population and community of plants increase upon progressing inland from the beach?

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Biology Coursework A2….

Ainsdale Dune Ecology Field Work

(Skill A):  Planning:

Will the population and community of plants increase upon progressing inland from the beach?

Hypothesis:        As the distance from the beach increases the conditions become less harsh.  There is less wind; the salt content in the water decreases and the soil contains more humus.  Due to these changing factors the living conditions become more bearable.  Hence I can predict: “Upon moving away from the beach a greater population will be found and also the community will generally become greater.”

Null-Hypothesis:  “Upon moving inland from the beach the number of species of plants will not increase, due to the increased farming of the land”

When We Get To Ainsdale…

We are going to take several readings and make several observations to determine whether or not our hypothesis is correct.  We have decided to take soil samples so that we can perform several experiments on them backing the labs.  We have also decided to record the pH of the soil, observe the different species of plants of the abundance found.  Also we are going to create a dune profile, to observe how the dunes naturally exist.

How We Are Going To Do This…

  • We are going to use Ranging Poles and Clinometers (explained in more detail later) to record angles of depression and elevation.
  • We will use a tape to measure 200 meters inland from the beach and make observations every 10meters.
  • At every 10meter intervals we will take the pH of the soil using an analogue pH meter.
  • Also at every 10meter intervals we will place quadrates down to observe the percentage cover of certain species of plants (a greater detailed explanation later)
  • At the every 10meter intervals we will also take a soil sample, so that more experiments can be performed in the labs.

Back At The Labs…

We will use each soil sample and record the pH of the soil using Universal Indicator solution and water.  We will calculate the water saturation of the soil.  Also we will be able to measure the percentage of humus contained in that particular sample.  Once having done this we will be able to compare the results with the ones we gain from sites nearer to or further away from the beach.

Equipment We Shall Use…

  • Ranging Poles:        These are long poles with red and white “rings” at various lengths.  NB The positions at which each red/white ring starts are the same on every ranging pole.

We shall start at 0meters and place a ranging pole into the ground, the other one shall be placed further inland where the ground first peaks.  The angle of elevation will then be recorded using clinometers.  The next pole shall be placed into the ground at the closest lowest point, and the angle of depression measured.  We shall do this until we reach 200meters.

  • Clinometers:        These are used for measuring angles of depression and angles of elevation.  We shall use the clinometers in cohersion with the ranging poles.  To measure the angle of elevation we shall hold the clinometers at a specific point of one of the ranging poles then measure the angle that is shown when it is pointed at the same point on the other ranging pole.  The angle of depression is measured in the same way only the clinometers will be pointed down instead of pointed upwards.
  • Quadrates:                These are used to calculate the percentage cover of a various species of plants in a specific area.  They will be place down at every 10meter intervals.  We shall observe the types of plants in the quadrate and the abundance of them.  Giving them a value of Abundant, Common, Frequent or Occasional.
  • Soil Sample:                At every 10meter intervals we shall use a small troul and place some soil into a small bag.  We will then tie the bag and mark the site number.
  • pH recording:        At every 10meter intervals we shall record the pH of the soil.  We shall do this by using an analogue pH meter.
  • Compass:We must perform our experiment in a straight line at an angle of 180 degrees from the waters edge.  To make sure that we stay on a direct heading we must use a compass to show the heading.
...read more.



        A positive number indicates that there is an increase in height, the angle of elevation.  While a negative number indicates that there is a decrease in height, the angle of depression.

Example Of Dune Profile Results…

Distance (m)

Angle (degrees)

Back In The Labs…

Once we have gained all the results that we need from the beach we will take our samples to the lab.  At the lab we will perform several experiments on each sample.  We will conduct several experiments on each sample to discover the percentage of water each sample contains.  We will also calculate the percentage of humus contained within each sample.  Also we will check the pH of each sample-just to make sure the results previously gained are correct.

Percentage Of Water…

  1. Weigh an empty dish.
  2. Place the sand from site 1 into the dish.
  3. Weigh the sample from site 1 in a dish.
  4. Note the initial weight.
  5. Place into an oven and leave for several days.
  6. Take the sample out and re-weigh.
  7. Use the below formula to deduce the percentage of water contained within the sample.
  8. Repeat these steps for all the samples obtained.

% Water        =                100                Initial weight – Final weight

                             Initial weight

The pH…

  1. Take a small sample of dry sand from site 1.  i.e. The sand that has come out of the oven after the above calculation has been done.
  2. Place this small sample into a test tube.
  3. Add to the sample distilled water (has a pH of 7, which is neutral)
...read more.


aces the results obtained for each plant.  If there is a plant at one site but not the next then find the point in between the two sites and join this point with the previous result so a “diamond” forms.


Don’t forget to join the points together if plants are found in site next to one another, with straight lines.

Spearman’s Rank Correlation Coefficient…

  1. Draw a scatter graph to see if the two variables that you want to correlate are related.
  2. Devise a Null-Hypothesis about the two variables.
  3. Produce a table like the one below: -

Variable A

Variable B

Ranks A

Ranks B



  1. Place values into the table for variable A and also for variable B.
  2. Next Rank the values of A, the greatest value being 1.
  3. Rank the values of variable B next.
  4. For each pair of values work out the difference in rankings and place into the column titled D.
  5. Simple multiply D by itself for the final column.
  6. Using the equation shown below calculate the correlation coefficient, then cross-reference with a chart.


        If the level of significance is above 95% we reject our null-hypothesis and accept our other hypothesis.  The table gives the level of significance.

Rs        =        1  -  6 x (        D2)

                        N3 – N

Sample Results Tables…


Initial Weight

Final Weight


% Humus/Water





















...read more.

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