Exploring an Aspen Ecosystem

Most people in the western U.S. would agree that the fall colors of the Quaking Aspen just can’t be surpassed. This species is also a very interesting species of tree, and it’s a very adaptable species, growing in diverse environments. Last week we took our 7th-10th grade Water Scholars group on a hike to explore an aspen forest above Santa Fe. Unfortunately, the majority of the golden leaves had already fallen to the ground, but we had a great time hiking and learning about this unique tree.

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The whole group before the hike

Along the way we took a few breaks to discuss aspens, where they can be found, why, and what we observed about the aspen forest around us.

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An interesting find along the trail
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Looking out over the aspen grove

Aspens are an important succession species, and they often are the first trees to regrow after a major ecological incident, such as a wildfire or an avalanche. The aspens along the Aspen Vista trail are growing in an area where there was a major wildfire in the 1800s.

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After hiking a little over 2 miles, we took a break for lunch and to fill out our ecosystems worksheet.

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Students took detailed observations of the area

Before we knew it, it was time to head back down the trail.

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A group photo before heading out

Students learned a great deal about higher elevation ecosystems, including characteristics such as annual precipitation, typical plants and animals, and possible effects of climate change on these fragile areas. We will continue to explore a variety of locations throughout the year so that these students gain a better understanding of how many unique ecosystems we have in New Mexico!

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