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3.1 What Is Ecology?

Questions Answers

1a. There are many levels at which a scientist can approach ecology. Order the following from most specific to most broad, or “smallest to largest”: Biome, Community, Species, Biosphere, Ecosystem, Population
1b. How does an ecosystem differ from a community?
Species, Population, Community, Ecosystem, Biome, Biosphere.

An Ecosystem is the biotic and abiotic factors, it has a food web.  A community is just a group of biotic factors,  it may not necessarily have a food web.

2a. The word “ecology” shares a common root with the word “economics”. What root word do they both come from, and what does this word mean?

2b. What is the “currency” of ecology when comparing it to the world of economics?

They both come from the prefix ‘Eco’.  Eco means environment.  Economics means the environment of money, and ecology means the study of environment.
The currency of ecology would be energy and the currency of the economy would be money.
3. Identify two biotic factors and two abiotic factors found in the New England forest ecosystem and explain how they all relate to, and perhaps depend upon, each other Two biotic factors would be trees and deer.  Two abiotic factors are streams and sunlight.  Trees and deer rely on water to live, and the deer need the sun to grow, and the deer needs leaves to eat.  
4. Observation, experimentation and modeling are three methods used by ecologists to study the biosphere. Identify an environmental problem you know about. How would you use those three methods to go about researching and solving that problem? Climate change-I observe that the average temperature has gradually risen over the course of the human timeline.  I experiment with a terrarium and give it an atmosphere.  Then you gradually take in CO2 and watch as the heat is trapped in from a heat lamp.  Then I model what will happen to the earth if this keeps up, and what I see is lots of natural disasters and flooding.  
I would first research if I could possibly desynthesis CO2.  I realize that it needs to be really hot to do that but I stick with the plan.  Then I research how to get to that temperature.  So far only lightning can do it.  So I improvise.  I think that tesla coils could get to the right temperature.  I would experiment around with the temperature of the tesla coils, and research a way to reuse the heat energy that is being released

3.2 Energy, Producers and Consumers

Questions Answers

1. What is a primary producer? What is the role of primary producers in an ecosystem? Primary producers are the autotrophs of an ecosystem.  They have the most available energy and are very plentiful.  Their role is to make energy to survive and be eaten by primary consumers.
2. Compare and contrast photosynthesis and chemosynthesis. Provide an example of an organism that uses each method of energy conversion. Photosynthesis is using light to make energy, and chemisynthesis is using chemicals around them to make energy.   Deep sea creatures use chemosynthesis while land and water plants close to the surface use photosynthesis.
3. Define the following terms:





Carnivore-  eats meat only.

Herbivore- eats plants only.

Omnivore-  eats both plants and meat.

Scavenger-  eats anything to survive.

4. Describe the challenges with sorting heterotrophs into specific categories. Give an example of an organism (not from the text) that might be challenging to categorize. Since Hererotrophs can eat plants and animals depending on what the species is, it may cause problems in sorting.  For example, the pitcher plant uses photosynthesis, and eats small bugs.

3.3 Energy Flow In Ecosystems

Questions Answers

1. Compare and contrast a food web and a food chain. What do the arrows represent? A food web is all the organisms in an ecosystem, a food chain is one particular flow of food.  The arrows represent the flow of energy through the organisms.
2. Explain the importance of decomposers in a food web Decomposers break down everything that isn’t alive.  So when there is a rottin corpse of the apex organism, decomposers will decompose the body.  They complete the flow of energy from organism to organism.  They also release the nutrients in the bodies back into the soil.
3. Think about it. In a terrestrial ecosystem, decomposers return nutrients to the soil that plants can use. Why don’t food webs show an arrow pointing from decomposers to primary producers? Plants don’t get their nutrients from the decomposers, but the soil.  
4. Figure 3-10 shows an aquatic ecosystem, and the text explains the importance of krill in this ecosystem. If we shift the focus to another species – the leopard seal – what immediate changes might you expect to see if the leopard seal population were to suddenly drop? Whatever the leopard seal eats, would increase exponentially in population, and eventually eat all of the available pray, then die out.  
5. There is no limit to the number of trophic levels in an energy pyramid. What is the limit to the number of trophic levels typically seen in an ecosystem? Four levels.  Primary producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers, and tertiary consumers.
6. How do pyramids of biomass and numbers compare to pyramids of energy? What do each represent? Biomass pyramids show how much mass a certain species takes up, and the other shows how much energy they use.

