Posts Tagged ‘ecosystem’

  • Describe and evaluate methods for measuring changes in abiotic and biotic components of an ecosystem along an environmental gradient.
Ecological gradients are often found where two ecosystems meet. Biotic and abiotic factors change and form gradients in which then can be recorded. All parts of the gradient needs to be sampled, so a transect is used. The simplest one is when a line of tape is layed down across the area wanted to be measured then to take samples of all the organisms touching the tape. Many transects should be taken to obtain quantitative data. A belt transect is used for bigger samples.
  • Describe and evaluate methods for measuring changes in abiotic and biotic components of an ecosystem due to a specific human activity.
Chernobyl 1986, Russia:
Nuclear reactor blew up
  • design drawback
  • human errors due to poor supervision
The cause:
This caused an increase in thermal power which lead to more explosions. This contaminated soil, plants and animals.
Respond:
  • Fire fighters tried to turn it off, it took 5000 tonnes of sand, lead and clay.
  • The UN gave £75 million to make it safe and it was fixed by an international team ten years later.
  • People had to evacuate 30km away
  • The town was cleared of everything
  • 15cm of soil depth was removed
  • land washed away and dams were built
  • wall built around it
  • food was contaminated
  • Describe and evaluate the use of environmental impact assessment (EIA).
EIA: Environmental Impact Assessment
Process for identifying the likely consequence for the biophysical environment and for man’s health and welfare of implementing particular activities and for conveying information at a stage where it can materially affect the decision, to those for sanctioning the proposals. (long definition)
Purpose of the EIA:
Helps the decision making process by providing information about the consequences of the environment. Promotes sustainable development by identifying environmentally sound practice and migration measures for development.
Used for: 
Planning process that governments set out in law when large developments are considered. They provide a documented way of examining environmental impacts that can be used as evidence in the decision making process of any new development.
What developments used in the EIA:
  • Major new road networks
  • Airport/port developments
  • Building power stations
  • Building dams and reservoirs
  • Quarrying
  • Large scale housing projects.
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  • Explain the role of producers, consumers and decomposers in the ecosystem.
Producer: can make their own food, as they use sunlight to make food and are called  the basis of every ecosystem which helps the rest of the species through input of energy and new biomass. This all happens through photosynthesis which is the process when the producer uses the sun for energy.
Consumer: feed on other organisms, they do not contain photosynthesis pigments so they cannot make their own food. They have to get energy, minerals and nutrients by eating other organisms. This makes the heterotrophs. Herbivores feed on autotrophs, carnivores on other heterotrophs and omnivores on both.
Decomposer: get their food from the breakdown of a dead organism matter. They break down tissue and release nutrients for absorption by other producers. Decomposers also improve the nutrient capacity in the soil by breaking down the organic material.
  • Describe photosynthesis and respiration in terms of inputs, outputs and energy transformations.
Photosynthesis: needs carbon dioxide, water, chlorofyll and certain visible wave lengths of light to produce organic matter and oxygen.
  • inputs: sunlight as energy resource, carbon dioxide and water
  • processes: chlorofyll traps sunlight; energy is used to split water molecules; hydrogen from water is combined with carbon dioxide to produce glucose.
  • outputs: glucose used as an energy source for the plant and as a building block for other organic molecules; oxygen is released to the atmosphere through stomata.
  • transformations: light energy is transformed to store chemical energy.
Respiration: needs organic matter and oxygen to produce carbon dioxide and water.
  • inputs: glucose and oxygen
  • processes: oxidation processes inside cells
  • outputs: release of energy for work and heat
  • transformations: stored chemical energy to kinetic energy and heat
  • Describe and explain the transfer and transformation of energy as it flows through an ecosystem.
Not all solar radiation ends up being stored as biomass. Losses include_
  • reflection from leaves
  • light not hitting chloroplasts
  • light of the wrong wavelengths (not absorbed by chloroplast pigments)
  • transmission of light through the leaf
  • inefficiency of photosynthesis
In this diagram we can see the energy flow through an ecosystem.
  • Describe and explain transfer and transformation of materials such as they cycle within an ecosystem.
The Carbon Cycle:
The Hydrological cycle:

