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CVG 2132

Fundamentals of Environmental
Engineering
ECOSYSTEMS (1/2)
Professor Rob Delatolla
Office: A-108
Email: robert.delatolla@uottawa.ca

ECOSYSTEMS & HUMAN INFLUENCES

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ECOSYSTEMS
Ecological System (ecosystem): Community of organisms that
interact with one another and their physical environment
(sunlight, rainfall, water and soil).
Ecosystems are characterized by:
1. The matter that flows into/out of the system and the matter
that cycles through the system is critical to the existence
and maintenance of the ecosystem.
2. Ecosystems naturally or anthropogenic ally change over
time.
Ecosystems also involve:
1. Energy is transferred into/out of the system and is
transferred within the system via food chains.
2. Carbon is cycled from inorganic C to organic C and back to
inorganic C.
3. Nitrogen, phosphorous & sulphur are critical cycles in many
ecosystems.
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HUMAN INFLUENCE ON ECOSYSTEMS


Affects of Human Activities on Ecosystems:
1. Modify environments and magnify concentrations of
constituents that speed up natural processes by
several orders of magnitude.
2. Release of toxic chemicals that threaten wildlife.
3. Introduce non-native (exotic) species.
4. Extensive harvesting or hunting that can alter or
destroy an ecosystem.

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HUMAN INFLUENCE ON ECOSYSTEMS


Extensive harvesting or hunting that can alter or destroy
an ecosystem:

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HUMAN INFLUENCE ON ECOSYSTEMS


Extensive harvesting or hunting that can alter or destroy
an ecosystem:

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HUMAN INFLUENCE ON ECOSYSTEMS


Extensive harvesting or hunting that can alter or destroy
an ecosystem:

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MAJOR GROUPS OF ORGANISMS


IN ECOSYSTEMS

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TAXONOMY OF MICROORGANISMS IN ECOSYSTEMS


Science of classification.

Newer method of classification that detects


differences in microorganisms at a genetic level.
Phylogeny relates organisms based on the evolutionary
history of the organism as opposed to observable
characteristics.
System based on

phylogenetic classification.

The three-domain system has become the dominant view


due to advancement of genetic analyses.
It classifies cellular life into
.
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and

TAXONOMY OF MICROORGANISMS IN ECOSYSTEMS


Domains System of Classification:

Eukary
a

Phylogenetc tree - Defined by


comparative rRNA gene
sequencing.

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MAJOR GROUPING OF ORGANISMS IN ECOSYSTEMS

Most algae are eukarya with the exception of bluegreen algae (cyanobacteria). Algae contain chloroplasts and are
capable of photosynthesis

Bacteria have a rigid cell wall that maintains their


shape and the genetic material is not contained in a nucleus but
exists within the cytoplasm. Essential in nutrient cycling and
in treating many pollutants.

Similar to bacteria in their structure and often exist


in close relation to bacteria, however have a unique evolutionary
history relative to bacteria.

Eukarya that often degrade organic matter from plant


and animal remains in the presence of oxygen. Fungi are
important in composting and digesting sludge.

Mobile eukarya that feed on bacteria and particulate


matter. Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium parvum are
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resistant
to many disenfection methods and are a health
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concern for water distribution.

ENERGY FLOW IN ECOSYSTEMS

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ENERGY FLOW IN ECOSYSTEMS


A group of organism belonging to a taxonomic

group.

A number of populations that live together in


the same ecosystem.

Organisms require energy,


nutrients and substrates to
Nutrient
s
survive:
Carbon
New
Source
Electron
Donor

SYNTHE
SIS

ENERGY

Cells
End
Product
s

Electron
Accepto
r

Organisms can also be


classified according to their energy source, carbon source,
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electron
donor and electron acceptor.
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ENERGY FLOW IN ECOSYSTEMS


Energy balance approach to classification:
Energy
Source

Type

Carbon Source

Phototrophs
Chemotrophs
Heterotrophs
Autotrophs
Organotrophs
(subgroup of chemotrophs)

Lithotrophs
(subgroup of chemotrophs)

Aerobic
Anoxic
Anaerobic
Facultative
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Carbon
Source
Electron
Donor

Nutrient
s
SYNTHE
SIS
ENERGY
Electron
Accepto
r

New
Cells
End
Product
s

Electron
Donor

Electron
Acceptor

ROLE OF ENERGY IN ECOSYSTEMS


Primary source of energy that drives ecosystems is the sun
(photosynthesis).
Process starts with primary producers that convert inorganic
carbon into organic compounds that store energy using
photosynthesis (photoautotrophs).
Photosynthesis:

6CO2 + 6H2O + energy C6H12O6 + 6O2

Process starts with primary producers that convert inorganic


Nutrient
carbon into organic compounds
that store energy using
s
New
CO
SYNTHE
photosynthesis (photoautotrophs).
Cells
2

SIS

E.D. =
H 2O

ENERGY
E.A. =
light
energy

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O2

ROLE OF ENERGY IN ECOSYSTEMS


Stored energy in the produced compounds can then be
recovered by other organisms often referred to as consumers
through the process of catabolic respiration (aerobic
chemoorganotrophs
or
chemoheterotrophs
or
heterotrophs)
C6H12O6 + 6O2 6CO2 + 6H2O + energy
Released energy is then stored in the organism and is made
available to drive anabolic cell synthesis.
Metabolism of an organism is described by the organisms
catabolism and anabolism.

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FOOD CHAINS
Energy is transferred through ecosystems via food chains.
The food chain involves a series of steps or trophic levels.

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Abundance

FOOD CHAINS

Trophic Levels

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FOOD CHAINS

Biomass
Ecological
Pyramid
Food Web
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ENERGY FLOW IN ECOSYSTEMS


Energy is lost in each trophic level due to transference
efficiencies.
Most of the loss is in the form of heat.
What is the natural overall energy-utilization-efficiency of most
ecosystems?

Example: For every megajoule of energy used by the


phytoplankton in Lake Ontario, what quantity of energy (joules)
are actually involved in building cell tissue in lake trout? In
humans? Use the following food web path:
Phytoplankton zooplankton shrimp lake trout
humans
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BIOACCUMULATION & TOXICITY

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BIOACCUMULATION

: Describes the processes by which


toxins accumulate in the lipids and fatty tissues of organisms
and animals and the concentration of the toxin increases as it
passes through the food chain.
Humans, at the highest trophic level, become exposed to
toxins that are several orders of magnitude higher than is
observed in lakes and rivers.

Many toxins are organic compounds and are therefore highly


hydrophobic (water fearing).
Hydrophobic compounds
the plankton, in aquatic systems.

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to other phases, such as

BIOACCUMULATION
The
partitioning reaction:

is the equilibrium constant for

chemicalwater chemicalorganic phase

K ow

Corganic phase
Cwater

PCB, DDT and Mercury are examples of toxins that biomagnify


as they pass through the food chain.

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BIOACCUMULATION
Example of PCB bioaccumulation in the Great Lakes ecosystem:

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BIOACCUMULATION
Example: Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) has a water to plankton
partition coefficient of 200,000; a plankton to smelt
magnification factor of 7.5; and a smelt to lake trout
magnification factor of 3.5. If the concentration of HCB in the
water is 1.0 ppt will either fish exceed the set fish consumption
standards:
5 ppm for general consumption
1 ppm for pregnant and nursing women

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