Habitat surveying with students

Nature interpretation for pupils in years 5 -7. The pupils are joined by one of our nature guides to survey the different habitats and species close to the school. This activity is adjusted to suit the age group. The description below is from surveying with a Year 5 class from Thune school.

The pupils are provided with laminated A3 maps, where they must name the different habitat types and mark them on the map with a marker pen. This teaches the pupils about different the different species, habitat types, variation in nature, maps, scales, and knowledge of their local environment. It is a good idea for the pupils to practice with some common species before the activity.


What is a vegetation map?
Isn’t a forest just forest? Is there a system that shows where we can find different types of forest?


All wild plants live in constant competition with each other. Their roots compete for water and nutrients and their leaves compete for sunlight. The plants which are best adapted for the environment they are growing in will always win this battle. The types of plants that you will find in any given area are due to environmental factors. These environmental factors include access to water, the climate, snow cover, how deep the bedrock is, the soil and its nutritional composition, and not least animals and other plants. The plants growing in any area are the plants that best exploit and tolerate the environmental factors that exist there. These conditions lead to plants with similar environmental requirements often growing together in species assemblages. They form what we call plant communities or vegetation types. It is these vegetations types that we will map around Thule School. Vegetation maps can for example tell you where you might find bilberries!


The vegetation types in an area will vary, but often without clear borders. It is often very difficult to see exactly where one area ends and another begins. But through looking at the areas as a whole, it is possible to see how they differ.


Some species that will help with mapping the different vegetation types:


Spruce forest with bilberries: Bilberries and woodmoss dominate. Few species and nutrition poor.


Heather-bilberry forest: lingonberry and heather. Pine trees are the trees most suited to this habitat. Often found on nutrient poor ground.


Mire: Cloudberry, tussock cottongrass: Dwarf spruce. Very damp.


Flowermeadow: Red clover, buttercup. Where there has previously been crops, pasture or grazing.


Human made: Roads, football pitches, lawns, car parks, building etc.


Clearcut: Forest that has been clearcut.