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Ecology is the branch of biology which studies the interactions

among organisms and the interactions between organisms and their
An environment consists of living organisms and non-living factors .
These living organisms interact with one another as well as with the
non-living factors, forming a stable and balanced system which is
known as the ecosystem.
The living organisms in an environment are called biotic
The non-living factors are called abiotic components.

Abiotic components of an ecosystem refer to the non-living factors:

· pH
· temperature
· light intensity
· humidity
· topography
· microclimate

pH value

➢ Most organisms are adapted to live in an almost neutral environment.

➢ Alteration in pH soil or water may affect the growth and distribution of

➢ The acidity and alkalinity of the soil affects the availability of certain
minerals and the biological activity in the soil.
➢ Certain aquatic organisms are sensitive to pH changes.
➢ Certain plants have different pH requirements to grow well. For
example, growth of coconut tree is optimum in alkaline soil whereas
potato plant is optimum in acidic soil.
➢ Most organisms live well in neutral habitats.


➢ Temperature affects the distribution of organisms as most physiological

activities are affected by temperature.
➢ Most living organisms can live within the temperature range of 25°C to

➢ Physiological activities come to a halt at temperatures higher then 45°C

as the enzymes catalyzing these activities are denatured.
➢ However, some organisms can tolerate extreme temperatures.
➢ For example, thermophilic bacteria have heat-stable enzymes to resist
high temperature in hot springs. Polar bears have thick fur on their body
to prevent heat loss in extremely low temperature.

Light Intensity

➢ It may affect the growth and distribution of animals and plants.


➢ The diverse light intensities have been supporting different types of

plants and certain animals.
➢ For example, canopy tree is usually exposed to high light intensity but
moss and fern grow well under the shade of the former.
➢ Animals, such as worms and ants, survive well in the shady
➢ Certain bacteria grow well under the soil as decomposer.
➢ Overexposure or insufficient exposure, either way, may also affect the
activities of plants.
➢ Overexposure may damage the plant tissues while underexposure limits
the photosynthesis in plants.


➢ Humidity is the concentration of water vapour in the atmosphere.

➢ Humidity is usually higher at night.

➢ Most plants and animals prefer humid conditions.
➢ Humidity affects the rate of water loss from animals and plants.
➢ Water evaporates slower at high humid condition and vice versa.
➢ Organisms such as frogs and lichen live in moist areas.


➢ Topography refers to the physical features of the land such as the

gradient, altitude and aspect of a region.
➢ It affects the humidity, light intensity, temperature and others factors of
an ecosystem and, hence, determine the distribution of organisms.

➢ The gradient refers to the steepness of a slope. A higher gradient value

means the slope is steeper. This is not suitable for living organisms as
there is a higher degree of drainage and run-off of water.
➢ The altitude of a land habitat influences the survival of living organisms
as temperatures and atmospheric pressures decrease with increase in
➢ The direction in which the slope in which the slope of a mountain faces
is the aspect of the slope. The slope of a hill will receive more rain if it
faces more rain if it faces the direction of the wind, thus housing more
living organisms.


➢ Microclimate refers to the climate of a microhabitat such as under a

rock or in a hole .
➢ It may be different from the climate of a microhabitat .
➢ Microclimate includes the humidity ,temperature ,light intensity and
atmospheric conditions in which the organism lives.

The biotic components of an ecosystem refer to all the living organisms

found in the ecosystem .
The organisms in an ecosystem interact with one another .

The organisms can be identified as producers , consumers and decomposers


Biotic components in an ecosystem can be classified into trophic levels .

The trophic level of an organism refers to its position in a food chain .
A food chain is a pathway through which energy is transferred from one
organism to another .
Example of food chain:

Example of food chain:


Example of food chain in a sea :


A food chain usually starts with a producer.

The number of individuals at each trophic level of a food chain can be
represented using a pyramid of numbers .
Example of a pyramid of numbers :

When an organisms feeds on another organism ,there is a flow of energy

from one trophic level to the next higher level .About 90% of the energy is
lost when it flows from the trophic level to the next .
In an ecosystem, a few food chains are interconnected to form a food web .
Example of food web :

Example of food web in a paddy field :

Example of food web :



 Symbiosis is a close long-lasting interaction between two or more

different species.
 There are three types of symbiosis
1. Commensalism-One species benefits while the other is unaffected

2. Parasitism-one species benefits while the other is harmed

3. Mutualism-Both species benefit.


 Commensalism is an interaction between two organisms in which one

organisms(commensal) benefits from the interaction and the other(host)
neither benefits nor is harmed.
 The host often provides a habitat and transportation for the commensal.

 Two examples of commensals are

 Epizoics
 Epiphytes
 Epizoics are animals which live as commensals on the outside of other
 Example of epizoics:

(i) Barnacles attach themselves to the shell of a crab to get a free

ride. The crab is not affected by the barnacles.
(ii)The remora fish attaches itself to the shark to get a free ride,
protection and scraps of food left by the shark. The shark does not
benefit from this relation.

Shark with remora fish Crab with barnacles on its head

 Epiphytes are plants which grow on the surface of other plants to obtain
sufficient sunlight and air. They do not absorb food from their host.
Therefore the host is not affected.
 Examples of epiphytes are bird’s nest ferns, staghorn ferns, Pleurococcus
sp. and orchids.

