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Studying a Habitat

In this worksheet students go over some standard techniques for studying habitats and their communities and also look for evidence that will help to build up a picture of feeding relationships within the habitat.

'Studying a Habitat' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 3

Curriculum topic:  Biology: Interactions and Interdependencies

Curriculum subtopic:  Relationships in an Ecosystem

Difficulty level:  

down

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

 

WHAT IS A HABITAT? It's where a certain group of organisms (called a COMMUNITY) live.

WHY DO THEY LIVE THERE? They settled there because the habitat provides them with what they need: specifically, food & water, shelter and a chance to mate.

 

There are lots of different ways of studying a habitat to find out what lives there - it really depends on the type of habitat you're visiting. Typical habitats to study are hedge, woodland, field edge, rocky seashore, pond - all these will have a particular community of organisms and will have their own methods of study.

 

Let's explore a few of them.

One way of sampling what types of small animals live on the ground near you is to use a PITFALL TRAP. This is basically something like a yogurt pot sunk into the ground so that it's level with the soil surface. Some suitable bait like apple is placed into it (although this isn't strictly necessary).

 

 

Tick any animals from this list that you think are likely to be caught in a pitfall trap placed in a wood.

beetle

woodlouse

ladybird

slug

butterfly

millipede

One way of sampling the types of plants growing in a meadow is to use a 1m2 QUADRAT, which is simply an open square made of wood with sides 1m in length. The quadrat is thrown at random and the percentage of different plants within the square is estimated; for example one throw in the meadow might give the following results:

  • grass = 80%
  • buttercup = 10%
  • clover = 10%

 

If the meadow was 100m2 in size, which ONE of these methods would be best to use to give an idea of how much clover was in the field?

Work systematically around the field placing the quadrat 100 times.

Throw the quadrat randomly 10 times and multiply the results up to 100m2.

Use the results from the one quadrat above as typical of the whole field.

Walk over the field and roughly estimate the coverage of clover.

One way of looking at the small animals living in woodland is to bring some of the leaf litter on the floor of the wood back to look at more closely. A POOTER is a useful tool for this as it allows you to suck up the small, fast-moving animals into a small collecting pot, giving you the chance to look at them with a magnifying glass.

 

 

 

Tick any woodland animals on this list that you think you would need to suck up into your pooter to look at with a magnifying glass.

mouse

small spider

mite

snail

woodlouse

Imagine that you are looking at the animals living in rock pools and under rocks at the seaside. Which of the following methods do you think would be most suitable for sampling them?

use direct observation (looking and noting what you see)

using a pooter

using a pitfall trap

If you were studying the plants and animals that live in a pond, which of the following might be helpful to you (tick all the ones you agree with)?

magnifying glass

small net

pooter

metre ruler

jar or pot

Imagine that, in Jack's garden, he found a rock with a number of broken snail shells scattered nearby. He wondered how the shells had got there.

What might be the most likely explanation?

a thrush had used the stone to break the shells open

the stone was dropped on to a group of snails

somebody stepped on the snails by mistake

Observing the ROSE BUSH in his garden, Jack saw lots and lots of small green bugs (called APHID or greenfly) on the stems.

While he was watching he saw a LADYBIRD capturing and eating the aphids.

Fascinated he stayed a little longer and was rewarded by the sight of a BLUE TIT landing in the rose bush to search for food.

 

Jack had watched a food chain in action. Use this information to complete the food chain by filling in the correct boxes using the four organisms: blue tit, rose bush, ladybird and aphid (click and type into the box below, and write your answers in lower case).

 Organism
Producer
Herbivore
Second Consumer
Third Consumer

Jack wondered about why the rose bush had so many sharp thorns on it - they certainly didn't stop the aphids crawling all over it.

What do you think is the most likely reason for the thorns on the rose bush?

to make it difficult to pick the roses to put in a vase

to catch in mammals' fur so that they're carried elsewhere

to discourage large animals, like deer, from eating them

Here are some observations from Hayley's 'Woodland Habitat Notebook':

"saw a fly trapped in a spider's web - the spider seemed to be tying it up."

"saw a little bird on a tree trunk - it seemed to be searching for things to eat."

"saw some leaves that looked a funny shape - I looked closer and saw caterpillars on them. Perhaps they're eating the leaves."

 

Here is a possible food web drawn from Hayley's observations.

 

One of the organisms is in the wrong place - can you find it?

leaves

spider

caterpillar

bird

When dragonflies are young they spend more than a year as a NYMPH living at the bottom of ponds and rivers, feeding and growing until they are ready to hatch into adult dragonflies.

 

 

Which of the following do you think is UNLIKELY to be food for the dragonfly nymph?

tadpole

slug

water flea

midge larva

  • Question 1

One way of sampling what types of small animals live on the ground near you is to use a PITFALL TRAP. This is basically something like a yogurt pot sunk into the ground so that it's level with the soil surface. Some suitable bait like apple is placed into it (although this isn't strictly necessary).

 

 

Tick any animals from this list that you think are likely to be caught in a pitfall trap placed in a wood.

