Lab 1: Think Globally, Act Locally

Part C: Predicting Consequences

August 6, 2009 (top) August 9, 2009 (bottom) along the Macomb Orchard Trail in Armada Township, Michigan. Heavy rains caused the river to swell. Image source: Flickr.
All the components of your local study site are connected. Changes to the characteristics of one component may have consequences for characteristics of other components. For example, if someone planted a tree at your local study site, the ground beneath it would be shaded; the temperature of that soil would decrease, and the soil moisture level would increase.

1. Work with a partner or small group to make predictions about ways that a change in the characteristics of one component of your study site might affect the characteristics of other components. Be as specific as you can.

Change No. 1: Rain Storm

  • How would a change in water level affect plants and animals at the site?
  • How might heavy precipitation affect soil moisture levels? 
  • How might the storm affect erosion? 
  • What happens to the flow of water in a stream or river during rain storms? What effects might that have on plants and animals in the water? What effects might it have on the soil at the bottom of the stream (or pond, lake, canal, or ocean)? 
  • If rain storms are frequent and regular at the study site over a number of years, how might that affect interconnections among components? 
  • How might long periods with large amounts of cloud cover affect vegetation?

Change No. 2: Dramatic Rise in Temperature

  • What would happen to the components at the study site if the temperature rose dramatically for an extended period, in a prolonged heat wave?
  • What changes in evaporation could be expected?
  • How might that affect the soil?
  • How might it affect living things?
  • How might it affect the water?


2. Use your imagination to answer the Stop and Think question.

Stop and Think

1: Ask three of your own questions about changes, and predict the effects those changes would have on other components of the study site. Your questions can address any aspects of the study site, not just rainstorm events or climate. Ask yourself, "What if...?" and take it from there. For example:

  • What if no birds flew into the study site?
  • What if twice as many birds flew into the study site as do now?
  • What if no people ever came again?

  • Share your "what-if" questions and predictions with the rest of the class.