Bird’s nest fern Staghorn fern


Pleurococcus sp. orchids


 Parasitism is an interaction between two organisms in which one organism

(parasite) benefits and the other (host) is harmed .
 The parasite derives nourishment from the host .
 There are two types of parasites, namely ectoparasites and endoparasites .
 Ectoparasites are parasites which live on the outside of their hosts .
 Example of ectoparasites :
(ii) Fleas
(iii) Ticks
(iv) Lice
(v) Rafflesia sp.

Flea Tick Rafflesia sp.

 Endoparasites are parasites which live inside their hosts .

 Example of endoparasites :

(i) Flukes
(ii) Tapeworms
(iii) Roundworms


 Mutualism is an interaction between two organisms in which both benefit .

 Examples of mutualism :
(i) A lichen is an association between an alga and a fungus . Fungus provides
water ,minerals and protection to the alga . In return ,the alga performs
photosynthesis to make food for itself and for the fungus .
(ii) Sea anemones usually attach themselves onto the shell of a hermit crab .
they can get free rides and leftover food . In return ,the hermit crab receives
protection against predators from sea anemones .
(iii) Rhizobium sp. lives in the root nodules of leguminous plants. It fixes
atmosphere nitrogen into ammonium compounds for the plants. In return,
Rhizobium receives carbohydrates and shelter from the plant.

Sea anemone on the shell of

a hermit crab


 Saprophytism is a type of interaction which a living organism obtains

food form the dead and decaying remains of other organism .
 Saprophytes are plants which feed on decaying organic matter .
 Enzymes are secreted to digest the organic matter before nutrients are
absorbed .
 Saprozoites are animals which feed on decaying organic matter .
 Example of saprozoites :
I. Amoeba
II. Opalina

Prey-predator interaction
 Prey predator interaction is a type of interaction in which an
animal(predator) hunts and eats another animals(prey).
 Predators are usually bigger, stronger animals with sharp vision, sharp
claws and canine teeth. They usually move fast.
 The prey predator interaction is important in keeping the populations of
both the prey and predator in a dynamic equilibrium.

The dynamic equilibrium of

the prey’s and predator



 Competition is an interaction between organisms living in thesame

habitat and competing for limited resources.
 Plants compete for water, light, nutrients and space.
 Animals compete for food, space and breeding mates.
 There are two types of competition :
a) Intraspecific competition
b) Interspecific competition

Intraspecific competition

✔ Intraspecific competition refers to the competition among organisms

of the same species.
✔ An example of intraspecific competition is the competition among
Bryophyllum sp. plants.
✔ The parent plant reproduces asexually by producing young plants from
buds on fallen leaves. The young plants, competing for water, space,
nutrients and light.

✔ An intraspecific competition is usually more intense than an

interspecific competiton because the members of the same species share
the same resources.

Interspecific competition

✔ Interspecific competition refers to competition among organisms of

different species.
✔ An example of interspecific competition is the competition between two
species of Paramecium, P. aurelia and P. caudatum.
✔ When both species of Paramecium are cultured separately, each
population shows a sigmoid growth curve. When they are cultured
together, P. aurelia wins as it reproduces at a faster rate. P. caudatum
loses in the competition and is eventually eliminated.

Competiton between P.aurelia and P.caudatum


Summary of different types of interactions between organisms



 An ecosystem is a dynamic system formed by the interactions of

organisms with one another and with the non-living environment .
 It is a dynamic system where the living organisms are in balance with
each other and with the abiotic components .

Niche, Habitat, Community and Population

Colonisation and succession

 Natural phenomena or human activities and such as volcanic eruptions, fires,


earthquake and uncontrolled mining activities leave the land with no living
organisms .
 The process in which living organisms arrive at a new habitat, live,
reproduce and take control of the habitat is known as colonisation .
 The first species of organisms to colonise a new habitat is called the pioneer
species .
 The pioneer species have special adaptations to survive in unfavourable land
conditions .
 The pioneer species gradually changes conditions of the habitat, making it no
longer suitable for itself but more suitable for other species, called the
successor species . Gradually, the successor species take over the place of the
pioneer species .
 The process whereby a pioneer species is gradually replaced by other
successor species is called succession .
 Succession will carry on until a relatively stable community is formed . This
type of community is known as the climax community .
 The tropical rainforest is an example of a climax community in Malaysia .

 It usually takes hundreds of years to form a climax community .After that it

has little or no changes in its species structure.

Colonisation and succession in a mangrove swamp

 Swamps are formed by deposition of mud and silt carried down by the
river. It is found at the estuary, that is where the river meets the sea.
 Only mangrove trees are able to colonise the soft, waterlogged, muddy
soil which has a low oxygen level but high salt concentration.
 Avicennia sp. and Sonneratia sp. are the pioneer species of a mangrove
swamp. Avicenia sp. grows in areas facing the sea while Sonneratia sp.
found in more sheltered area.
 The extensive cable root system of these plants traps more mud and silt as
well as organic matter from decaying plants parts.
 As time passes, the soil become more compact and the shore level is
slightly raise. The soil becomes firmer and less waterlogged. Such
conditions favour the growth of another kind of mangrove tree, namely
Rhizophora sp.
 Gradually, Rhizophora sp. replaces the pioneer species.

