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Knock on Wood

This article is from Issue Knock on Wood - Vol. 1 No. 21.

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Welcome Section

Note to Educators 

Knock on Wood Create A Phrase 

Knock on Wood Eye Challenge

Knock on Wood FACTivity

Reflection Section Answer Guide

Knock on Wood Education Standard Correlations

Knock on Wood Student Editorial Review Board


Meet the scientists that contributed to this article:

"Science Topics" covered in this article:
  • Life Science
  • People and Science

"Environmental Topics" covered in this article:
  • The Value of Forests and Grasslands (Educators)
  • Wildlife and Endangered Species (Educators)
  • Wildlife and Endangered Species (Students)

"Thinking About Science Themes" covered in this article:
Take a moment to think about science research. What ideas came into your mind? Did you think of scientists in a lab collecting data or writing down observations? Maybe they were looking at a computer and analyzing data or out in a field measuring something. These examples are common aspects of science research. However, one aspect that most people don’t think about when it comes to science is the issue of balancing competing interests. Scientists often have to find a balance between competing interests. In the world of natural resource science, for instance, scientists may study how both animals and people can safely use a particular area, like creating road crossings for animals. Another example of competing interests in natural resource science is balancing the need to use trees as products and the need for conservation. In this research, the scientists are looking at how to balance land use issues. In particular, they are examining how to balance an animal’s habitat needs with the needs and benefits of a particular tree species. You will learn more about the specific details as you read further along. As you read, think about the challenges and rewards of doing research about natural resource issues that involve competing interests.
Specific "Thinking About Science" Themes:
  • Characteristics of Scientists

"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
An endangered species is a species that is at serious risk of extinction. Often, scientists and the public must find ways to protect endangered species while also protecting local economies. In the research in this article, the endangered species is the red-cockaded woodpecker (figure 4). The red-cockaded woodpecker is a habitat specialist. A habitat specialist means that the woodpecker strongly prefers one type of habitat. In this case, the scientists believe that the woodpecker’s preferred habitat is old-growth forests. In particular, these woodpeckers prefer old-growth forests that include longleaf pine trees (figure 5). They also prefer those forests to have openings where they can forage for food. Longleaf pines are an important tree species in the Southeastern United States. Longleaf pine forests are important because these forests are diverse ecosystems with over 600 different types of plant and animal species, including 29 threatened species or endangered species. For example, the endangered gopher tortoise lives in the longleaf pine habitat (figures 6, 7a, and 7b). Gopher tortoises are endangered in certain parts of their habitat and threatened in other areas of their habitat. 16 Knock on Wood • did you know? Did you know gopher tortoises are considered a keystone species? A keystone species means that an animal or plant plays a critical, unique role in the health of the ecosystem. In the case of the gopher tortoise, the burrows that the gopher tortoise creates can become a shelter for over 350 different species. Wow! Longleaf pine has an extensive taproot, which enables it to be tolerant of drought conditions and hurricanes (figure 8). Longleaf pine is also resistant to attacks by southern pine beetles. Longleaf pine tree forests used to be common in the Southeastern United States. At one point, 92 million acres in the region were covered in longleaf pine forests (figure 9a). Today, approximately 4.3 million acres are left (figure 9b). Longleaf pine forests need periodic fire to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Typically, the periodic fire interval is 5 to 10 years for longleaf pine. The periodic fire helps the longleaf pine growth cycle and clears out underbrush. Certain animals like the red-cockaded woodpecker prefer to have some areas that are cleared out so that they can forage for food.
Specific "Thinking About the Environment" Themes:
  • Endangered species

NSE Standards covered in this article:
  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry (A)
  • Diversity and adaptations of organisms (C)
  • History of science (G)
  • Natural hazards (F)
  • Nature of science (G)
  • Populations and ecosystems (C)
  • Populations, resources and environments (F)
  • Regulation and behavior (C)
  • Risks and benefits (F)
  • Science and technology in society (F)
  • Science as a human endeavor (G)
  • Structure and function in living systems (C)
  • Understandings about science and technology (E)
  • Understandings about scientific inquiry (A)