Unit 1 Sustainable Ecosystems
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Nutrient Cycles and Energy Flow
- All interacting parts of a living community and its environment.
- All parts of an ecosystem depend on each other to survive.
- For Example - ponds are ecosystems because they contain a variety of biotic and abiotic factors which depend on each other to survive.
- Ecosystem that is capable of withstanding (non-human) threats and helping organisms that live there survive.
- Variety makes an ecosystem more stable and sustainable.
- Sustainable ecosystems are able to ENDURE and SUPPORT.
- For example - a forest is a sustainable ecosystem because it contains a variety of organisms (producers, consumers, carnivores, herbivores, etc.) and it can endure through many threats, but also support (there's food, water, sun, etc) organisms which live there.
- The living/formerly living parts of an ecosystem. (organisms)
- ex. animals, bacteria, plants.
- The non-living parts of an ecosystem.
- Usually, they are what organisms need to survive.
- ex. water, soil, sun.
- Earth Sphere- rock and soil that's part of Earth's surface.
- ex. continents, islands, etc.
- Liquid sphere- liquid that is part of Earth's surface.
- ex. oceans, rivers, lakes.
- Gasses Sphere- air above Earth's surface.
- ex. oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, etc.
- Living sphere of Earth- life in soil, water, and air.
- Not separate from other abiotic spheres.ex. worms, birds, humans, whales, etc.
- Chemicals organisms need to survive.
- (They are in the food we eat)
- Nutrients are recycled through Earth's spheres.
- ex. calcium, vitamin C, iron, etc.
- When too much nitrogen or phosphorus is added to an ecosystem.
- Pushes ecosystem beyond sustainability.
- ex. too much nitrogen and/or phosphorus from too much fertilizer causes algae "blooms", blocking sunlight from aquatic plants. This reduces oxygen for organism that live there, they die.
- Conversion of solar energy to chemical energy (glucose).
- Glucose is the food which all organisms need.
- carbon dioxide + water → glucose + oxygen
- Related: Light and chlorophyll are needed for this process to be done. ex. can be done by plants, algae, some bacteria.
- ex. forests take carbon dioxide and give huge amounts of oxygen back. They do 30%of the world's photosynthesis.
- Categories for organisms defined by how they obtain their energy.
- Primary Producers: can make their own food (e.g. plants)
- Consumers: Can't make their own food and must consume other organisms.
- ALSO by food chains;
- First Trophic Levels - producers (plants)
- Second Trophic - primary consumers (herbivores or omnivores)
- Third Trophic Level - secondary consumers (carnivores or omnivores)
- Fourth Trophic Level - tertiary consumers (carnivores)
Total mass/weight of living organisms in an area.
- Amount of energy that goes from one trophic level to a higher trophic level.
- Note: Trophic efficiency in not very efficient; only 10% of energy moves from one level to the next.
- 1. Not all of organism is eaten.
- 2. Not everything is digested.
- 3. Energy lost as heat.
- This leads to - more plants than herbivores, less carnivores than herbivores.
- When toxins, are ingested faster that they are eliminated.
- ex. monarch butterflies drink toxins from plants when they are caterpillars. Toxins accumulate faster than they are eliminated. When they are butterflies, they still have the toxins in them (but it doesn't harm them) and they are poisonous.
- Related: bioaccumulation from man-made pollution can cause severe health problems and death.
- Larger concentration of a toxin as it moves from one trophic level to a higher one.
- ex. If a lake trout has 4.83 ppm, a herring gull will eat many trout (more than the trout ate when he got the toxins). All the trout the gull ate will add up to 124 ppm of toxins for the gull.
- In biomagnification, the organisms at the top of the food chain usually die off first, since they get a higher concentration of the toxins than the organisms lower in the food chain.
- Process which most organisms use to extract energy from glucose (most efficient process).
- Even plants do this, since they have to extract energy from glucose for themselves as well.
- Cellular respiration only occurs under aerobic conditions, or when oxygen is present.
- Cellular respiration does the opposite of photosynthesis; takes in oxygen and gives out carbon dioxide.
- WORD EQUATION
- glucose + oxygen → carbon dioxide + water
- ex. you do this every day in order to get nutrients form the food you eat.
- Organisms like bacteria and some fungi use this to extract energy from glucose. (but every organism can do this)
- This happens only under anaerobic conditions or when oxygen is absent.
- ex. when you are running, and you can't access your oxygen reserves.
- These gases trap some of the energy (heat) from the sun that would usually escape.
- They allow Earth to have a temperature which can support life.
- ex. water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane
- The burning of fossil fuels has led to more of a greenhouse effect.
- Fossil fuels were created from organisms who lived millions of years ago.
- ex. All the burning of fossil fuels has resulted in global warming (higher Earth temperatures).
- Related: ex. of fossil fuels: coal, petroleum, natural gas
Gases from burning fossil fuel (nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide) combine with water in the atmosphere to form nitric acid and sulfuric acid.
- The acids lower the pH of precipitation (make it more acidic).