 The prop root system of Rhizophora sp. continues to trap more silt and
mud. Humus is formed from the old pioneer species as well as decaying
leaves of Rhizophora sp. The soil becomes firmer, more compact and

fertile. The shore level is raised and is less saline. The condition now is
more suitable for Bruguiera sp.
 The buttress root system of Bruguiera sp. traps more silt and mud causing
the shore to extend further to the sea.
 As time passes, coconut tree, Nipah and Pandanus sp. gradually replace
the Bruguiera sp. when the soil becomes more like terrestrial ground.
 Eventually a tropical rainforest, which is the climax community, is

Colonisation and succession in a pond

1. Colonisation by pioneer species

 Submerged plants such as Hydrilla sp. , Elodea sp. and Cabomba sp. as
well as phytoplankton are the pioneer species in a pond.

 These submerged plants have adaptive features such as long fibrous roots
which penetrate deep into the soil to absorb nutrients and hold the sand
together. Fine leaves enable the plants to flow with the water.

2. Succession by floating plants

 When the pioneer species die, they settle to the bottom of the pond and
become humus. At the same time, the soil eroded from the sides of the
pond makes the pond shallower.
 Such a condition becomes unfavourable for the submerged plants but
more suitable for floating plants such as Nymphaea sp.(lily), Lemna
sp.(duckweed) and Eichornia sp.(water hyacinth) which is gradually
replace the pioneer species.

3. Succession by emergent plant

 The floating plants reproduce rapidly as they receive enough sunlight for
photosynthesis. They cover a large area of the surface of the pond. This
prevents sunlight from reaching the bottom of the pond.
 Without sunlight, the submerged plants cannot perform photosynthesis.
As a result, these plants die and become humus.
 The amount of humus deposited at the bottom of the pond increases.
More soil erosion occurs which results in the pond becoming shallower.
This make the pond too shallow for the floating plants.
 Floating plants are gradually being replace by emergent plants such as
Fimbristylis sp. and Lepironia sp.
 Emergent plants can live in water as well as on land. Their extensive
rhizomes grow rapidly to bind the soil together and to absorb nutrients,
changing the habitat. They grow from the edge of the pond to the middle
of the pond.

4. Succession by terrestrial plants

 The death of emergent plants as well as deposition of more organic matter

make the pond even shallower. Evaporation of pond water finally dries
the pond.
 Terrestrial plants such as creepers, grasses, ferns and herbaceous plants
begin to grow.
 Later, shrubs and woody plants begin to grow.

5. Climax community

 Over hundreds of years, a tropical rainforest which is a climax community

is formed.

Colonisation and succession in a pond

Population is a group of organisms of the same species living in a habitat.

The number of organisms in a population is called the population size.
The study of the measurement of population size and the factors affecting
the population size is known as population ecology.

The quadrant sampling technique is mainly used to estimated population

size, density and distribution of plants and immobile animals.
The capture, mark, release and recapture technique is used to estimate the
population sizes of mobile animals.

Quadrat Sampling Technique

A quadrat sampling technique is used to determine the distribution of plants

whereby the density, frequency and percentage coverage of the plants can be
determined .
A quadrat has a square or rectangular frame mode of wood, metal or rope . It
is subdivided into smaller squares .
the size of the quadrat depends on the size of the plant sampled .
In this technique, a number of quadrats are placed randomly in the area
being studied .
The distribution of the plants can be determined in three ways :

a) Percentage coverage
Percentage coverage is an indication of how much area of the quadrant is
occupied by a species. The percentage coverage is useful when it is not
possible to identify separate individuals

b) Frequency
Frequency is the number of times a particular species is found present
when a quadrant is thrown a certain number of times.

c) Density

Density is the mean number of individuals of a species per unit area.

Capture, mark, release and recapture technique

To estimate the population size of animals which move freely such as

snails and woodlice, the capture, mark, release and recapture technique is

Biodiversity refers to the diverse variety of plants and animals present on

A classification system is needed to facilitate discussions and studies on
these organisms.

Classification of organisms

Taxonomy is a branch of biology concerned with identifying, describing

and naming organism . It is also a systematic method of classifying plants
and animals based on the similarities in their characteristic . Besides,
scientists are able to communicate more effectively with one another, as
without this, each organisms will be known differently according to the
language used by each scientist .
All organisms are classified into five kingdoms :
• Monera
• Protista

• Fungi

• Plantae
• Animalia

Hierarchy in the classification of organisms

Living organisms are classified according to certain basic features.

They are classified into seven hierarchical levels as shown :

Hierarchy in the classification of organisms

The present system of naming organisms is the Linnaeus binomial system

which has proposed by Carolus Linnaeus(1707-1778)
Based on the system, each organisms is given a scientific name which
consists of two terms. The first term which start with a capital letter is the
name of the genus and the second term which begins with a small letter
refers to the name of the species.

Classification Human being Cockroach Hibiscus


Kingdom Animalia Animalia Plantae

Phylum Chordata Arthropoda Tracheophyta
Class Mammalia Insecta Angiosperma
Order Primate Orthoptera Malvales
Family Homonidae Blattidae Malvaceae
Genus Homo Periplaneta Hibiscus
Species Sapiens americana Rosa-sinensis

Importance of biodiversity

Microorganisms are tiny organisms which cannot be seen with our naked
eye . They can only be seen under a microscope .
Microorganisms are important in maintaining the balance of nature . Some
of them are harmless and useful to humans, and are important in the
biogeochemical cycles such as the carbon cycle and the nitrogen cycle .
Microorganism can be classified into five groups, namely bacteria, viruses,
protozoa, algae and fungi .


