Plant response to environmental disasters
A) Wildfires: Deadly, destructive forces or agents of regeneration and change?
After a dry summer it is not uncommon to read about raging wildfires in the state of
California. Often, these wildfires last for days at a time until human intervention or
natural boundaries (streams, lakes, highways, etc.) act as barriers to their spread. For
instance, it is not unusual to hear that at least 1,500 homes have been destroyed or
almost half a million acres of land have burned in a single fire.
As students of Biology, your assignment is to provide a commentary on a disaster
that has wide-ranging implications on the short- and long-term stability and growth
of organisms. Accessing peer-reviewed sources, Internet websites, newspaper
articles, and other reports from popular press outlets, provide a balanced report of
this important issue.
Some main points to focus on:
i. Briefly document the extent and nature of damage caused (area
destroyed, economic impact, etc.) by California wildfires in the last 10
|Provide possible explanations for the cause and for the dramatic spread
and range of these wildfires.
Discuss whether there are human-impacts on the environment that
have exacerbated or alleviated (hurt or helped) the spread of these fires.
Discuss steps that can be taken to prevent such outbreaks in the future.
How are plants and animals impacted by wildfires? How can they
benefit? How can they be negatively impacted? Discuss with specific
B) Hurricanes: Are hurricanes a boon or a curse to plant life?
Hurricanes are usually notorious for the destruction they leave behind. Images from hurricane-ravaged
areas usually depict uprooted vegetation and torn down buildings. However, hurricanes have always
been natural phenomena that affect major portions of the United States (even the interior US feels the
effects of a hurricane in an indirect way).
Images of the flooding in Houston, TX, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey (2017).
Plants have developed adaptations that help them
survive these arduous conditions. While they do
suffer enormous damages, this also helps ensure the
spread of the species of plants, too. There are other
less-evident advantages to hurricanes with regards to
promoting plant productivity.
Exploring textbooks, scientific literature, and other popular sources of information document the role of
a hurricane in plant life on the earth. Some main points to focus on:
|How do hurricanes damage plants? How can hurricanes help plant growth?
How do plants in hurricane-prone areas survive the harsh conditions? What adaptations have
evolved to survive hurricanes?
How do hurricanes help in increasing the range of a species? Cite specific examples, if possible.
Do hurricanes improve ocean plant productivity?
The assignment is a group project and there will be one final report per group submitted on Canvas (all
the members of the group must submit the report).
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