- Acid Rain Affects
- Nutrients are lost from soil; more aluminum which suffocates tree roots.
- Run-off water with aluminum from soil which suffocates fish.
- Makes aquatic ecosystems more acidic, harming organisms who live there.
- Acidic water mutates and kills eggs and babies of many species of fish.
Populations and Sustainable Ecosystems
- Group of organisms of the same species which live in the same place, at the same time, and can reproduce.
- ex. the population of humans living in Canada on 2015 is 35 million.
- Accelerating growth of a population.
- Related: makes a J-shaped curve when graph is population vs. time.
- 1. Lag Phase
- Population starts to increase.
- 2. Exponential Growth
- Only under special circumstances, only for a short time in nature.
- SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES include:
- New habitat with a lot of resources.
- ex. first time algae grows in newly formed pond.
- When pressure is lifted from a population.
- ex. elephants became protected animals. Since they weren't being hunted anymore, they grew exponentially.
- Limiting factors restrict exponential growth.
- 3. Carrying Capacity
- (later explained in "Carrying Capacity" term)
- Factors which restrict growth, space occupied and population in an ecosystem since there are no unlimited supplies of resources that an organism needs.
- Related: as a population increases in size, there's less of each resource.
- ex. Although a young perch and her daughters could produce a trillion perches in five years, this does not happen because of limiting factors; there is not enough space, resources, etc.
- (3.)A population that can be supported for an indefinite amount of time by the resources, conditions, and services an ecosystem offers.
- Whenever the population goes beyond the carrying capacity, it will decrease until it meets a new equilibrium.
- For example:
- The way an organism occupies a position in an ecosystem.
- Includes all biotic and abiotic factors.
- ex. a brown bat's niche includes all the insects it eats, its competitors, and its predators. Abiotic niche factors include places it uses for roosting and hibernation, time of night it hunts for food, airspace it flied through (when hunting), and temperature range it can tolerate.
- Related: no two species can occupy the same niche, since they don't live exactly the same.
- Organism which eats other organisms.
- ex. a shark is a predator, as well as a lion, owl, eagle, crocodile, etc.
- Organism which is eaten by another organism for food.
- ex. worm, mouse, insect, fish, etc.
- (picture above - in predator term)
- A relationship between two different species, where both species benefit from the relationship.
- ex. coral and algae, bee and flower, sea anemones and clown fish.
- ex. in the coral/reef relationship, coral gives the algae carbon dioxide, nutrients and protection, while the algae gives the coral most of the energy it needs through photosynthesis.
- Related: this is a symbiotic relationship.
- The bird gets food, the crocodile gets his teeth cleaned.
- An organism whose niche is dependent on a larger host.
- ex. tapeworms, fleas, barnacles.
- ex. brainworm lays eggs in deer's brain blood vessels. They hatch in her lungs and are then excreted. The brainworm lives inside snails and slugs, until a deer eats them and the brainworm is back inside the brain of the deer.
- Related: most parasites are harmful to their host.
- Two or more organisms compete for the same resource.
- ex. when there is a high population of a certain species, each individual will have to fight for the limited resource they need to survive.
- Related: competition is one of the factors which keeps populations at a sustainable size.
- Use that does not lead to a future shortage of a resource or negatively affect the diversity in an ecosystem.
- ex. when we sustainably use a resource, we can use it indefinitely. For example, if we use sustainable logging practices, we won't run out of forest, which would affect many ecosystems negatively.
- Time it takes a population to double.
- ex. the human population doubling time is 60 years.
- Impact of an individual or a population on the environment.
- This is measured by energy consumption, land use, and waste production.
- Related: Humans in developed countries have very large ecological footprints.
- Pattern of activity that lowers the functionality of an ecosystem.
- ex. our reliability on fossil fuels is unsustainable because it damages many ecosystems and their ability to function.
- Using resources in a way that they will last indefinitely.
- ex. not polluting or wasting water, since its a limited resource. Also, recycling paper, plastic, etc.
- Related: opposite of unsustainable.
- Benefits provided by a sustainable ecosystem. Benefits are experienced by organisms.
- These include:
- food and clean water
- cycling of nutrients
- conversion of atmospheric carbon into biomass (can change climate)
- pollination of crops and vegetation
- balance of processes like growth and decomposition
- Related: these also benefit humans.
- ex. trees make habitats for many organisms. They turn carbon dioxide into biomass. They also cool the climate, since they add a significant amount of moisture to the atmosphere. Trees make humans millions of dollars from logging.
- The change of non-desert land into desert.
- When forests are cut down, there is not as much moisture in the atmosphere, drying up the air, and decreasing precipitation. In addition, soil cant keep as much water or as many nutrients. This leads to desertification.
- ex. In Norfolk County, they cut down trees for lumber and cleared land for agriculture. This unsustainable use of trees, led to desertification.
- However, sometimes reforestation can turn these deserts back into normal land.
- Tourism which cares about the health of an ecosystem and involves recreational activities provided by those ecosystems.
- Protected ecosystems can be used for ecotourism.