CORRECT ANSWER
beetle
woodlouse
slug
millipede
EDDIE SAYS
Only the butterfly and the ladybird are unlikely catches as they spend their time in the vegetation rather than on the ground. The others are all likely to fall into the trap, even the slug!
  • Question 2

One way of sampling the types of plants growing in a meadow is to use a 1m2 QUADRAT, which is simply an open square made of wood with sides 1m in length. The quadrat is thrown at random and the percentage of different plants within the square is estimated; for example one throw in the meadow might give the following results:

  • grass = 80%
  • buttercup = 10%
  • clover = 10%

 

If the meadow was 100m2 in size, which ONE of these methods would be best to use to give an idea of how much clover was in the field?

CORRECT ANSWER
Throw the quadrat randomly 10 times and multiply the results up to 100m2.
EDDIE SAYS
Well, it would take forever to cover the whole field, but the results would be correct! The results from 1 quadrat in 100 are not representative. Walking the field might do, but it would be hard to keep track of everywhere, so 10 random throws around the field and scaling the results up is probably best - it's a mixture of reasonable results in a relatively short time.
  • Question 3

One way of looking at the small animals living in woodland is to bring some of the leaf litter on the floor of the wood back to look at more closely. A POOTER is a useful tool for this as it allows you to suck up the small, fast-moving animals into a small collecting pot, giving you the chance to look at them with a magnifying glass.

 

 

 

Tick any woodland animals on this list that you think you would need to suck up into your pooter to look at with a magnifying glass.

CORRECT ANSWER
small spider
mite
woodlouse
EDDIE SAYS
The mouse and snail are too big to fit in (anyway, the snail is hardly fast-moving!). The little spiders, mites and woodlice might need collecting to help identify them.
  • Question 4

Imagine that you are looking at the animals living in rock pools and under rocks at the seaside. Which of the following methods do you think would be most suitable for sampling them?

CORRECT ANSWER
use direct observation (looking and noting what you see)
EDDIE SAYS
For the rocky shore, the pooter and pitfall trap are no good - they simply don't work with water! The best way is to lift rocks, noting scuttling crabs and things like periwinkles and barnacles.
  • Question 5

If you were studying the plants and animals that live in a pond, which of the following might be helpful to you (tick all the ones you agree with)?

CORRECT ANSWER
magnifying glass
small net
jar or pot
EDDIE SAYS
A pooter doesn't work in water (you'll get a mouthful of pondwater - ugh!) and the metre ruler is way too big to measure, say, a tadpole. The small net is vital for scooping things out with, you can put them in the jar and observe them with the magnifying glass.
  • Question 6

Imagine that, in Jack's garden, he found a rock with a number of broken snail shells scattered nearby. He wondered how the shells had got there.

What might be the most likely explanation?

CORRECT ANSWER
a thrush had used the stone to break the shells open
EDDIE SAYS
The presence of the rock is important: birds called thrushes often use stones as an 'anvil', smashing the snails against it until the shell breaks and they can eat the animal. That's the most likely explanation.
  • Question 7

Observing the ROSE BUSH in his garden, Jack saw lots and lots of small green bugs (called APHID or greenfly) on the stems.

While he was watching he saw a LADYBIRD capturing and eating the aphids.

Fascinated he stayed a little longer and was rewarded by the sight of a BLUE TIT landing in the rose bush to search for food.

 

Jack had watched a food chain in action. Use this information to complete the food chain by filling in the correct boxes using the four organisms: blue tit, rose bush, ladybird and aphid (click and type into the box below, and write your answers in lower case).

CORRECT ANSWER
 Organism
Producer
Herbivore
Second Consumer
Third Consumer
EDDIE SAYS
Hopefully that wasn't too hard: Jack watched the rose bush (PRODUCER) being fed on by the aphids (HERBIVORES who drink the sap) and the ladybird (SECOND CONSUMER) fed on these. The blue tit (THIRD CONSUMER) landed to catch insects like ladybirds.
  • Question 8

Jack wondered about why the rose bush had so many sharp thorns on it - they certainly didn't stop the aphids crawling all over it.

What do you think is the most likely reason for the thorns on the rose bush?

CORRECT ANSWER
to discourage large animals, like deer, from eating them
EDDIE SAYS
Prickles and thorns are often there to try to stop large animals from munching the plant - they cannot stop small animals but it often deters large ones.
  • Question 9

Here are some observations from Hayley's 'Woodland Habitat Notebook':

"saw a fly trapped in a spider's web - the spider seemed to be tying it up."

"saw a little bird on a tree trunk - it seemed to be searching for things to eat."

"saw some leaves that looked a funny shape - I looked closer and saw caterpillars on them. Perhaps they're eating the leaves."

 

Here is a possible food web drawn from Hayley's observations.

 

One of the organisms is in the wrong place - can you find it?

CORRECT ANSWER
spider
EDDIE SAYS
From Hayley's observations the bird seems to be looking for insects on the tree trunk, so that's OK, and the caterpillars seem to be eating the leaves. The problem is the spider - it seems to catch flies, but the food web has it down as a leaf-eater.
  • Question 10

When dragonflies are young they spend more than a year as a NYMPH living at the bottom of ponds and rivers, feeding and growing until they are ready to hatch into adult dragonflies.

 

 

Which of the following do you think is UNLIKELY to be food for the dragonfly nymph?

CORRECT ANSWER
slug
EDDIE SAYS
Apart from the slug the others are all small pond-living animals, so are likely to be eaten by dragonfly nymphs (which can even tackle small fish!). The slug is not a pond-dweller, living on land, so would not be food for the nymph (unless it fell into the pond and the nymph had a go at eating a sticky slug!).
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