“You collected poison sumac?” (Pymatuning Wetlands 2015, Day 5)
The Pymatuning wetlanders started off the morning by exploring the wetlands along the edge of Pymatuning Lake via canoe. We examined the hydrophobic leaves of American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea) and compared it to the white water lily (Nymphaea odorata). We also added a number of submerged aquatic plants to our “must-know” plant list, including bladderwort (Utricularia sp.), hornwort (Ceratophyllum demersum), waterweed (Elodea canadensis), and two invasive plants, curly leaved pondweed (Potamogeton crispus )and Eurasian milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum). We also found all three common floating plants growing in association: lesser duckweed (Lemna minor), greater duckweed (Spirodela polyrhiza), and the smallest flowering plant in the world, waterfall (Wolffia sp.). Botanizing was a pleasant and fun way to start the day.
We spend a short time in the classroom finishing up our discussion of wetland biogeochemistry, by taking a close look at phosphorus cycling in wetlands. We then discussed intrinsic and environmental controls on decomposition and production, and the implications for nutrient cycling. To reinforce their newly acquired knowledge of wetland biogeochemistry, the students will complete an assignment based on a laboratory experiment we conducted as part of a semester-long course in wetland ecology at Lehigh University (“smelling your way down the redox ladder”).
We then went to the spillway for lunch, where the students were amazed and disgusted at the density of bread-fed carp. The continual influx of bread is breathtaking. And not just bread, I have watched the carp eat a tray of cupcakes, waffles, and sandwiches. And this is all in the few minutes that I have spent there each year. It is truly unbelievable that this sort of thing is happening in 2015, given our knowledge of the ecological problems that it creates, particularly with respect to phosphorus loading. Our discussion of phosphorus limitation in the morning was on our minds as we watched the carp. Dr. Andy Turner from Clarion University has a nice description of the craziness on his blog. Linesville must make a tremendous amount of money selling moldy bread to tourists. This year I noticed that they are even selling shirts. “Carpe feed’m”….really?…..
After lunch we headed to Hartstown Swamp, where we carefully avoided poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix) while we explored the edge of the swamp and added a number of swamp plants to our “must-know” list. None of the students actually made the mistake of collecting poison sumac, although there were a few moments of of panic when collections of green ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) came out of bags back in the lab. I did nothing to promote these brief moments of panic of course 🙂 As week one comes to an end, we have identified nearly 50 wetlands plants. I’m looking forward to next week.