3.4  Cycles of Matter

Questions Answers

1. Compare and contrast how energy and matter cycle through ecosystems. Energy can be in the biological process, the chemical and physical process, and human activity.  Matter can be in all of the cycles.
2. What are the four processes that biogeochemical cycles depend upon for recycling matter? Biological process(eating, breathing), Geological process(volcanoes,earthquakes), Chemical and physical process(water cycle, lightning) and human activity (fossil fuels, farming)
3. Once water falls from the sky as precipitation, there are two possible ways that it can get to rivers and streams. Explain both processes. It can either fall into a river directly, or it can seep into the ground and become groundwater.  
4. What are nutrients? Chemicals that organisms need to stay alive.
5. Carbon basically moves through the environment in two major ways. One involves primarily biological processes, and the other involves primarily geological processes. Explain each. In the biological process, organisms eat each other and gain energy, which comes as carbs, which have carbon.  Then it gets decomposed and gets back into the environment.   In the geological process,  sediments are turned into rocks, which have carbon in them.
6. Nitrogen is the most abundant gas in our atmosphere (78%!). Despite this, most organisms are unable to use this form of nitrogen. What is nature’s solution to this huge abundance of unusable nitrogen in the atmosphere? What types of organisms are responsible for this solution? Bacteria use nitrogen fixation to turn the nitrogen into ammonia, which most things can use.
7. What is the major difference between the phosphorus cycle and all other cycles discussed in this section? In the phosphorus cycle, there is a lot less of it than oxygen, nitrogen and carbon.  
8a. What is a limiting nutrient?
8b. It seems like a huge influx of a limiting nutrient would be really helpful for an ecosystem. Why is this problematic for aquatic ecosystems?
  1. A limiting nutrient is what contains a species, since it cannot grow if what they need to survive comes in small amounts
  2. In aquatic environments the limiting nutrient is Nitrogen, if there is too much, then there will be tons of algae, and if there are not enough primary consumers, then it can grow out of control.



4.1 Climate

Questions Answers

1. Describe the difference between weather and climate. Weather is more short term and for smaller area,  climate is more long term and more broad.
2. In your own words, explain what the greenhouse effect is. It is when the atmosphere traps heat inside of it and continues to do so.  It has gotten stronger with the constant emissions of CO2.
3. Describe the three different climate zones and where on the globe they are located. Tropical is right around the equator, and it gets the most sunlight.  Temperate is farther away, and it has a medium amount of sunlight.  Polar is the furthest from the sun and gets very little light.
4. Compare and contrast heat transport in the air and in oceans. Why are these systems important? Heat transport in the air is caused by the way heat rises and cool air sinks.  It is important because it creates wind, which is vital t some plants.  In the ocean, the top water is blown by winds, and creates currents.

4.2. Niches and Community Interactions

Questions Answers

1a. What is a niche?
1b. How does tolerance relate to a species’ niche?
1c. What other factors determine the niche of a species?
1d. How does the competitive exclusion principle relate to niche?
  1. A niche is a specific role or job that one organism takes up.
  2. Tolerance is related because each organism has a certain tolerance for survival.
  3. Colour, where it gets food, how it gets food.
  4. If two species occupy the same or very similar niche’s, then one species will end up being less competitive and die out.
2a. What is competition? How do species generally adapt to overcome the challenges of competition?
2b. Differentiate between intraspecific competition and interspecific competition.
  1. Competition is the fight for a natural resource needed to survive.  Species can divide resources by hunting in different areas.
  2. Interspecific competition is between two species, intraspecific competition in within a community.
3. Compare and contrast predation and herbivory Predation can directly affect the population of the predator and the prey.  Herbivory can directly influence how and where the plant grow to better survive.
4. What is a keystone species? Can you give an example? A keystone species is a species that can cause dramatic changes, and the whole ecosystem relies on their presence.
5. Define and give an example of each of the three types of symbiotic relationships. Mutualistic: when both organisms benefit.  Ex- oxpeckers on a Zebra eat the stuff of their teeth for food, and the Zebra gets cleaned teets.