The nitrogen cycle:
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  • Define the terms gross productivity, net productivity, primary productivity, and secondary productivity.
*Productivity is production per unit time.
Primary productivity is the gain by producers (autotrophs) in energy or biomass per unit area per unit time. It is when solar energy is converted, it depends on the amount of sunlight the ability of the producers to use energy to synthesize organic compounds and the availability of other things needed for growth, like minerals and nutrients.
Primary production is highest were conditions for growth are optimal, where there are high levels of insolation, good water supply, warm temperatures and high nutrient levels.
You can then divide primary productivity into gross and net profits.
*GROSS is the income
*NET is the incomes minus costs
Secondary productivity depends on the amount of food there is and the efficiency of the consumers turning this into new biomass. Unlike the primary productivity net productivity involves feeding or absorption.
Gross productivity (GP): The total gain in energy or biomass per unit area per unit time.
Net productivity (NP): The gain of energy or biomass per unit area per unit time remaining after allowing for respiratory losses. It is the energy left for the next trophic level to consume.
  • Define the terms and calculate the values of both gross primary productivity and net primary productivity from given data.
Gross primary productivity (GPP): is gained through photosynthesis in primary producers.
Net primary productivity (NPP): is the gain by prodicers in energy or biomass per unit area per unit time remaining after allowing for respiratory losses. (Available for consumers in ecosystem)
Productivity calculation:
Primary productivity:

where R = energy used in respiration
NPP = GPP – R
  • Define the terms and calculate the values of both gross secondary productivity and net secondary productivity from given data.
Gross secondary productivity(GSP): is gained through absorption in consumers.
Net secondary productivity(NSP): The gain by consumers in energy or biomass per unit area per unit time remaining after allowing for respiratory losses.
Secondary productivity:
NSP = GSP – R
GSP = food eaten – faecal loss
where R = respiratory loss
  • List the significant abiotic (physical) factors of an ecosystem.

Ecosystems can be divided into 3 types:

  • Marine: the sea, salt marshes mangroves are all characterized by the salt content.
  • Freshwater: rivers, lakes and wetlands.
  • Terrestrial: land-based.

Each ecosystem has its on abiotic factors:

Marine:

  • salinity
  • pH
  • temperature
  • dissolved oxygen
  • wave action

Freshwater:

  • turbidity
  • flow velocity
  • pH
  • temperature
  • dissolved oxygen

Terrestrial:

  • temperature
  • light intensity
  • particle size
  • slope/aspect
  • soil moisture
  • drainage
  • mineral content
  • Describe  and evaluate methods  for measuring at least three abiotic (physical) factors within an ecosystem.

Abiotic factors that can be measured within an ecosystem include the following:

Marine:

  • salinity: this can be measured  using electrical conductivity ( with a datalogger) or by the density of the water (water with high salt content is more denser than low-salt water).
  • pH: this can be measured using a pH meter, or datalogging pH probe. Indicator solution may also be used.
  • temperature: ordinary thermometers are too fragile to use for fieldwork, and are hard to read. An electric thermometer allows temperature to be measured  in depth.
  • dissolved oxygen: a meter with oxygen-sensitive electrodes connected that measures dissolved oxygen. One should be careful as doing things wrong may contaminate the air.
  • wave action: this is measured by using a dynomometer which measures the force in waves.

Freshwater:

  • turbidity: can be measured using a Secchi disc, nephlometer or turbidimeter.
  • flow velocity: can be measured by timing how long it takes a floating object to travel a certain distance or by using a flow-meter.
  • temperature: ordinary thermometers are too fragile to use for fieldwork, and are hard to read. An electric thermometer allows temperature to be measured  in depth.
  • dissolved oxygen: a meter with oxygen-sensitive electrodes connected that measures dissolved oxygen. One should be careful as doing things wrong may contaminate the air.

Terrestrial:

  • temperature: ordinary thermometers are too fragile to use for fieldwork, and are hard to read. An electric thermometer allows temperature to be measured  in depth.
  • light intensity: is measured using a light-meter.
  • wind speed: a Beufort-scale is used to measure wind speed and precise measurements can be made with a digital anemometer.
  • particle size: this determines the drainage and water-holding capacity and is measured by using a series of sieves.
  • slope: this is measured using a clinometer and using a compass.
  • soil moisture: by weighing the samples then heating them it shows the amount of water that has evaporated and the moisture levels.
  • mineral content: the loss on the ignition test can determine mineral content. The samples are heated for several hours to let volatile substances to escape.
Abiotic data can be collected using instruments that avoid issues of objectivity as they directly measure quantitative data. Instruments allow us to record data that would otherwise be beyond the limit of our perception.