Master Naturalist – Forest Ecology & Climate

We learned all about forest systems this week. We live in a deciduous forest biome, which represent only 14% of the world’s forests. Because Illinois extends so far north and south, we comprise 5 hardiness zones and 3 seed zones. I thought the seed zones were particularly interesting. If you took a seed from a plant more than one seed zone from your home, it will be unlikely to thrive if you planted it in your yard. I thought temperature ranges were really the only key!

We got a chance to go outside and learn how to measure a tree’s height using a special yard stick and to recognize different tree types.

There is even an Illinois website to report on big trees. They often represent the oldest native trees in the state and getting people involved can go a long way in preserving these natural treasures. http://web.extension.illinois.edu/forestry/il_big_tree.html

The climate and weather portion of the day was pretty neat. Arbor and I do a lot of road trips because of our kids and we see some really incredible skies along the way. I should have known the cloud types by now, but I never learned them and was glad to start figuring them out. Its still quite complicated, since you have your basic cloud types (cirro, alto, strato, nimbo & cumulo) – but nothing is that direct, and so you have the cirrocumulous and the nimbostratus and even further derivations. It will take a while before I can point at the sky and identify what I see. Its a fun project though.

I learned that CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere and then takes hundreds of years to diffuse & that crops change the atmosphere by taking in water and then offgassing seasonally. (which is a big deal as we live surrounded by corn and soybean!)

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