Forest Ecology

Pinus longifolia. Public domain. Aylmer Bourke Lambert. 1803.


Adaptation – How a species changes over time to help it survive in its environment
Canopy – Tallest trees in a forest; also includes animals living in that level
Decomposition – The breakdown process of organic matter through decay, rotting, animal feces
Ecology – The study of relationships between organisms and their environment
Habitat – The environment in which a species typically lives and eats
Pioneer Species – The first species to enter a new habitat
Succession – Change in different species and their community over time
Symbiosis – A biological relationship between two species
Understory – Trees and plants that live below the main canopy level of a forest

Bald cypress samples


Go outside and find a tree in your backyard, school playground, community park, etc. Once you pick your tree, look at the different characteristics (leaf shape, size, color; bark; height, trunk width; etc.) and identify your tree. 

Once you identify your tree, take note of its habitat. Does it like shade or sun? Does it grow near the water? Is it the tallest tree around or is it in the understory? Do you notice any animals or insects on, or around, your tree? Write down as many details about your tree’s habitat as you can. Take some photos or make a drawing / painting / collage of your tree. 

Bald cypress botanical drawing. Louisiana Digital Library.

Next, do some research (computer or library) to find out more about your tree. Write a short story about your tree and include everything you saw and read about it. Include a picture of your tree or your artistic representation and send it to us:

One submission will be chosen to be featured on our social media!

If you need help with identifying your tree for this activity:

Arbor Day tree identification | LeafSnap App

or email a photo of your tree or leaf to

Activity can be done in combination with Project Learning Tree activity “We All Need Trees,” which can be adapted for PreK-6 grade in Science, Visual Arts & Language Arts.

Activity is open to all ages and was adapted from Rock Eagle 4-H Center Education Program Curriculum. It meets the needs or can be combined with other activities for the following Georgia Standards of Excellence in Science.

  • S3L1. Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information about the similarities and differences between plants, animals, and habitats found within geographic regions (Blue Ridge Mountains, Piedmont, Coastal Plains, Valley and Ridge, and Appalachian Plateau) of Georgia.
  • S4L1. Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information about the roles of organisms and the flow of energy within an ecosystem.
  • SBO1. Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information to analyze the nature of the relationships between plant morphological structures and anatomical structures, functions, and processes.
  • SBO2. Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information to delineate the plant divisions based on current plant phylogenetic and taxonomic principles.

Deadfall and what to do with it

Deadfall is the term for trees, branches or other natural debris that falls into the river. This debris can get caught or pile up, making it difficult, or even impossible, for boaters and paddlers to travel on the river.

So what does one do with it?

Rules vary from state to state but in Georgia, the debris is considered part of the land it fell from, and is therefore private property. While the river itself is public, the land on either side belongs to the property owners. Any deadfall is theirs to remove, if they choose.

Ecologically, removing deadfall entirely is not advised. The shady spots, slowed water flow, and underwater hiding places a downed tree provides are welcome habitat for many species. Generally, Ogeechee Riverkeeper’s (ORK) recommendation is to clear a navigable path while leaving some debris for natural use.

In most cases, the debris will be knocked loose quickly or the water levels will change enough to make the obstacle no longer a problem.

Paddling under deadfall

If you encounter deadfall, try to determine precisely where the obstacle is. If it is part of a state park or other public facility, it can be reported. If possible, it might be removed (or modified) to allow for safe passage). Drop a GPS pin or be as specific as possible when describing so it can be located later.

If it is on private property, or the land owner is unknown, you are welcome to notify ORK but we cannot do anything to remove it. ORK can make note of the obstacle and let other paddlers know to avoid that section, although the debris is usually gone or no longer an obstacle by the time paddlers visit again. As frustrating it is for recreation, ORK cannot remove debris or require a private property owner to do so. 

Caused by soil erosion, high water levels, flow rate, weather patterns, wind speed, and more, deadfall is part of the natural life of a river.