- ex. hiking, snowshoeing, fishing, kayaking, etc. or viewing whales, dolphins, sea birds, birds.
- Related: this is a multibillion dollar industry.
- The number and a variety of organisms.
- Related: also includes the variety of ecosystems on Earth.
- How to Measure Biodiversity:
- Canopy Fogging
- Quadrat Sampling
- Transect Sampling (transect line)
- Related: the more biodiversity that an ecosystem has, the more healthy, stable and sustainable it is.
- Ex. the Amazon forest has a lot of biodiversity.
- Protect endangered, threatened, or species of special concern.
- Related: protecting individual species is important to maintain biodiversity in ecosystems.
- Ex. wild turkeys were protected in the 1980's
- Area where there is a large number and variety of species.
- Ex. Malawi Lake has 1000 species of fish, while Lake Erie, with the same size, has 150 species of fish.
- Populations that interact in an area or ecosystem.
- Related: preserving biodiversity in communities is important to protect individual species, since every species interacts with other species in the community.
- Ex. Fish, corals and sponges make up the community below.
- Abundant species; they have the highest biomass in a community.
- Related: primary producers are usually the dominant species in terrestrial ecosystems.
- Ex. American Chestnuts were dominant species. When they were wiped out by a fungus, 7 species of insects went extinct.
- Species which significantly affect populations of other species, therefore affecting the ecosystem.
- Related: not abundant, and can be plants or animals.
- Ex. Prairie dogs increased plant diversity, nitrogen in soil, and water penetration in soil. When they disappeared, black-ferrets nearly went extinct as well.
- When rare or endangered species are bred in a controlled setting to increase numbers.
- Ex. black-footed ferrets were put into captive breeding when they nearly went extinct. After captive breeding, ferrets were trained to live in the wild, then successfully kept a healthy population.
- Species that creates changes so big, they create a whole new ecosystem.
- Related: ecosystem engineers usually start a succession. In each stage, a certain organism can live there.
- Ex. beavers can convert a small stream into an aquatic ecosystem to suit their needs. This ecosystem becomes a calm refuge for young fish, migrating birds, and aquatic insects.
- Changes occurring over time, after a disturbance.
- Related: the succession after building a beaver pond - all stages give habitats for certain organisms.
- Ex. Beaver pond succession: forest to flooded forest, to sunny pond, to abandoned pond, a beaver meadow.
- Events which cause habitat destruction; no species can live there anymore.
- Related: when species cannot move somewhere else, they could die off, and biodiversity is threatened.
- Events include natural disasters and human activities (like deforestation, draining wetlands, damming rivers).
- Ex. cutting all trees in an area destroys habitats for many species.
- Completely clearing forests of trees, and never replanting them.
- Ex. deforestation has resulted in 20-50 percent loss of tropical forests in some countries.
- Species introduced to a new location.
- Related: most are introduced by accident, rather than on purpose, and are harmless or beneficial to their new environment.
- Ex. Round Gobies introduced through ballast water.
- Species which can take over native species' habitat (usually alien species).
- Related: they upset the equilibrium of an ecosystem.
- Ex. Zebra mussels were introduced through ballast water. They are not recognized by predators, and have lots of resources (like food), so they grow exponentially. Other native mussels don't have enough food to survive.
- Unsustainable use of a resource- resource is extracted until it is depleted.
- Related: This can lead to dangerous levels of populations, or even extinction.
- Ex. Partly due to the excessive hunting of passenger pigeons, they became extinct in the 1900s.
- Every organism of a species dies.
- Related: occurs when death of species stays higher than the reproduction of a species for a long time.
- There is background extinction, where ecosystems gradually change, resulting in a greater death rate than birth rate in a species.
- Mass extinction is when a sudden event makes an ecosystem unsustainable and nonsustaining.
- Ex. Abiotic for plant: less precipitation, dryer soil.
- Biotic factor for plant: insect that eats leafs of the plants, weakening them.
- Faster rate of extinctions of different species.
- Theorized to have resulted from human actions.
- ex. of over 40 000 species, 39 percent of those were at risk of extinction
- Renewal of destroyed ecosystems through human intervention.
- The goal is to produce a sustainable, or identical ecosystem.
- ex. Don Valley Brick Works was a brick factory as well as a mine. In 1990, a restoration plan was established. It was filled in, and three ponds were made, which filtered water going to the lakes. it also provides habitats for wildlife.
- Replanting of trees, can be naturally or through human intervention.
- This takes many years to happen.
- ex. Red pine trees were planted in areas that were deforested. Through natural succession, Red pines gave enough shade for native trees to grow as well.
- Using species to regulate other species.
- This usually has a lot of drawbacks.
- ex. use of the European fly to control the gypsy moth. Unfortunately, the fly also affects native moths.
- Using living organisms to clean up contaminated areas.
- ex. use of plants to absorb heavy metals from toxic soil (in gas plants).
- OR use of bacteria to clean up oil by coast.
- Using organisms to add nutrients back into depleted soil.
- ex. use of clover to add nitrogen to depleted soil.
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