 Bacteria are unicellular organisms which lack membrane-bound

organelles .
 The genetic material of a bacterium is not surrounded by a nuclear
membrane .
 They have a cell wall made of a polymer called peptidoglycan .
 Some bacteria have a capsule which surrounds the cell wall, thus,
providing extra protection.
 They generally reproduce asexually by binaryfission under favourable
conditions. However, they can form spores under unfavourable
 Bacteria are autotrophic, saprophytic or parasitic.
 Bacteria exist in various shapes and are named according to their shapes.
a) Sphere-shaped bacteria(coccus)

b) Rod-shaped bacteria(bacillus)
c) Spiral bacteria(spirillum)

d) Comma-shaped bacteria(vibrio)

Coccus Bacillus


 Viruses are the smallest microorganisms and can only be seen under an
electron microscope .
 A virus is not a living cell because it cannot survive or reproduce on its own
outside the host .
 A virus is composed of DNA or RNA, surrounded by a protein coat .

 Viruses can be crystallized.

 Examples of viruses are T4 bacteriophages and tobacco mosaic virus.

tobacco mosaic virus


 Protozoa are unicellular organisms .

 Its have nucleus, cytoplasm and plasma membrane .

 Its can carry out living processes such as respiration, reproduction and
excretion .
 Its use fragella, cilia or pseudopodia to move .

 Examples of protozoa are Euglena sp., Paramesium sp. and Amoeba sp.



 Algae photosynthetic eukaryotic plant-like organisms in the kingdom of

 Algae have chlorophyll and chloroplasts.

 Their cell walls are made of cellulose .

 They do not have leaves, stems or roots .

 Examples of algae are phytoplankton and Spirogyra sp.


Spirogyra sp.


 Fungi are heterotrophic multicellular or unicellular eukaryotes which do not

have chlorophyll .
 Their cell walls are made of chitin .

 Fungi feed by secreting enzymes that break the surrounding organic material
down into simple molecules before they are absorbed .
 Examples of fungi are Mucor sp. and yeast .


The Effects of Abiotic Components on the Activity of



δ Most microorganisms are inactive at low temperatures .

δ They become more active as the temperature increases .
δ The optimum temperature for most microorganisms is between 35 - 40 。 C
δ Microorganisms and their spores are destroyed at temperature above 100 。


δ Most bacteria prefer slightly alkaline conditions .

δ Most protozoa and fungi prefer slightly acidic conditions .
δ Extreme pH can kill microorganisms .

Light Intensity

δ Microorganisms grow and reproduce rapidly in dim light or in the dark .

δ Many microorganisms can be killed by ultraviolet rays present in sunlight.
δ However, algae need sunlight to photosynthesis .

Availability of nutrients

δ All microorganisms except viruses need nutrients for growth and


The Role of useful microorganisms


Many microorganisms play important roles in the ecosystem. They are useful
 Decomposition
 Alimentary canal of termites
 Nitrogen cycle
 Digestive system in humans

 Decomposition of dead organic remains is carried out by a group of
saprophytic bacteria and fungi, which are called decomposers .
 Decomposers break down the dead remains of plants and animals and
waste products of animals and release nutrients into the soil .

Nitrogen Cycle
 The process of converting atmospheric nitrogen into ammonium
compounds is called nitrogen fixation .
 Nitrogen fixation can be carried out by nitrogen-fixing bacteria such
as :
• Azotobacter sp., cyanobacteria such as Nostoc which live freely in
soil .
 Nitrates in the soil are absorbed by plants and converted into plant
proteins .
 When animal eat the plants, the proteins in the plant tissues are
transferred and converted into animal proteins .
 When plants and animals die, the proteins in their body tissues are
decomposed and converted into ammonium compounds through
decomposition . This process is carried out by putrefying bacteria .
 Nitrifying bacteria such as Nitrosomonas sp. and Nitrobacter sp.
convert ammonium compounds into nitrites and nitrates respectively

through a process called nitrification .

Nitrosomonas sp.
Ammonia Nitrite(NO2-)
Nitrobacter sp.
Nitrite Nitrate(NO3-)

 Denitrifying bacteria then break down the nitrates into gaseous

nitrogen and oxygen . this process is called denitrification . The
oxygen produced is used by the bacteria whereas the nitrogen is
returned to the atmosphere .

Alimentary Canal of Termites

 they are unable to produce the enzyme cellulase which is needed to
Termites feed on wood which consists mainly of cellulose . However,
digest the cellulose .
 In the alimentary canal of the termite, there are many flagellated
protozoa called Trychonympha sp. which can secrete cellulase into
sugar .
Digestive System in Humans
 Many friendly and useful bacteria live symbiotically in the large
intestine .
 These bacteria help to break down undigested food . They also
synthesise beneficial substances such as vitamin K and vitamin B12
which can be absorbed by the large intestine .

The Effects of Harmful Microorganisms

Some microorganisms are harmful as they can cause diseases . The activities
of other microorganisms can lead to spoilage of food and substances such as
wood, paint and textile .
Microorganisms which cause diseases are known as pathogens .

