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The classical laboratory design of an experiment involves the utilization of a proper control and establishing various test treatments while holding conditions as close to those of the control as possible. In field work an experimental design such as that used in the laboratory is impossible to generate; however, field experimental work can be performed by controlling one parameter at a time and allowing this to serve as a treatment. The control in this case attempts to emulate the ecological system as close as possible. An experimental approach was utilized to determine how leaves were processed in a reservoir. Maple (Acer Spp.) leaf packets were placed in the reservoir utilizing the following experimental design: (1) Packets were placed in plastic trays and left open. These served as the controls. (2) Packets were placed in enclosures so that fish and other larger animals might not have access to the leaves. (3) Packets were placed in enclosures and a bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus) was added to each enclosure. Results from the experiments showed no significant differences between the leaf processing in the enclosure with and without fish. However, there were significant differences in leaf processing between open and enclosed leaf packets. At one time it took less than a month for this difference to occur; at another time it took from two to three months.
controlled field experiment, fish, invertebrates, leaves, enclosures, reservoir
Associate professor, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA