Landscape Cross Section

Students map shifts in plants or animals across an area with a gradient of species and environmental conditions, such as an intertidal zone, the slope of a hill, or a transition from shore to pond. A straight line that cuts across an object or area is called a transect. A cross-section diagram is a side view showing the species or features that occur along a transect, as well as other details and observations. (A cross section could also show a phenomenon that has vertical structure, such as a species of moss or lichen on a tree.) Making cross sections of a transect is a powerful tool for noticing patterns of organisms or other features within an ecosystem. The approach prepares students to think about how patterns in organism distribution are related to environmental conditions, and supports them to make detailed observations of landscape features.