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Introduction to Ecology

Introduction to Ecology

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Chapter 14 Ecology

What is Ecology?
‡ Ecology is the study of interactions among organisms and between organisms and their environment. ‡ Ecology is the scientific study of the interactions that determine the distribution and abundance of organisms ‡ Biosphere contains the combined portions of the planet in which life exists, including land, water, and air or atmosphere.

Ecology was historically an observational science, often descriptive à natural history. An organism¶s environment has both abiotic and biotic components. - Abiotic components are nonliving chemical and physical factors such as temperature, light, water, and nutrients. - Biotic components are living factors such as other organisms.

Ecology and evolutionary biology are closely related sciences a. Events that occur in the framework of ecological time (minutes, days, years) translate into effects over evolutionary time (decades, millennia). Example: Hawks feeding on mice impact mouse population and may eventually lead to selection for mice with fur as camouflage.

Ecological research scale ranges from individuals to the biosphere a. Organismal ecology is concerned about the way in which an individual interacts with its environment. b. Population ecology is the study of a group of individuals of the same species. c. Community ecology deals with all interacting species within a particular area.

The Earth¶s Life-Support Systems
‡ Atmosphere ± Thin membrane of air ± Troposphere ‡ 11 miles ± Stratosphere ‡ 12-30 miles ‡ Lower portion (ozone) ‡ filters out harmful sun rays ‡ Allows life to exist on earth Lithosphere ± Earth¶s crust Hydrosphere ± water Biosphere ± Living and dead organisms

‡ ‡ ‡

The Ecosystem
‡ Ecosystem- a community of interdependent organisms and the physical environment they inhabit (IB) ‡ Biotic & abiotic components of ecosystems ‡ Biotic factor - a living, biological factor that may influence an organism or an ecosystem (IB) ± e.g. predation, disease, competition ‡ Abiotic factor - a non-living, physical factor that may influence an organism or an ecosystem (IB) ± e.g. temperature, salinity, pH, light

Ecosystem Structure
‡ Often described based on feeding relationships ‡ Species can be divided into trophic levels based on their main source of nutrition ‡ Trophic level - the position that an organism occupies in a food chain or a group of organisms in the community that occupy the same position in food chains ‡ The trophic level that ultimately supports all others consists of autotrophs (primary producers)

Levels of Organization
‡ Species is a group of organisms so similar to one another that they can breed. ‡ Population are groups of individuals that belong to the same species and live in the same area. ‡ Communities are assemblages of the different populations that live together in a defined area. ‡ Ecosystem is a collection of all the organisms that live together in a particular place as well as their nonliving or physical environment. ‡ Biome is a group of ecosystems that have the same climate and similar dominant communities.

Biotic Components
‡ Producers ‡ Consumers ‡ Decomposers

Abiotic Components (chemical and physical)
‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Water Carbon dioxide Oxygen Nitrogen Minerals Humidity Light Salinity Others

Energy Flow
‡ Sunlight is the main source of energy for life on Earth. ‡ Some types of organisms rely on the energy stored in inorganic chemical compounds (chemosynthetic). ‡ Autotrophs (producers) use energy from the environment to fuel assembly of simple compounds into complex organic molecules (photosynthetic).

First Law of Thermodynamics
‡ Energy is neither created nor destroyed ‡ Energy only changes form ‡ You can¶t get something for nothing ± Or ³There is no such thing as a free lunch!´ ‡ ENERGY IN = ENERGY OUT

Second Law of Thermodynamics
‡ In every transformation, some energy is converted to heat ‡ You cannot break even in terms of energy quality
Waste energy is low quality and cannot be reused

Producers
‡ Autotroph - ³self´ + ³feed´ ‡ An organism that obtains organic food molecules without eating other organisms but by using energy from the sun or inorganic molecules to make organic molecules ‡ Remember: this trophic level supports all others ‡ Role of producers is to convert energy into a form useable for other organisms

Most producers are photosynthetic (e.g. algae, mosses, diatoms, some bacteria, plants etc.) but some are chemosynthetic (e.g. hydrothermal vent bacteria)

Consumers
‡ Heterotroph - ³other´ + ³feed´ ‡ An organism that obtains its nutrition by eating other organisms ‡ Primary consumer (herbivore) - eats producers e.g. sea urchin, copepod ‡ Secondary consumer (carnivore) - eats primary consumers e.g. wolf eel, herring ‡ Tertiary consumer - eats secondary consumers e.g. sea otter, seal ‡ Quaternary consumer - eats tertiary consumers e.g. killer whale

Role of consumers in an ecosystem is to transfer energy from one trophic level to the next

Decomposer
‡ An organism that obtains energy by breaking down dead organic matter (including dead plants, dead animals and animal waste) into more simple substances ‡ e.g. bacteria and fungi ‡ Interconnect all trophic levels since the organic material making up all living organisms is eventually broken down ‡ Role of decomposers is to return valuable nutrients to the system so they can be used again

