Plant Diversity at Cedar Shoals -- Lesson 1

Plant Diversity at Cedar Shoals -- Lesson 1

By: Stella Guerrero

A Community Science, Technology, and Education Partnership to Increase Minority Student Participation in the Study of Natural History in National Parks

Objectives: Background

Much work remains to be done to understand and conserve the planet's biodiversity. Out of the estimated 3 - 30 million extant species, only about 1.4 million species have scientific names, with the majority of species, primarily tropical or marine ones, being unknown and undescribed by science. Even in temperate regions, because of the difficulty of collecting and identifying the rich diversity of small specimens, most of our knowledge from surveys and inventories concerns vertebrates and vascular plants. Invertebrates, fungi, and microbes are poorly known for most areas. Fortunately, as technology advances, it is now becoming feasible to consider conducting complete inventories of our natural heritage.

The concept of an All Taxa Biotic Inventory (ATBI) is to inventory and make information available on all species within a specified area, such as a park or wildlife preserve. An ATBI is now under way in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The goal of an ATBI is not simply to list the presence or absence of species within the defined area but primarily to collect and disseminate useful information on the assemblage of species that live in and move through the area. An ATBI would have many steps between data collection and the dissemination of its final product -- information. Here is a partial list of what might be included:

Plant Diversity at Cedar Shoals -- Lesson 1

In this field laboratory we will learn the basics of how to conduct a mini ATBI on you school grounds by starting with the strip of trees in front of your school. While we will not conduct an exhastive inventory of the species in your school yard, we will begin with basic tree identification and learn methods used to conduct basic inventories.

Materials needed:

  • Methods -- Students will measure the length and width of the small strip of trees in the front of Cedar Shoals. Stakes or flagging on trees will be placed approximately every 10 meters to roughly outline rough boundaries. Students will record the plot dimensions, locate its' center and calculate its' area. Later this may be marked out as a 20 X 50 m (ACC_1_20_50) permanent monitoring plot once construction has ended in the school yard. Additionally, students may include studies of succession and seedling survival within the plot as outlined in "Biodiversity Training Protocols -- Goals" ( After staking out the preliminary outline of the study area, students will begin to survey the trees within the area. Students will collect the following data within the strip of trees:


    Students will create Web pages of species found within the plots. Species home pages will contain information such as: scientific name, higher taxa, species description, identification guide, geography, natural history, and how to encounter that species (see and click on Teacher Training, Taxon Assignment for details). They will also created web pages presenting the data collected in the different study plots.


    Stoddard, C. H. and G. M. Stoddard. 1987. Essentials of forestry practice. 4th ed. New York : Wiley. 407 pp.

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