Posts Tagged ‘diversity’

  • Explain the concepts of limiting factors and carrying capacity in the context of population growth.
Carrying  capacity is the maximum number of organisms that an area or ecosystem can sustainably support over a long period of time.
There are however limiting factors including temperatures, water and nutrient availability. The main factors are temperature and water availability.
Limiting factors are factors that limit the distribution or numbers of a particular population. Limiting factors are environmental factors which slow down population growth.
There are many ways the temperature can affect species. For example some seeds only grow in extremely high temperatures as it enriches the soil with nutrients and kills competition. However some are damaged if they are too warm or too cold. Some are able to survive low temperature. Animals adapt to the hot/ cold temperature either by burrowing under the ground to avoid heat or having cold blood in the heat.
All plants/animals need water to survive, for plants have no water could cause the plant to not germinate or seeds to die. No water = Death.
  • Describe and explain S and J populations curves.
S-curve (Sigmoidal) : population growth curve that shows a rapid growth at the beginning then a slow down as the carrying capacity is reached.
A population curve which shows only exponential growth. It starts slow the becomes increasingly fast.
  • Describe the role of density-dependent and density-independent factors, and internal and external factors, in the regulation of populations.
Density-dependent factors:
Factors that lower the birth rate or raise the death rate as a population grows in size. They are negative feedback mechanisms leading to the stability or regulation of the population.
When prey increases so does the predator, but when this occurs the prey decreases and then again the predators decrease too causing the prey to increase again.
Density-independent factors:
Factors that affect a population irrespective of population density notably environmental change. Abiotic factors are density-independent factors, the most important ones are the extremes of weather (droughts, fires and hurricane) and long-term climate change.
These factors have an impact that can increase the death rate and reduce the birth rate, it all depends on how severe the event was.
Factors which regulate population size can be divided into either INTERNAL or EXTERNAL.
Internal:  fertility rates, territory sizes
External: predation, pressure, parasitism
The major cause of population regulation are in the environments, these can be physical or biological.
The physical class of environmental factors are water availability, nutrient availability anf so on.
Biological factors include predators, and competition.
Ways humans can cause population growth:
  • increase available resources
  • reduce competition
  • reduce pressure from predators
  • introduce animals to new areas
Ways to decline population:
  • change environment, cause habitat disruption
  • change the biological environment by introducing new species
  • cause secondary extinctions
  • overkill
  • Describe the principles associated with survivorship curves including, K and r strategists.
Survivorship curves and r and k strategists:
K-strategists are slow growing and produce few, large offspring that mature slowly.
R-strategists, slow and mature quickly and produce many, small offspring.
K= carrying capacity
R= growth rate
  • low reproductivity
  • large investment in parental care
  • late maturity/longer living
  • slow growth
  • larger size
  • require stable environment
  • high reproductivity
  • short life
  • low investment in parental care
  • early maturity
  • rapid growth
  • small organisms
  • highly adaptable
  • large number of few species
Survivorship rates:
What influences survivorship rates:
  • competition for resources
  • adverse environmental conditions
  • predator-prey relationships
Example of survivorship curve:
  • curve for species where individuals survive for their potential life span, and die at the same time. Salmons/humans (K-strategists)
  • curve for species where individuals die young but who survives lives very long life turtles/ oysters. (r-strategists)
  • Describe the concept and processes of succession in a named habitat.
Succession: Change in the community structure of a particular area over time.
Primary succession: colonization of newly created land by organisms (rock).
Secondary succession: occurs in places where a previous community has been destroyed. (forest/fire) It is faster than primary succession because of the presence of soil and a seed bank.
Pioneer= earliest community of the succession.
Climax community= the last and final community.
The change from pioneer to climax is called a sere.
Succession is the process of change over time in a community changes in the community of organisms frequently cause changes in the physical environment that allow another community to become established and replace the former through competition. They get more complex at the end.
The arrangement or patterning of plant communities or ecosystems into bands in response to change, over a distance, in some environmental factor.
The main biomes display zonation with altitude on a mountain, or around the edge of a pond in relation to soil moisture.
  • Explain the changes in energy flow, gross and net productivity, diversity and mineral cycling in different stage of succession. 
GP, NP and diversity will change over time as a ecosystem goes through succession. GP is low in early stages then increases as soils become more structured. As food webs become more structured NPP and diversity stabilize as the ecosystem reach climax population.
  • Describe factors affecting the nature of climax communities. 
Climax community:
  • greater biomass
  • higher levels of species diversity
  • more favourable soil condition
  • better soil structure
  • lower pH
  • taller and longer living plant species
  • more k-strategies or fewer r-strategist
  • greater habitat diversity
  • steady state equilibrium
Climate and edaphic factors determine the nature of a climax community. Human factors frequently affect this process through, for example; fire, agricultures, grazing and/or habitat destruction.
  • Construct simple keys and use published keys for the identification of organisms.

