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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 an Aspen-dominated forest.

    What does the field journal tell you about this environment? This environment has many trees, they are tall and starting to form a canopy or treetop. Their large root systems are able to grow deep, as the soil is dry and has medium pore space (space between soil particles). It is made up of a mix of loam and silt, which makes it rich in nutrients to support plant growth. According to the Field Journal, we could say this Aspen stand is a forest.

    Mixedwood Forest Mixedwood Forest

    The plants found in this environment have broad leaves to capture large amounts of sunlight. Many of the species produce fruits, while others have only flowers and small seeds. Species Shown: (1) Trembling aspen (or *Populous tremuloides*), (2) Low-bush cranberry (or *Viburnum edule*), (3) Wild Rose (or *Rosa woodsii*). What animal species would be attracted to this environment?

    What species would use this environment for foraging? Would they also use it for shelter or cover? Aspen forests are useful to Black bears (*Ursus americanus*) and Grizzly bears (*Ursus arctos horribilis*) like the ones caught on these wildlife cams. The sunny understory has many berry species for them to forage on, and the various sizes of aspen trees are good for climbing practice or scratching posts. Photo Credits: Caroline Franklin

    Aspen forest – with Rielle Massey-Leclerc The boreal forest is a dynamic system. It is composed of many different forest and wetland types, which are constantly changing over time. In this scene, we can see we are located in an aspen dominated forest system. The most notable tree species here is the trembling aspen, which we can identify by its white bark and small, rounded leaves. Aspen is a pioneer species in the boreal forest, which means it is one of the first species to establish. If we look up, we can see that the canopy or tree tops are not very dense and a lot of sunlight is able to reach the forest floor. This is encouraging the growth of a large understory, the plant community below the trees. If you look around this particular plant community, you will see species like wild rose and low bush cranberry, which are both fruit producing plants that provide foraging and cover for wildlife. Forest communities like this one tend to have a high overall biodiversity. Because the trees are able to grow tall here, we can assume that the roots of these trees are also reaching down deep into the soil, meaning there is not a water table to limit their growth. Between the trees and the understory any water that is added to the forest by rain or snow is quickly used by the plants. This forest system is relatively young, with the aspen trees and understory plants providing shade for slower growing conifer species, like white spruce, to establish. As this forest ages, we expect to see changes in the plant community, especially in the understory plants, as the forest floor receives less light.