Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



Is There Life in a Decomposing Log?

5. Analyze Your Data

Once you have completed your outdoor explorations, analyze your data using graphs and charts. Then draw conclusions from your experiences.

Graphs and charts will help you see connections between the composition and numbers of organisms found living on and around the log and the rate of decomposition, habitat type, and log size. Your analysis will help you draw conclusions about the role of decomposition in ecosystems and about the nature of food webs.

You can graph your data by hand on notepaper or on a large flip chart for the class to see.

When you have graphed your data, answer the following questions in your small groups, then discuss your group's results with your class.

  1. Review the answers you gave on your student worksheet, “Building Background Knowledge.” Discuss in your small group whether you would change any of your previous answers, and why.
  2. Compare your results with the results of the other teams in your class. Are there similarities and/or differences between logs in different classes of decomposition? Are the species found on logs of different classes different or the same? Does the size of the log matter? Why or why not?
  3. How do you think decomposition benefits a forest ecosystem? Why does this matter to humans?
  4. What are the characteristics of a decomposing log? What environmental conditions and species help a log decompose?
  5. Did you learn something new from your outdoor explorations? Did anything surprise you? If you were to do this again, would you change any of your methods?