DONNA S. HOWE

BI341 ECOLOGY

FIELD RESEARCH PROJECT

 

COMPREHENSIVE SOIL ANALYSIS OF ALVERNO PRAIRIE SITE

ABSTRACT: This report is the result of an independent field research project assignment for ecology study. The Alverno prairie site was chosen for convenience. A total of sixteen random soil samples were taken from the site and evaluated for moisture content, pH, potassium and nitrogen levels. Percent water content of sample was found and basic statistical test were performed for definition of mineral test. All the test results for the pH, potassium, and nitrogen levels were the same. Those results were, eight, trace, and med-high respectively. The moisture content results varied slightly. Therefore, the hypothesis that the soil content would be different nearer the tree line than the parking lot due to the uptake of nutrients by the trees has been refuted.

INTRODUCTION: According to the Lamotte Company the definition of soil is the naturally deposited unconsolidated material which covers the earth’s surface, whose chemical, physical, and biological properties are capable of supporting plant growth. Furthermore, the factors involved in the formation of natural soils are living matter, climate, parent material, land formation, and time.

Water content or moisture is unique to soil in that it is both responsible for the production and destruction of the soil (Brown, 1978). The water content of soil will vary from field capacity, which is the point when the soil can hold no more water, and porous. Soil at the field capacity stage can affect plant respiration leading to an excess of carbon dioxide and a decrease in oxygen. Evaporation of water from soil can take place from the surface, and by plant roots (Brown, 1978).

Nitrogen is one of the most prevalent nutrient elements for plants. When nitrogen is utilized at the proper levels for soil, plant growth can be greatly enhanced. Conversely, too much nitrogen can be a burden to plants, due to nitrate accumulation (Lamotte, 1994).

Potassium may be "fixed" in clay soil and can often be found to have the greatest nutrient content. The evaluation of the supply of exchangeable colloids and potassium readily available in the soil is derived by a soil test for potassium content. Through this result a soil can be identified for adequate plant species growth (Lamotte, 1994).

The measurement of pH in soil is a simple way to evaluate the soils effects for plant growth. If a soil pH is low then the calcium/magnesium levels are also low. A pH of 5.5 or lower is said to make a soil incapable of generating acidity and soils with a pH of 6.5 or higher can create problems with the micronutrients of the soil. The use of limestone can help raise a pH for optimal plant growth.

METHOD: The process used to mark the test site for the soil samples in this experiment were random. A subject was blindfolded and lead through the area being spun around multiple times at various moments. At any point the subject would throw a Frisbee type object. Wherever that object landed a pin flag was placed. A total of sixteen test sites were marked.

When there was no recordable rainfall in a 48 hour period of time, soil core samples were taken for water content testing. For this test 10g of each sample were placed on a watchglass and dried in the oven at 105° C for one hour. Each sample was weighed and returned to the oven for an additional hour. The final weights were taken.

The process for the measure of pH, nitrogen and potassium content was followed from directions in the Lamotte test kit.

RESULTS: The following tables represent the outcomes of all test conducted for each sample taken of every test site marked.

 

 

 

 

DISCUSSION: It is obvious by the data above that there are no differences between the samples as far as nutrient results. There is some variances in water content however slight. The sample twelve water content results are somewhat inadmissible as a curve setter due to the loss of sample between drying periods. The only other real significant points are with sample fifteen and sixteen. These test sites are in a slightly lowered portion of landscape than all other samples.

LITERATURE CITED

Brown, Leadley Allison. 1978. Ecology of Soil Organisms.Heinemann Educational Books Ltd. London.

Tucker, Ray M. 1994. Lamotte Soil Handbook. Lamotte Co. Chestertown, MD.