Parasitism: When one organism benefits, and the other is harmed.  Ex- Leeches on humans.  Leeches get food, humans get their blood sucked.

Commensalism: One organism benefits, the other is unaffected.  Ex-  egrets and cattle.


4.3 Succession

Questions Answers

1. What is ecological succession? Ecological succession is a predictable series of changes in an environment.
2a. Compare and contrast primary and secondary succession
2b. Explain the importance of pioneer species, particularly in the process of primary succession
  1. Primary succession is when an area slowly comes back when rock erodes to make new soil for the plants to grown on.  Secondary succession is quicker that primary, because the soil is soil present.
  2. Pioneer species are the first species to populate an area.  They are usually rugged, sturdy and can survive with little nutrients.  They are important because they help erode rock into soil, and bring nutrients to the soil.
3a. Legume plants are special because they have little “nodules” on their roots that make a home for nitrogen fixing bacteria.

Legume plants are usually the pioneer species in an area in the early stages of primary succession. Why do you think legumes are so much more successful at this than other types of plants?

  1. Legumes  are more successful because they can survive on very little nutrients, and don’t need much space for roots.
4. The term biological legacy refers to what living organisms leave behind for future generations when they die. How does this relate to succession and why it occurs? It relates to succession because in biological legacy, nutrients are left behind, and it is all part of repopulation.  In succession, living things want to leave behind good things for the future.  
5. Sometimes climax communities are reproduced after secondary succession, but other times they they are not. Explain why this is true. If nothing new is introduced to a community, the it will probably be the same climax community.  That is true because there are no new variables to work around.  But if something had changed, then a different species might dominate.


4.4 Biomes

1. What factors are considered when classifying a biome? What are the major biomes on Earth? The factors considered are the abiotic and biotic factors.  Tropical rain forest, tropical dry forest, savanna, temperate forest, northwestern coniferous forest, taiga, and tundra.
2. Compare and contrast the climate of tropical rainforests and tropical dry forests Similar: soil is subject to erosion. Not cold.  

Different:  Yearly animal activity.  Leaves in trees.  Basically everything else.

3. What are the major differences between tropical and temperate grasslands? One gets way more fires(tropical grasslands)
4a. What is the one thing that all deserts have in common?

4b. What are some major differences that might exist between deserts?

  1. A lack of precipitation
  2. Temperature, climate, animal life.
5. Why do you think temperate woodland is far more susceptible to fires than temperate forest? The temperate woodlands have very dry summers, which can make fires easily.
6. What is the major difference between Northwestern coniferous forest and the boreal forest? The boreal forest has much longer and colder winters.
7. Name and describe the major characteristic of a tundra. How does this explain the success of producers in this biome? A permafrost is a layer of permanently frozen soil that briefly melts and becomes soggy for plants to grow.  It explains the success because only very strong plans can survive the long, harsh winters.


5.1 How Populations Grow

Questions Answers

1. Explain the difference between population density and distribution. Use examples to support your answer. Population density is how frightful packed together a species is in a unit or area.  Ex: there is a lot of grass in one square foot.  Population distribution is how much space a community needs to live well.  Ex: grass does not need much space to thrive.
2.a Why is understanding a population’s age structure so important?
2b. With our local Blandings turtles, only the females are ever tagged and tracked. Why is that?
  1. Age structure contains the amount of male and females of certain ages. It is important because species can only reproduce after a certain age.  Also, only females can carry the children.
  2. Because only they can carry the young.
3. Identify the four factors that contribute to population growth rate, and give an example of each (NOT from the text) Birth Rate; how many humans are born each year in the US.

Death Rate; how many humans die each year in the US.

Immegration; How many humans move to the US per year

Emigration; How many humans leave the US each year.

4. Compare and contrast logistic and exponential growth. Which is more likely to be seen in nature? Why? Logistic growth is more seen in nature because the ideal growing conditions are rarely met naturally.  

Logistic growth is the predictable pattern of growth of a species.  It makes an S curve.