Common limiting factors
‡ Limiting factors ± more important in regulating population growth than other factors. ‡ Terrestrial ecosystems (on land)
± precipitation ± temperature ± soil nutrients

‡ Aquatic ecosystems
± ± ± ± ± temperature sunlight nutrients dissolved oxygen salinity

Species dispersal contributes to the distribution of organisms Dispersal refers to the process of distribution of individuals within geographic population boundaries. Question: Is the distribution of a species limited by dispersal, i.e. by movement of the organisms? Answer can be obtained by transplant experiments. If the transplant is successful, then the organisms just haven¶t reached the target area. If the transplant is not successful, then other factors limit the distribution of the organisms, such as competitors, lack of a food source, etc.

a. Introduced species sometimes have disasterous impacts: - African honeybee, Zebra mussels Many introductions intentional. The ³Laws of 10´. Why do the successful invaders succeed? Invasional meltdowns? Climate change effects?

B. Behavior and habitat selection contribute to the distribution of organisms 1. Organisms may not occupy all potentially suitable habitat. Why? a. Evolution doesn¶t lead to perfect organisms. b. Evolution is an ongoing process. Environments change, but it takes a while for organisms to respond.

C. Biotic factors affect distribution 1. Organisms required for potential community members to colonize may be lacking. - Pollinators, prey, predators that limit competition

D. Abiotic factors affect distribution 1. Abiotic factors of interest include:

- Temperature (range from 0 to 45 C) - Water - Sunlight - Wind (increases heat & water loss) - Rocks and soil

Fig. 50.13
Copyright © 2002 Pearson Education, Inc., publishing as Benjamin Cummings

‡ Local and seasonal effects on climate. ± Bodies of water and topographic features such as mountain ranges can affect local climates. ± Ocean currents can influence climate in coastal areas. ± Mountains affect rainfall greatly.

Fig. 50.14
Copyright © 2002 Pearson Education, Inc., publishing as Benjamin Cummings

b. Lake stratification and mixing alters oxygen and nutrient levels. Dependent on temperature changes and effect on water density.

Aquatic and terrestrial biomes (Biome = major ecosystem type)

A. Aquatic biomes cover about 75% of the earth¶s surface - Wetlands - Lakes - Rivers, streams - Intertidal zones - Oceanic pelagic biome - Coral reefs - Benthos

Oligotrophic Lake: Nutrient poor, water is clear, oxygen rich; little productivity by algae, relatively deep with little surface area.

Eutrophic lake: nutrient rich, lots of algal productivity so it¶s oxygen poor at times, water is murkier often a result of input of agricultural fertilizers

Rivers and Streams: Organisms need adaptations so that they are not swept away by moving water; heavily affected by man changing the course of flow (E.g. dams and channel-straightening) and by using rivers to dispose of waste.

Wetlands: includes marshes, bogs, swamps, seasonal ponds. Among richest biomes with respect to biodiversity and productivity. Very few now exist as they are thought of often as wastelands.

Estuary: Place where freshwater stream or river merges with the ocean. Highly productive biome; important for fisheries and feeding places for water fowl. Often heavily polluted from river input so many fisheries are now lost.

Marine environment with zonation.

Intertidal Zone: Alternately submerged and exposed by daily cycle of tides. Often polluted by oil that decreases biodiversity.

Coral Reefs: occur in neritic zones of warm, tropical water, dominated by cnidarians (corals); very productive, protect land from storms; most are now dying from rise in global temperatures

Deep-sea vent: Occurs in benthic zone; diverse, unusual organisms; energy comes not from light but from chemicals released from the magma.

B. Terrestrial biomes - Tropical forest - Savanna - Desert - Chaparral - Temperate grassland - Temperate deciduous forest - Coniferous forest - Tundra

Tropical Forest: Vertical stratification with trees in canopy blocking light to bottom strata. Many trees covered by epiphytes (plants that grow on other plants).

Example of Tropical, Dry Forest

Desert: Sparse rainfall (< 30 cm per year), plants and animals adapted for water storage and conservation. Can be either very, very hot, or very cold (e.g. Antarctica)

Chaparral: Dense, spiny, evergreen shrubs, mild rainy winters; long, hot, dry summers. Periodic fires, some plants require fire for seeds to germinate.

Temperate Grassland: Marked by seasonal drought and fires, and grazing by large animals. Rich habitat for agriculture, very little prairie exists in US today.

Temperate Deciduous Forest: Mid-latitudes with moderate amounts of moisture, distinct vertical strata: trees, understory shrubs, herbaceous sub-stratum. Loss of leaves in cold, many animals hibernate or migrate then. Original forests lost from North America by logging and clearing.

Coniferous forest: Largest terrestial biome on earth, old growth forests rapidly disappearing, usually receives lots of moisture as rain or snow.

Tundra: Permafrost (Permanent frozen ground), bitter cold, high winds and thus no trees. Has 20% of land surface on earth.

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