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    Welcome to the Forest Communities section of the Virtual Walk in the Forest Tour! Here we will explore different boreal forest communities to find out what an upland forest can look like. Search each example community to find clues within the ecosystem that tell us we are in a forest environment. This community is a Pine forest.

    What does the field journal tell you about this environment? Here we can see that the soil is dry, and root growth of the trees is not dependent on a water level (or water table). There are many of these trees and they grow tall. The soil is sandy and loose with large pore spaces (spaces between soil particles), which allow water in this system to move easily, either taken up by plants or draining away. This tells us that this pine stand is a forest.

    Young pine stands, like the one shown in the above photo, tend to grow very closely together. As the forest matures and some trees die off, the openings allow the understory species to establish. Species Shown: (1) Jack pine (or *Pinus banksiana*), (2) Dwarf blueberry (or *Vaccinium myrtillus*), (3) Lingonberry (or *Vaccinium vitis-idaea*), (4) Big red stem moss (or *Pleurozium schreberi.*) What other species do you see in this environment?

    How do animals of different sizes use the forest differently? In these wildlife cams, we see several species of small predatory mammals in the Mustelids family. Photo (1) shows an American mink (*Neovison vison*), photo (2) shows a Weasel (*Mustela spp.*) and (3) and (4) have captured the American martin (*Martes americana*). Photo Credits: Caroline Franklin

    Mixed Aspen Forest

    Pine forest – with Rielle Massey-Leclerc This is a pine-dominated stand. Here we can see that the forest is made up of older jack pine trees. If we were to take a closer look at the soil, we would notice it is very loose and sandy, and does not have much organic matter or nutrients in it. Most of the water this forest receives from rain and snow is used by the plant community or drains away in the sandy soil. This environment is well suited for pine, as well as some of the plant species you can see on the ground, such as wild lily of the valley, lingonberry, and two other forest mosses called red stem moss and stair-step moss, because the sandy soil does not hold water very well these mosses are important for storing water, like a sponge, that the limited plant community can use during dry times. We can also notice many different species of lichens growing on the pine branches, and on the ground. As this forest ages, we will likely see more deadfall building up on the ground. This forest may experience a wildfire, which is a necessary process to restart growth cycles in the boreal forest, allowing new forest communities to establish, and providing different values for humans and wildlife.