Diseases are transmitted through food, water, vectors, direct contact and air .
Vectos are carriers of diseases . For example, the infected Aedes mosquito is
the vector that transmit the dengue fever virus. It transfer the panthogens
from one host to another .
A person who is infected with a disease will experience and show signs or
symptoms of the diseases. For example, the symptoms of dengue fever
include high fever, severe headache, severe joint and muscle pain, rashes,
nausea and vomiting .

Disease Pathogen Vector Symptoms Methods of

Malaria Protozoa Anophel High fever, Through the bite of
es sp. chills, an infected female
mosquito headaches, Anopheles sp.
violent, mosquito
muscle pains
Dengue fever Viruses Aedes High fever, Through the bite of
sp. rashes, an infected Aedes
mosquito severe joint sp. mosquito
and muscle
nausea and
Cholera Bacteria(Vibrio Housefly Profuse and Contaminated food
cholerae) watery or water
Ringworm Fungi - Red spots Direct contact
like rashes
on the skin,
itchiness on
infected area

Food poisoning Bacteria(such as - Diarrhoea, Contaminated food

Salmonella sp.) vomiting, or water
Acquires Human - Weight loss, Unprotected sexual
Immunodeficiency Immunodeficien diarrhea, contacts with
Syndrome(AIDS) cy virus fatigue, infected persons,
fever, blood transfusion,
diseases of sharing of
eyes, lungs, contaminated
mouth, needles, from
throat infected pregnant
mother to unborn
Severe Acute Virus - High fever, Contact with
Respiratory headaches, infected persons or
Syndrome(SARS) rashes, objects
muscular contaminated with
stiffness, infectious droplet
loss of
appetite, dry
Hepatitis(A and B) Viruses - Jaundice, Hepatitis A is
loss of transmitted through
appetite, contaminated water
fatigue and food. Hepatitis
B is transmitted
unprotected sexual
contact with

Transmission of Diseases

Food and water .


∂ Contaminated food and water can cause food poisoning, cholera and
typhoid .
∂ Food becomes contaminated when handled with dirty hands or exposed
to vector .

Vectors .
∂ Examples of vectors are houseflies, mosquitoes, lice rats and
cockroaches .
∂ Houseflies and cockroaches can transmit pathogens from faeces or
contaminated food to another foods .
∂ A mosquito injects pathogens into the body of the person it bites .

Through air and respiratory droplets .

∂ Most of the diseases of the respiratory system such as tuberculosis,
SARS, pneumonia, cold and cough are transmitted through air .
∂ When a person sneezes, coughs, talks or yawns, droplets of water
containing pathogens are carried by air currents and transmitted to the
next person .

Contact .
∂ Examples of diseases transmitted through physical contact are AIDS,
syphilis and gonorrhoea which are transmitted through sexual contact as
the pathogens are found in the seminal fluid . Skin diseases such as
ringworm are spread by touching the infected person or using the
personal things of an infected person .

Methods of Controlling Pathogens

Antibiotics such as penicillin and streptomycin are chemical produced by

microorganisms which inhibit the growth or kill other microorganisms,
especially bacteria .

Disinfectants are solution used to kill microorganisms on the floor, buildings

or furniture. They are also used to sterilise surgical equipment . Examples of
disinfectants are phenol, formaldehyde and carbolic acid .
Antiseptics are used on cuts and wounds to kill and inhibit the growth of
microorganisms . Examples of antiseptics are acriflavin and iodine solution .

Vaccines are modified or weakened forms of bacteria or viruses . A vaccine

is a suspension of dead bacteria or viruses which is inoculated into our body
to induce the production of antibodies . Examples of vaccines are Sabine
vaccine and BCG .

The Uses of Microorganisms in Biotechnology

a) Biotechnology is the technology which uses living organisms or biological

processes in the production of useful substances .
b) Microorganisms are widely used in various fields of biotechnology such as:
✔ Production of antibiotics and vaccines
✔ Clearing of oil spills
✔ Waste treatment
✔ Food processing
✔ Production of bioplastic
✔ Production of energy from biomass

c) Production of antibiotics and vaccines

✔ Antibiotics are chemical substances produced by microorganisms and are
used to treat various diseases caused by bacteria and fungi .
✔ The BBG vaccine is used to immunise a person against tuberculosis .
d) Clearing of oil spills
✔ Genetically engineered bacteria are used in cleaning oil spills
e) Waste treatment

✔ Wastes from industries and sewage from households are treated using
microorganisms .
✔ In a waste treatment plant, aerobic bacteria present in the sewage
decomposes the organic matter .
f) Food processing
✔ The biological process of fermentation by microorganisms is widely used
in the processing of food .
g) Production of bioplastic

✔ Bioplastic is biodegradable plastic which can be easily decomposed .

h) Production of energy from biomass

✔ Anaerobic bacteria can be used to break down organic waste from
domestic and industrial sectors to produce biogas and gasohol .

Human Activities that Threaten the Ecosystem

The world’s population has increased exponentially, reaching over 6

billion today and may reach 10 billion in the next fifty years.
As the human population grows , there is an increasing demand for
shelter, food, medicine, transport and raw materials.
Since older days, humans hunted, fished and removed trees to make
shelters. Humans too kept animals such as sheep, cattle and goats to graze
on vast areas of grasslands, harming the ecosystem.
Today, expectation of better living conditions, better modes of
transport and industrial revolution have brought about clearing of
more forests to grow food, build factories, houses and roads .
The negative effects of unplanned development and mismanagement
of the ecosystem give rise to various environmental problems.
These are the environmental problems:

· greenhouse effect
· global warming
· pollution
· ozone depletion
· soil erosion, landslide, flash flood .

