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Is bigger always better? An investigation on the effect of drought on different sizes of trees

Author(s): Jessica Brzyski

Seton Hill University

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This data set was compiled from worldwide data to examine the effects of drought on trees. Included in the dataset are measurements of growth and mortality as they relate to the size category of trees sampled.

Licensed under CC Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International according to these terms

Version 1.0 - published on 11 Dec 2020 doi:10.25334/7PVP-1K07 - cite this


In this activity, students begin by first watching a video by Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) BioInteractive called Scientists at Work “Liz Hadley Tracks the Impact of Climate Change in Yellowstone”. This video provides an example of the long-reaching effects of biotic interactions and how climate change can affect these interactions. Students then work with authentic data from Bennett et al. (2015) to statistically analyze the effect of drought, one consequence of climate change, on tree mortality and diameter growth, and assess how these variables are further exacerbated by bark beetle infestations. Tree mortality and growth are separated by the size category of tree, allowing students to conclude that larger trees are more negatively impacted by drought than smaller trees and mortality is drastically increased in the presence of beetle infestation. By first observing scientists in the field through the video, and then working with a real dataset, students are able to gain a broader perspective of the work scientists perform and gain experience analyzing and interpreting data. Students also reflect on the cascading effect of this one abiotic factor on a large interdependent ecosystem.

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