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Finding Ways to Soak Up the Rays: Lodgepole Pine Adaptation to Different Environmental Conditions

This article is from Issue Rocky Mountain - Vol. 2 No. 1.

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Sunlight is the source of energy for plants, which create food through photosynthesis. Photosynthesis occurs in the foliage, or green leaves (or needles) of a plant. The amount of food a plant can produce is partly dependent on the amount of its leaf or needle surface area. Thescientist in this study, wanted to test her hypothesis that pines growing at higher elevations adapt to these harsher environmental conditions by growing needles that live for more years than needles growing at lower elevations.

Note to Educators

Education Standards Correlations

Meet the scientists that contributed to this article:

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

"Environmental Topics" covered in this article:
  • Forest and Grassland Use (Educators)
  • Growing and Using Trees and Other Plants (Students)
  • Importance of Forest to People (Students)
  • Protecting Trees and Other Plants (Students)
  • The Value of Forests and Grasslands (Educators)
  • Using Forests (Students)
  • Vegetation Management (Educators)

Regions covered in this article:
  • Rocky Mountain

"Thinking About Science Themes" covered in this article:
Scientists work in a variety of settings, and are employed by different organizations. Scientists work for universities, business and industry, hospitals, and the government. Scientists work in many different settings, such as laboratories, classrooms, factories, oceans, forests, in space, or on farms. The scientist in this study works for the USDA Forest Service, a Government agency that manages many of our Nation's forests. She collected branches from pine trees in the Rocky Mountain forests of Colorado. Then, she took the branches into a laboratory, took measurements of the branches and pine needles, and used a computer to compare her results. You can see that scientists work in a lot of different settings. What setting would you like to work in?
Specific "Thinking About Science" Themes:
  • Characteristics of Scientists

"Thinking About Environmental Themes" covered in this article:
Organisms must be able to live in a constantly changing environment. (Think about yourself. Don't you need to do that too?) If an organism is to survive, it will try to keep its internal environment stable, regardless of the external environment. This means that organisms will try to adapt over time to survive in changing environments. The scientist in this study wanted to know why lodgepole pines can survive at very different elevations in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. This shows that the pines can live in very different environments. The scientist was interested in discovering how lodgepole pines adapt to living in such different environments.
Specific "Thinking About the Environment" Themes:
  • Adaptation

NSE Standards covered in this article:
  • Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry (A)
  • Diversity and adaptations of organisms (C)
  • Nature of science (G)
  • Populations and ecosystems (C)
  • Science as a human endeavor (G)
  • Understandings about scientific inquiry (A)

Science Benchmarks covered in this article:
  • Common Themes: Systems
  • Habits of Mind: Communication Skils
  • Habits of Mind: Critical-Response Skills
  • Habits of Mind: Values and Attitudes
  • The Mathematical World: Symbolic Relationships
  • The Nature of Science: The Scientific Enterprise