Impact of Human Activities on the Ecosystem


1) The act of extensive cutting down or burning the trees in a forest is known as

deforestation .
2) Vast areas of forests are cleared for extracting timber or fuel wood,
agriculture and urban development.

3) The following are the impact of deforestation :

a) Soil erosion, flash floods and landslides.

 When it rains for a long period of time during rainy seasons, the top
layer of soil loosens and slides down causing landslide.

 The soil is exposed directly to the force of the rain and heavy rainfall
easily washed away the top layer of soil . This lead to soil erosion .
Soil erosion also leads to depletion of minerals for the land . The land
cannot be used for cultivation .
 During heavy rains, rainwater flows quickly into rivers because there
is no retention of water by plant roots as well as water catchment .
Due to silting in the rivers, the water flow is blocked. Thus, water

flows in land and causes flash floods in low areas.

b) Extinction of flora and fauna

 Deforestation leads to the loss of habitats for many species of flora
and fauna .
 This will cause an increased rate of extinction of plants . As a result,
it reduces biodiversity and the source of food and valuable
medicines for humans .

c) Greenhouse effect and global warming

 Deforestation causes weather and climate changes .
 Clearing and burning of forests also release vast amounts of
greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere .
 Carbon dioxide can prevent heat from escaping from the atmosphere
. Thus, the level of carbon dioxide increases and global temperature
also increases . This leads to greenhouse effect and global warming .


1) Excessive use of land for farming and stock rearing lead to infertile land and
may expose soil to erosion by wind .
2) Use of inorganic fertilizers in farming also leads to eutrophication .


1) Dumping of domestic waste as well as sewage discharge from houses cause

pollution .
2) The waste materials in landfills act as toxic substances which pollute nearby
water sources .


1. Industrial plants discharge industrial waste and heated waste water causing
water pollution and thermal pollution .
2. Toxic gases released by industries contribute to air pollution .


1. Open burning of rubbish, farms and forests release more carbon dioxide into
the atmosphere which aggravates the greenhouse effect .
2. Burning fossil fuels causes air pollution as well as increase the carbon
dioxide content .
3. As a result, it causes the greenhouse effect and global warming .


 Pollution is an undesirable change in the chemical, physical or biological

characteristics of the nature.
 Pollutant is any substance that is present in an excessive amount in the
environment as a result of human activities. Pollutants have damaging
effects on our health. They are also harmful to other living organisms.
 There are four types of pollution:
1) Air pollution
2) Water pollution
3) Thermal pollution
4) Noise pollution

Air Pollution
1. Air pollution occurs when pollutants such as smoke, dirt, dust and poisonous
gases are released into the air endangering human lives and other living
organisms .
2. Most air pollutants come from burning of fossil fuels from motor vehicles .

3. Exhaust fumes from vehicles contain soot, lead, carbon monoxide, oxides of
nitrogen and hydrocarbons due to the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels .
4. Burning of fossil fuels in the combustion engines of vehicles and electrical
power stations also releases large amount of carbon dioxide .
5. Human activities such as open burning cause severe smog and haze .

6. Industrial plants and factories also pump large amounts of carbon monoxide,
oxides of nitrogen and sulphur dioxide.
7. Both oxides of nitrogen and sulphur dioxide reacts with water vapour in the
atmosphere to form nitric acid and sulphuric acid which fall back to the
Earth as acid rain .
8. The effects of acid rain are :

 Corrodes metals, marble, rubber, plastics, stonework and other materials.

 Leaching of minerals from the soil such as calcium, causing infertile soil.

 Releases ions of heavy metals such as lead which may contaminate the
water .
 Reduces the pH of the soil making it unsuitable for farming .

 Destroys plant tissues and damages plant roots .

 Increases the acidity of aquatic ecosystems leading to killing of

planktons and aquatic organisms .

Water Pollution
1. Discharging agricultural wastes, industrial wastes, domestic wastes and
sewage into rivers pollute the water .
2. The run-offs of fertilisers into lakes and rivers affect the freshwater
ecosystems through eutrophication.
3. Eutrophication is a natural process whereby an aquatic ecosystem becomes
enriched with nutrients causing an excessive growth of aquatic plants .
4. Nutrients can come from many resources such as fertilizers from agricultural
fields, sewage treatment plant discharges and run-off of animal waste.
5. The increased nutrients promote rapidly growth of algae when they are
deposited in rivers, lakes and streams. This has resulting in a population
explosion known as algal bloom .
6. The density of algae may be so high that light intensity in the water is greatly
reduced. The death of plants and algae and the subsequent decomposition of
these organisms by bacteria lead to a severe depletion of oxygen in the water,
causing the death of aerobic organisms .
7. A depletion in oxygen results in an increase in biochemical oxygen
demand(BOD) . Eutrophication increases the BOD value in the water .
8. Industrial waste can include heavy metals such as lead and mercury and

radioactive waste which also find their way into rivers or lakes.

