Muir Woods Nature Detectives

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What Needs Fog?

How does a forest community depend on fog?

1. Learn about all the different plants and animals in 2 forest locations – one has received lots of fog, one has not.

2. Create a fog cycle from the different discoveries you made.

3. Explain your cycle by answering the on-screen questions at the end of the investigation.

To learn more about the plants and animals, click through to their descriptions in your notebook.

Location #1

Here is a wet and shady redwood forest, with towering coast redwood trees. High in the tree tops cool fog drifts between the branches. Moisture collects on the trees’ needles and drips down to the forest floor, called fog drip. In the shade of the redwoods on a rotting log grows some soft moist moss. Growing out of the moss and decaying wood of the log is a polypod fern. On the forest floor near the log grows delicate clover-shaped redwood sorrel. Out of the decaying wood of the log grow large disc shaped oyster mushrooms, which are being eaten by two yellow banana slugs. Eating damp, decaying leaves on the forest floor is a redwood snail. Hopping along the forest floor singing a loud song is a small brown Pacific wren. A dusky-footed wood rat darts between the fern skirts. A giant Pacific salamander hides in the cool wet shade of a bracken fern. At the foot of a nearby tall redwood grows a rare white-leafed and water-loving albino redwood. Grazing quietly near the albino redwood tree is a female black-tailed deer. Northern-spotted owl perches on a branch high above in search of prey. In a clump of western sword ferns, a grey fox quietly stalks its prey.

PIcture of the forest in a foggy location.

See a zoomed in view of this picture of location 1 in a new window. Or, see a panorama of location 1 in a new window (requires Flash).

Location #2

In this location, there is no fog and the sun is shining brightly on a large snag. Perched on top of the snag looking for insects or nuts is the bright blue Steller’s jay. In front of the snag lays a fallen redwood tree, with a jumble of broken branches on the ground around the fallen tree. The fallen tree creates a sun gap, which allows more sunlight to enter the forest. A pileated woodpecker pecks for bugs in the dead wood. Sun loving coffeeberry bushes grow low to the ground. Twisting its branches toward the sun is the fragrant California Bay Laurel tree. A large lump, called a burl, grows on a lone standing redwood tree. Out of the burl grow hundreds of burl sprouts which can one day grow into a full-sized redwood tree. A small patch of redwood sorrel has been able to survive in a shade spot. Scampering all around the forest floor looking for berries and other food are Sonoma chipmunks and grey squirrels.

Picture of the forest in a dry location.

See a zoomed in view of this picture of location 2 in a new window. Or, see a panorama of location 2 in a new window (requires Flash).

Build a Web

Choose at least four plants or animals from the list below and describe how they interact in a web. For example, you could say "The redwood tree causes fog drip, which waters the redwood sorrel, which is eaten by the blacktail deer."

The list:
Oyster Mushrooms, Giant Pacific Salamander, Banana Slugs, Western Sword Fern, Bracken Fern, Polypod Fern, Fog Drip, Coast Redwood, Fog, Pacific Wren, Northern Spotted Owl, Redwood Sorrel, Albino Redwood, Black-tailed Deer, Moss, Redwood Snail, Fallen Tree, Toyon, Snag, Burl, Burl Sprouts, Broken Branches, California Bay Laurel, Sun gap, Pileated Woodpecker, Sonoma Chipmunks, Grey Squirrel, Steller’s Jay, Dusky-Footed Wood Rat

Please answer the questions below.