Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Bracken Invasion
Originator Ruth Weaver
Department Department of Geographical Sciences, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA
Tel. +44 (0)1752 233057
Fax +44 (0)1752 233054
Email RWeaver@Plymouth.ac.uk

Context:

This is a set of three practicals, each of two hours, with much staff support. They are delivered in the latter half of a module on Vegetation Dynamics and Management which is intended to show how knowledge of vegetation dynamics (specifically competition and succession) can help in the practical management of plant communities. The first exercise is to map moorland vegetation from air photos and satellite images; the second involves data analysis of the results of a bracken-encroachment experiment on the North York Moors; the third, also data based, uses the results of a long-term experiment on Dartmoor on the effects of fertilising and grazing on heather. Students work individually, but consult. The conceptual grounding is given in lectures beforehand, what the practicals do is provide the students with real data and real problems. The first exercise promotes debate about the decisions that have to be taken in producing a map, the later exercises provide experience in dealing with large amounts of data, and solving problems. They are quite challenging.

Aims:

Learning objectives:

Students should be able to:
  1. grasp difficulties of drawing conclusions from complex, real-life datasets with several interacting variables
  2. relate concepts of vegetation dynamics to practical examples
  3. interpret various kinds of aerial/satellite imagery and understand their limitations

Techniques included:

Assessment:

One assignment is set on each practical and students attempt all three, but only complete and hand in one. Each consists of the results of the practical work plus a written discussion based on a series of points of 'suggested analysis' plus background reading.

Keywords:

Bracken
Moorland vegetation
Problem solving
Skills development

This is one of the case studies which appears in the GDN Guide "Practicals and Laboratory Work in Geography"


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