Thermal Pollution
1. Thermal pollution occurs when there is an increase in the temperature of a
water source or excessive heat in the environment .
2. Hot water is discharged into nearby rivers, streams, lakes and ponds from the
effluent of industrial processes, cooling towers of power station and reactor
plants .
3. Reflection of heat from glass buildings also leads to an increase in
temperature of the surroundings .
4. An increase of temperature in water will cause the following .

 It reduces the level of dissolved oxygen in water . This affects the life of
aerobic aquatic organisms .
 It causes some aquatic organisms to die because they only survive at
suitable temperature . Some organisms also move away . This affects the
food chain and also the entire ecosystem .
 It encourages some algae to grow rapidly which can lead to a higher
BOD value .

Noise Pollution
1. Noise pollution occurs when our daily lives are disturbed by high levels of
noise .
2. There are many sources and most of them are related to urban development .
Examples are :
 vehicles
 jet planes
 construction sites
 entertainment outlets
 machines
3. World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a noise level of not more
than 55 decibles (dB) .
4. When the surrounding noise level reaches 80 dB or more, it causes
discomfort and affects the human health .
5. Excessive exposure to a noise level of 80 dB or more for a long period of
time may cause headache, emotional and mental disturbances and in certain
cases, may cause deafness .

The Greenhouse Effect

1. Energy from the Sun reaches the Earth through radiation. Some of this
radiation is absorbed by the Earth to warm the surfaces of the sea and
land .
2. As the Earth is warmed, heat in the form of infrared radiation is radiated
back into space .
3. However much of this radiation is prevented from escaping into space by
greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and
chlorofluorocarbons .
4. As a result the infrared radiation is radiated back to the Earth’s surface ,
warming the Earth further .
5. This phenomenon is known as the greenhouse effect. It is similar to a
greenhouse used in farming in countries which experience temperate
climates . The glass of a greenhouse allows light to enter but retards the
loss of heat. The heat is used to keep the soil and air warm in the

6. An increase in greenhouse gases is caused by human activities, mainly

burning of fossil fuels and deforestation .
7. Data collected has shown that atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased
by nearly 25%, methane by 20% and concentration of
chlorofluorocarbons have doubled .
8. The increasing amount of greenhouse gases increases the greenhouse
effect causing more heat to be trapped in the atmosphere . The Earth’s
average temperature increases and is known as global warming .
9. The effects of global warming are :
 floods in low-lying countries
 melting of polar ice and glaciers causing a rise in sea level
 change in wind directions and weather patterns
 increase of droughts
 decline in the yield of crops due to dry and infertile soil
 intense rains in some regions
 spread of pests and disease-carrying vectors to new areas increases
the outbreak of diseases .

Thinning of the Ozone Layer


1. Ozone layer is present in the stratosphere, which is approximately 12 –

25 kilometres above the Earth’s surface .
2. This ozone layer shields the Earth from the harmful effects of ultraviolet
(UV) radiation .
3. High concentrations of ozone in the ozone layer can absorb large
quantities of UV radiation .
4. Ozone, although a form of oxygen, once depleted will not be replenished
naturally .
5. The main cause of ozone depletion is the increasing level of
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the atmosphere .

6. The use of CFCs as coolants in air conditioners and refrigerators, as

propellants in aerosol cans, as solvents in the electronics industry and as
foaming agents in the making of polystyrene boxes has released large
amounts of CFCs into the atmosphere.
7. CFCs are unreactive and can remain unchanged for over 100 years .

8. UV radiation breaks down CFCs, releasing chlorine radicals which

destroy ozone in a chain reaction .
9. It is estimated that a single chlorine atom can destroy 100 thousand
molecules of ozone in a years .
10. With the thinning of the ozone layer, more UV radiation would be able to
reach the Earth’s surface . Prolonged exposure to UV radiation leads to
the following effects .
A. Human health
 Skin cancer or melanoma
 Eye damage such as cataract
 Lowering of body’s immune system
B. Plants
 Damage of leaf cells and chlorophyll, reducing photosynthesis
 Decrease in nutrient content and crop yields
 Killing of phytoplanktons

C. The environment
 Increase in surrounding temperature
 Change in wind directions
 Climatic changes

Impact of Thinning of the Ozone Layer and Global

Warming on the Ecosystem

 Sea water becomes warm due to global warming. Decline in zooplanktons.

Ecosystem’s food web affected .
 Drought due to global warming causes the land to dry . Ecosystem becomes
unstable as the producers, the plants are not able to thrive .

 Ecosystem such as coral reefs, wetlands, polarseas and temperate forests are
slowly losing its flora and fauna .
 UV radiation affects photosynthesis. Aquatic organisms are sensitive to UV .

The Need for Development and the Effects of an

Increasing Population on the Ecosystem

1. Development is needed to enhance the standard of living, to provide better

medical care, better basic facilities, better transport and better economic
activities .
2. The effect of an increase in population on ecosystem include the following .

 Deforestation, soil erosion, landslides, extinction of flora and fauna when

trees are cleared for construction of houses, roads and factories .
 Water, air, thermal and noise pollution as a result of human activities .
 Depletion of natural resources such as coals, oils and minerals
 Open burning, combustion of fossil fuels, burning of forests or farms
cause greenhouse effect and global warming .
 Increasing the use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides in agriculture
causes water pollution and eutrophication .
3. These effects threaten our health, reduce natural resources and threaten the
survival of the ecosystem .