Keys called dichotomous keys are used to identify species, the key is written so that the identification is done in steps. At each step two options are given based on different possible characteristics of the organism you are looking at.  You go through all the steps until the name of the species is discovered. This is an example of a dichotomous key that divides 4 types of egg-laying species:

For the exams you need to have at least eight species in the key you construct. This can also be shown graphically:

  • Describe and evaluate methods for estimating abundance of organisms.
It is impossible for you to study every organism in an ecosystem, so limitations must be put on how many plants and animals you study. There are trapping methods which help obtain more samples, like:
  • pitfall traps
  • small mammal traps
  • light traps
  • tullgren funnels
You can either count them all or using percentage cover of an organism in a selected area or by using the Lincoln index and calculating the abundance.
Lincoln index:
This method allows you to estimate the total population size of an animal in your study area. This method includes collecting a sample from a population, then marking them like painting or attaching something to the animal, releasing them back into the wild, then resampling some time later and counting how many marked individuals you find in the second capture. IT is important to take into consideration that the marking methods are not harmful to the animal and clear so that they do not become easy targets for prey.
This method is also known as capture-release-mark-release-recapture techniques because of the processes involved. If all the marked animals are recaptured that is assumed to be the total population size of that species. whereas if half of the species is captured it is estimated to be twice as much as the first sample. The formula used to calculate population size:
N= total population size of animals in the study site
n1= number of animals captured of first day
n2= number of animals recaptured
m= number of marked animals recaptured on the second day
N= (n1 x n2) / m
Quadrats are used to measure the percentage cover of a certain species. Ecologists want to find out how many organisms are living in a specific area, however they cannot count them all so they make a sample count. Percentage cover is the area within the quadrat being used by one particular species.
Percentage cover is worked out for each species present. Dividing the quadrat into a 10×10 grid helps to estimate percentage cover.
Sample methods must allow for the collection of that is scientifically representative and appropriate, and allow the collection of data on all species present. Results can be used to compare ecosystems.
Percentage frequency is the percentage of the total quadrat number that the species was present in.
  • Describe and evaluate methods for estimating the biomass of trophic levels in a community.
*Biomass:  the mass of organic material in organisms or ecosystems, usually per unit area. Biomass is calculated to indicate the total energy within in a living being or trophic  level. The greater the mass of the living material the greater the amount of energy present. Biomass is taken as the mass of an organism minus water content, like dry weight biomass. Water is not included in biomass measurements because the amount varies from organisms to organism, it does not contain energy and is not organic.
To obtain the samples, the biological material is dried to constant weight. It is then weighed. The specimens are then heated in a  oven which is not hot enough to burn the tissue and left for a certain amount of time. Biomass is usually measured per unit area so that comparisons can be made between the trophic levels present.
  • Define the term biodiversity.
Diversity is often considered as a function of two components: the number of different species and the relative numbers of individuals of each species. This is different from species richness, which refers only to the number of species in a sample area.
  • Apply Simpson’s diversity index and outline its significance.
There are many ways of quantifying diversity, one of the ways is using the Simpson’s diversity index:
D= diversity index
N= total number of organisms of all species found
n= number of individuals of a particular species
E= sum of
D= (N(N-1)) / (En(n-1))
*It is not important to remember the whole formula, but good to know the meaning of the symbols.
D is a measure of species richness. A high value of D suggests a stable and ancient site, and a low value of D could suggests pollution, recent colonization or agricultural management. The index is normally used in studies of vegetation but can also be applied to comparisons of animal diversity.