Overview of the Nature Trails
The trail meanders through three distinct types of habitats. It winds among the oaks and pines of the upland, before turning south to cross the creek, then goes up a north facing slope before turning east to overlook the creek from the south side. It then winds down into the creekbed again, crossing the creek and a small transition zone before climbing the south facing slope to the end. The first part of the trail goes through the upland area covered with oak-pine woods such as is quite typical in south-eastern Michigan. The soil is mostly sand with a layer of one-three inches of humus. As you descend the trail into the creek bed, you will be aware of some distinct changes. These changes are due to the effect of differences in temperature and humidity. Associated with these changes in the physical environment are changes in the organisms making up another community in another habitat—the creekbed wetland habitat. The number and species of organisms have increased. The third change in habitat is seen as one ascends the north facing slope and follows the trail eastward. Red maple and witch-hazel trees are quite common and seem to be replacing the oak-pine association on the north side of the creek.
The plants, animals, protists, bacteria, and fungi which live in the communities in these habitats have been shaped by forces of the past and present – in recent geological time, the glaciers which retreated from this region about 10,000 to 15,000 years ago; to more recent time, lumbering by removal of the red and white pine trees; the changing soils; fires; the dynamic effect of Lake Michigan; the inter-relationships of organisms through eons of time; and additional anthropogenic effects by humans in our choice of a place to live and our use of the land.
You will enjoy your walk more if you try to think in terms of communities, in which each organism, regardless of size or number, has a particular part to play (niche) and must perform it well enough to survive and reproduce. That its profession or job is necessary if the community is going to function. Nothing is static here; something is always happening. The community is a dynamic one. Each organism has its function, living or dead. The trail with its numbered stations indicates some specific representative organisms particularly plants and it is hoped that you think of the relationships and inter-relationships between the members of the living community and the non-living factors of the environment. This is the ecological concept.