5a.  Imagine a population of [choose any animal/plant] that is new to an area. Explain the three major phases that they will go through as the population grows logistically, giving factors from the environment that might contribute to the growth seen in each stage
5b. Define carrying capacity
  1. The firt major phase is exponantial growth.  This is because there are no new predators to hinder the growth.  Then they will meet the carrying capacity, and the growth will slow and even out.  Then the growth will decline after some time.
  2. The carrying capacity is the maximum amount of a certain species that an ecosystem can hold.  It is not an exact number, but a rough area.

5.2 Limits to Growth

Questions Answers

1. What is the role of any limiting factor in an ecosystem? It controls the population of a species.
2a. What are the major density-dependent limiting factors discussed in the reading?
2b. Think about the term “density-dependent”. Why is this term used to describe these particular factors?
  1. competition, predation, herbivory, parasitism, stress.
  2. The term is used because the more dense a population is, the more likely these things are to happen.  As in, the probability of these things happening depends on the density.
3. It’s a common misconception that people get sick from being cold, but the truth is that we are just more likely to catch a cold virus in the fall or winter. Why do you think that might be? In the fall and winter, students go back to school, and are more exposed to the germs that give you a cold.
4. What is a density-independent factor? Give a specific example. Natural disasters.  If an earthquake strikes the San Francisco area again, the density of a species will not matter in how it destroys an area’s population.
5. Think about it Which types of factors – density dependent or independent – do you think play a more consistent role in determining carrying capacity? Explain your answer. Density dependant play a more consistent role in controlling the population.  This is because the independent factors are more common in an environment.

5.3 Human Population Growth

Questions Answers

1a. What factors during the Industrial Revolution led to an exponential growth in the human population?
1b. How would you describe the growth and growth rate of the human population today?

Note: it is important to distinguish between growth and growth rate

  1. Reliable food sources became more easy to access, and medicine became better and more common.
  2. Our rate of growth is slowing, our growth is less populous.
2. What factors are considered by scientists that study demography? The birth rate, the death rate, and the age structure of different societies.
3a. Describe in your own words what the demographic transition is, and how it contributes to a country’s growth rate.
3b. Focus on “Stage II” of the demographic transition. What social factors might lead to a population having a decreased death rate, but high birth rates (thus exponential growth)?
3c. The United States is currently in stage III, where the birth rate has finally fallen to meet the death rate. What social factors do you think have led to this?
  1. It is the transition from high birth rates and death rates to low birth and death rates.  The growth rates slows considerably when the transition is complete.
  2. Better medicine and safer environments to live in.  
  3. People realizing they don’t all need to have children.  
4. Why is it that the age structure diagram for the United States does not indicate an increased growth rate in the future, but the diagram for Guatemala does? What are the key differences between these two age structures? People in Guatemala have been having more children with lower death rates so the population will increase.  In the US less people have had children with low death rates so the population will smooth out.
5. How is the world population predicted to grow in the next 50 years or so? The growth rate will slow down, but we still be growing.


6.1 A Changing Landscape

Questions Answers

1. Name three human behaviors that dramatically changed the native ecosystem of Hawaii
  1. Trees were cut to farm.
  2. Introduced non-native plants
  3. introduced non–native animals.
2a. What is monoculture?
2b. Name one advantage and one disadvantage to monoculture
  1. Monoculture is the planting of the same crop every season.
  2. One advantage is that it is easy to tend to and plant.  A disadvantage is that nutrients can decrease and fertilizers are bad for the environment.
3. Explain why drinking water is a service that can either be provided by the ecosystem or society. If the water in the environment is being naturally filtered, then it can be provided by the ecosystem.  However if it is a urban area, or the water is not safe, it must be manually filtered and serves to the people.
4. Compare and contrast renewable and nonrenewable resources. Be sure to give an example of each. A renewable source is wind.  It can be replenished easily without hurting the environment.  A nonrenewable resource is fossil fuels.  It will take a very long time for them to be replenished, and they are harmful to the environment.
5a. Why is sustainable development so important?
5b. There are many applications of sustainable development in our society. Name the one that you think is MOST important. Why?
  1. Sustainable development is very important because it provides a clean way to power an area.  It also allows us to use renewable resources.
  2. Solar power is the most relevant to me since a new plant was installed down the street from me.  It is also pretty important because It can go right on a roof and power the whole house easily.

