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An experiment to investigate how the water content of soil within a system of sand dunes affect zonation and succession.

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Abstract The water content of soil is a major factor that will determine what sort of plants are able to grow, and when considering a system of sand dunes will have considerable effects on the zonation and succession of that environment. In order to investigate this, trial experiments were initially carried out in order to determine the most effective method of assessing a section of the dunes and obtaining results. Once these results had been obtained, adjustments to the original method were made, and the process of gaining results took place. After tabulating the results, and drawing appropriate graphs, I concluded that within a system of sand dunes, zonation and succession of plant species is present, and as the distance from the strand line increases, so too does the water content of the soil. I also concluded that the water content of the soil is affected by the aspect of its position as well, which relates directly to its exposure. Planning Aim An experiment to investigate how the water content of soil within a system of sand dunes affect zonation and succession. Introduction This investigation will take place on the southern coast of the Gower Peninsula, at Oxwich Bay where an extensive system of sand dunes is present. In order to complete a successful experiment with accurate results, the investigation must be carefully planned out. The complex structure and ecosystem of sand dunes must firstly be researched and studied, drawing conclusions and predictions from any information gained. Selecting the appropriate variables must also be considered, while taking into consideration the relevant information gained from the background information, and results from trial experiments. Biological Knowledge The following biological knowledge is all directly related to this investigation and is essential for predicting trends, and being able to give some sort of explanations for what is seen. Community Ecology And Succession A community is a group of interacting populations living in any given area representing the living part of an ecosystem. ...read more.


Strand Line Binomial Name Common Name Characteristics Cakile Maritima Sea Rocket 4-petalled pale to deep lilac flowers; greyish, fleshy leaves that are deeply lobed Honkenya Peploides Sea Sandwort 5-petalled greenish flowers; grows just above the strand line Salsola Kali Prickly Saltwort Prickly spines on tops of leaves which are sharp narrow and fleshy Yellow Dunes Binomial Name Common Name Characteristics Ammophila Arenaria Marram Grass Rolled, sharp tipped cylindrical leaves; clumps together Leymus Arenarius Lyme Grass Broad, hairy leaves, often found growing in close proximity to Marram grass Elymus Farctus Sand Couch A bluish plant, rarely over 50cm in height, with hairy leaves. Carex Arenaria Sand sedge Creeping rhizomes several cm under the surface of the sand are present, sending up a few stiff and channeled leaves. Eryngium Maritimum Sea Holly Spiny Greyish leaves, with pale blue flowers. Senecio Jacobaea Common Ragwort Dark green leaves, and daisy-like leaves Festuca Rubra Red Fescue Reddish leaf sheath, panicles-used for lawn grass. Grey Dunes Binomial Name Common Name Characteristics Arenaria Serpyllifolia Thyme-leaved Sandwort Grey leaves, and flowers with small white petals.No more than 2-3 inches in height. Ononis Repens Restharrow Trailing stems, rooting at intervals near the base. Rosa Pimpernelifolia Burnet Rose An upright, spiny, bushy plant; creamy white flowers and hairless leaves. Sedum Acre Biting Stonecrop Short stalks with some bearing flowers, and others with overlapping leaves tipped with crimson. Hypothesis After conducting research and gaining relevant background information concerning sand dune ecology, I can hypothesis on certain matters. Firstly, I expect to see zonation and succession occurring clearly as I move further from the strand line. I expect to find species that are well adapted to arid conditions in those areas closer to the strand line, and those which require more shelter and soils capable of holding greater volumes of water, further inland. I also expect to see a direct relationship between the aspect of a dune, and the water content of the soil at that point. ...read more.


At this stage, a clinometer was used to measure the angle from the top of the first pole, to the top of the second pole. N.B. this method will obviously not show every change in the profile of the dune, however it should give an accurate estimate for this investigation. At the point where the second ranging pole was placed into the ground, a quadrat was also placed down in exactly the same way as before. This procedure was carried out for a total distance of 30m and if any of the plants found within a quadrat could not be identified a small sample was taken and labeled. Results Quadrat Letter Distance From Strand Line (M) Aspect (?) Species Record A 0 128 None B 10 130 Marram Grass Sea Sandwort C 20 140 Marram Grass CommonRestharrow Dune Fescue D 30 134 Marram Grass Sand Sedge Dune Fescue Moss Plant A Plant B Plant C Analysis of Results After conducting a trial experiment and testing my proposed method, I can now identify the problems that arose, and modify my procedures accordingly. The actual procedure of taking the transect line proved to be successful, and I found that the method being used was easy to perfect. As I am happy with the results shown in the table above, I have decided to use these in the actual experiment, and when I begin to conduct the main investigation I will begin from where I finished in the trial experiment; from the 30m mark. However, recording the species that are present is only one part of the investigation as the second part of the method involves taking a soil sample and measuring its water content. A problem arose in that I was not sure where and at what depth to take the soil sample from and it soon became aware to me that this should be perhaps kept constant for each quadrat, in order to give accurate and reliable results. Therefore there were no soil water contents recorded, and this needs to be repeated in the main investigation. ...read more.

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