Tree Mapping Survey
Taynish National Nature Reserve, local schools pack (SNH)
- To develop mapping skills
- To investigate features of trees such as height, girth and canopy cover
60 minutes or longer
You will need
- tape measures
- long rope (20metres) marked out in metres
- pencils, paper and clipboards
- Tree identification guides (see downloads and additional information below)
Did you know?
The Taynish National Nature Reserve oak woods have been coppiced and managed through the centuries. Not only are these ancient oak woods one of the best examples of Atlantic oak wood in Europe, they are also rich in archaeology and stories of the people who used them, 5000 years ago to the present day. Beinn Eighe, Glen Affric and Abernethy National Nature Reserves are excellent examples of woodland habitats that you may find interesting to study.
Before the Activity
- Prepare the transect line with the class. Mark off every 1m on the rope using white insulation tape and a marker pen. Every 10m use a different coloured piece of insulating tape.
- Practice the mapping activity using a tree in the school grounds
Choose a suitable place in the woodland to study. Get the class to lay out the transect line, as straight as possible, through the woodland. Use the compass to choose an easy direction for the transect line.
Use a nearby landmark such as a road, loch or car park and make a rough map to show the direction and distance of the landmark from the transect line. Try and draw the map to scale, using an easy scale such as 1cm to 1m. Mark the scale on the map and ‘North’.
Where is my tree?
Each group now chooses a different tree on the transect line to map. (They may need to redraw the transect line on a larger scale, depending on the scale of the previous map). They need to measure how far the tree is along the transect line, using the marks on the rope, then measure, using a tape measure, how far the tree is from the transect line by taking a line at right angles from the transect to the centre of the tree trunk. The centre point is then marked on their map with a dot.
Girth of my tree?
The girth of a tree is usually measured at chest height. (Ask for suggestions why it needs to be measured off the ground a bit, but not too high). The group needs to measure around the tree using the tape measure and then note down the girth. A circle representing the girth of the tree is then added to the map, with the dot at the centre.
Shape of the tree canopy?
Now the groups map the tree canopy by measuring to the edge of the canopy looking north, north east, east etc., round the tree. These points are marked on the map and joined up to show the spread of the trees canopy. Is the tree bent in one direction? What has caused this? The prevalent wind? Other trees? Loss of a limb? Can they tell the direction of the prevalent wind from the shape of the trees? If so, mark this on with an arrow.
How tall is my tree?
See the activity Measuring the height of my tree in the ‘School Grounds’ section.
How old is my tree?
The best way to age a tree is to count the growth rings in the trunk. It is possible to age a tree without cutting it down, using a core borer which bores out a section about 5mm in diameter through to the centre of a tree. However the pupils can also estimate the age of their tree using the fact that trees grow about 2 cm in width every year. If the tree looks like it has been coppiced then estimate that it will have grown about 1 cm every year. Obviously this only gives a very rough estimate. Ask the class for suggestions for factors which would affect the growth rate of trees and whether these factors would make them grow faster or slower (species of tree, whether it is a conifer or deciduous, climate (temperature, wind, rainfall) age, soil type, shading by other trees, browsing by sheep and deer, coppicing etc.)
What species is my tree?
Get the groups to use the keys to identify their tree, and write down the species name.
Draw a large scale transect line and ask each group to add on their scale map of their tree in the right position. Can the class draw any conclusion about the age of the wood or the main species in it?
Suggested Follow up
Using the Internet or local history books for the area, ask each group to write a short story connected with the day when their tree first started to grow.
Research the modern day uses and the historical uses and folklore of the
wood, bark, twigs and fruits of each tree studied.
- Tree ID sheet
- Tree Spotter sheet
- Information and illustrations on native trees, their uses and their folklore Trees for Life,
- Information and an illustration of
native treesin Scotland
Additional InformationThe wood product trail - information and a quiz about products from trees from all over the world (from the Forest Education Initiative website)
A Tree Name Trail from Forestry Commission
The Field Studies Council makes a laminated fold-out tree guide of common tree species
- Science - Main
- Maths - main