6.2 Using Resources Wisely

Questions Answers

1a. Why is healthy soil so important?
1b. What, specifically, caused the dustbowl of the 1930s? Be sure to include “erosion” and “desertification” in your answer.
  1. Healthy soil is important because it supports farming and forests.  Both are important to human life.
  2. People were farming badly and lots of desertification happened to the nearby forests.  Rocks eroded and that let the wind carry dust.  
2. How does deforestation affect soil quality? What are some ways to practice forestry in a sustainable way? Minerals and nutrients can be carried away by wind or rain.  A sustainable way would be to leave the roots from last years crops in the soil in order to keep it in place.
3. What are the three primary sources of water pollution? Briefly explain each Industrial and agricultural chemicals are one primary source.  They are chemicals that are used by humans and can leak into a water system.  Either through a massive leak or by runoff into a nearby water source.  Residential sewage is another primary source.  If sewage gets into a water source, it can deprive an area of oxygen by giving algae massive amount of phosphorus and nitrogen.  Thee will develope into dead zones.  Nonpoint source is the last primary source.  These come from small things like cars.
Energy and pollutants both move up trophic levels in a similar way. However, there is a major difference in how the bottom trophic level compares to the top in terms of amount of energy versus amount of pollutant concentration.

4a. Explain how biomagnification is different from energy transfer
4b. Why do pollutants accumulate?

Biomagnification is a SUPER important concept. Be sure to read that section and answer this question thoroughly!

  1. When you go up in energy transfer, the percentage of what you get goes down by 10%.  In biomagnification, what you get goes up by 10%.
  2. Pollutants accumulate because pollutants are not digested or removed from the body.  They build up in skin tissue.  When an organism eats another, they get all the pollutant that they had been building up, in addition to their own build up of the pollutant.
5. Explain one sustainable water practice. Protecting the watersheds and the water cycle.  If you take the entire watershed into consideration, you could clean one area and watch as that cleans all of the water.  Or you could not destroy the natural cleaners of the watershed.  
6a. Briefly explain each of the four common forms of air pollution
6b. How does acid rain form? Why is it problematic?
6c. The next time you are at a gas station, check out the pumps. They all say “unleaded”. Why isn’t there a “leaded” option?
  1. Smog:  smog is the result of chemical reactions from the results of production and car exhaust.  

Acid Rain: acid rain is formed when factories release nitrogen and sulfur compounds.  They mix with water vapour and form Nitric acid and Sulfuric acid.  

Greenhouse Gases: These are released into the atmosphere as a byproduct of chemical reactions.  They can include Carbon Dioxide and Methane.

Particulates: Microscopic particle of ash and dust can be released as a product of Diesel engines and industrial processes.

  1. acid rain is formed when factories release nitrogen and sulfur compounds.  They mix with water vapour and form Nitric acid and Sulfuric acid.  They are problematic because they can damage plants, and change the makeup of the water and soil.
  2. There is no ‘Leaded’ version of gasoline because the lead will come out of the exhaust and runoff into nearby water.


6.3 Biodiversity

Questions Answers

1. What is biodiversity? Biodiversity is how diverse an ecosystem is.  
2. Differentiate between ecosystem species and genetic diversity and explain why each is important. An ecosystem diversity  is the different habitats communities and processes in the biosphere.  Genetic diversity is the diversity of the different genes in an animal.  The more different the better.
3. What is habitat fragmentation? Why does this threaten biodiversity? Habitat Fragmentation is when something comes in and separates a habitat.  Now they are habitat islands, and fewer creatures can live in the space given.
4. The text discusses leafy spurge and DDT as examples of introduced (invasive) species and pollution. Do a quick Google search to identify:

  1. One invasive species in the New England forest ecosystem
  2. One example of a pollutant that has cause problems in the United States (other than DDT)
  1. The Asian Longhorned Beetle is invasive to New England.
  2. Acetaldahyde
5. Describe the threat to biodiversity posed by climate change Species can only adapt to what is within a certain range of ability, and climate change is moving so fast that species will not be able to keep up.
6. What is an ecological hot spot? What are the specific requirements of an ecosystem to be identified as an ecological hot spot? An ecological hot spot is an area where significant numbers of species are in danger of extinction.  The specific requirements are that the area must include 1500 native vascular plants,have 70% of its original habitat.

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