Measures Taken to Ensure a Balanced of Nature is


1. Various measure can be taken in the management of development activities

and the ecosystem to ensure a balance ecosystem is maintained . Among the
measures taken are :
a) Implementation of laws
b) Use of technology

c) Education

d) Preservation and conservation

e) Biological control

f) Use of renewable energy

g) Efficient use of energy

Implementation of Laws

1. Government has enacted many laws and regulation to protect our

environment. Among the acts are :
a) Environmental Quality Act, 1974, 1985
 It is the principal legislation I regulating the prevention, abatement and
control of pollution as well as the enhancement of the environment .
b) National Forestry Act, 1984
 It aims at protecting and preserving our forests and wildlife .

c) Pesticide Act, 1974

 It aims at controlling the use of pesticides .

d) Protection of Wildlife Act, 1972

 It aims at protecting wild animals, birds and plants .

e) Fisheries Act, 1985

 It aims at controlling marine pollution

Use of Technology

1. Rubbish are sorted into recyclable materials and non-recyclable materials .

Non-recyclable materials can be burnt in incinerators where heat produced
can be reclaimed and used in heating or to generate electricity .
2. Catalytic convertors are used to reduce the amount of nitrogen oxides
emitted and to convert harmful gases released during combustion of fossil
fuels in to less harmful products .

3. Unleaded petrol can be used to replace leaded petrol .

4. Sewage is treated before it is discharge into the water to reduce water

pollution .
5. Agricultural wastes can be processed into methane gas .

6. Bacteria can be used to break down oil which is spilled in the sea .

7. Invent cars which use solar energy to reduce the combustion of fossil fuels .

8. Filters are fixed on chimneys of factories to reduce the amount of air

pollutants .


1. The following are objectives of the environmental education .

 To increase the awareness of individuals and society towards the

environments and its problems .

 To impart knowledge to individuals and society on the environment,

problems of the environment as well as their duty and responsibility .
 To care and protect the environment .
 To acquire skills to solve environmental problems .
2. Formal education is carried out in schools, colleges, universities and other
institutions, where informal education is carried out through the mass media,
campaigns, seminars, pamphlets, magazines, posters and films .
3. Education on the management of resources include the 3R concept, which
are reduce, reuse and recycle of resources .
4. When materials are recycled and reused, there would be less demand to
obtain the materials from natural sources. Materials that can be recycled
include newspaper, glass, bottles and aluminium cans. Materials which can
be reused are empty cans or bottles and plastic containers .
5. Education on the causes and effects of pollution, the usage of metal food

containers to replace polystyrene boxes and usage of shopping baskets to

replace plastic bags are among the issues which can be highlighted .

Preservation and Conservation

1. Preservation and conservation should be carried out to protect the flora and
fauna in the forests and mangrove swamps. Our forests are rich in wildlife.
Conservation of our forests is aimed at maintaining the biodiversity .
2. Preservation involves efforts and measures taken to protect the ecosystem so
as to maintain a balance of nature .
3. Conservation involves steps and efforts taken to return an imbalanced
ecosystem to its natural equilibrium .
4. Preservation and conservation of soil reduces soil erosion, landslides and
desertifications. Measures that are taken include
a) control of grazing by animals
b) farming along contours
c) crop rotation
d) cultivation on terraces
e) proper use of fertilisers

f) effective irrigation and drainage

5. Laws of prohibiting random tree felling, hunting and farming must be
enforced .
6. Forests reserves are gazetted . Replanting of trees must be carried out .

7. Reforestation ensures that forest are renewed. Restoration activities should

be conducted to restore damaged forests .

Biological Control

1. Pesticides are expensive and toxic to non-pest, while pests may build up a
stronger resistance to the pesticides use . Pesticides also contribute to air and
water pollution .
2. Biological control is used as an alternative method to control pest . It
involves the use of the pest’s natural predator to keep the population of the
pest at a minimum level .
3. Female hoverfly is used to control the population of aphids which suck the
nutrient of wheat plants. A bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis is used to
kill caterpillars on cabbages. Owl is used to control the population of rats in
oil palm plantation .

Use of Renewable Energy

1. Renewable energy is the energy that occurs naturally and is inexhaustible . It

does not contribute to pollution .
2. Examples are solar energy, wind energy, hydroelectric, geothermic energy,
biomass energy and wave energy .

Efficient Use of Energy

1. We are using energy at an increasing rate. Non-renewable energy from coal,

oil and fossil fuels will be exhausted and cannot be renewed if their use is
not controlled.
2. Improve fuel efficiency in motorised vehicles and also in factories by
modifying the engines and machines.
3. Use natural gas and reduce combustion of fossil fuels .

Activities related to the Management of the


 Human activities can cause an imbalanced ecosystem or even destroy an

 We should be aware of all the activities which can threaten the stability of the
ecosystem. For example. Dumping of rubbish and toxic wastes into rivers and
drains can cause water pollution. The rivers and drains become breeding
grounds for mosquitoes. The decaying rubbish also attracts rats, flies and
animal vectors.
 Many activities can be carried out to encourage the students to care for the
ecosystem, such as building a fish pond, caring and keeping the school garden
or garden or house garden beautiful and clean; and getting the pupils to
recycle materials, especially papers.
 “Gotong-royong” can be carried out to keep the school and the environment at
home clean.
 Campaign such as “Environment Day” and “Recycling Day” can be carried
out in school.