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GEO 131 (6)
Chapter 1

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Ryerson University
GEO 131
David Atkinson

GEO 131 Chapter 1 Textbook Notes Ecosystems and Humans Environmental Science  concerned with the rapidly increasing human population  use and abuse of resources  damage caused by pollution and disturbance  endangerment and extinction of species and natural ecosystems - interdisciplinary studies - ECOLOGY: defined as the study of the interrelationships of organisms and their environment - GEOGRAPHY: study of the natural features of Earth‟s surface (including climate, topography, soil, and vegetation) - ENVIRONMENTAL ECOLOGY: the ecological effects of pollution and disturbance, human or anthropogenic influences on ecosystems - Major subject areas of environmental ecology: 1. Management of biological resources (ex. agriculture, forestry, fishing) 2. Prevention or repair of ecological problems (ex. related to the endangerment of biodiversity, restoration, degraded land or water, management of GHG) 3. Management of ecological processes (ex. productivity, nutrient cycling, hydrology, and erosion) - ECOLOGIST: specialists who study relationships among organisms and the environment - ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENTIST: generalists who use science-related knowledge, relevant to environmental quality - ENVIRONMENTALISTS: involved with environmental issues, involved especially in the sense of advocacy The Larger Context: Earth, Life and Ecosystems - Earth: diameter – 12 700 km, 70% surface covered in water, 30% land - Ecology encompasses 1. Individual organisms – living entities 2. Populations – individuals of the same species 3. Communities – populations of species 4. Landscapes and seascapes – spatial integrations over large areas 5. Biosphere – composed of all life and ecosystems of Earth The Relationship Between Species and Ecosystems - SPECIES is an aggregation of individuals and populations that can potentially interbreed and produce fertile offspring - ECOSYSTEM generic term used to describe one or more communities of organism that are interacting with their environment as a defined unit - ECOSYSTEM APPROACH does not view each ecosystem as a random grouping of population, species, communities, and environments – it confirms all of these as intrinsically connected and mutually dependent, although in varying degrees - PG 6 FIG 1.3 HIERARCHICAL ORGANIZATION OF THE UNIVERSE - An important ecological principle is that al species are sustained by environmental resources: “the goods and the service” - Homo sapiens: binomial Environmental Stressors and Ecological Responses - ENVIRONMENTAL STRESSORS are environmental factors that constrain the development and productivity of organisms and ecosystems - evolutionary success is related to the number or progeny an organism leaves to carry on its genetic lineage, the evolutionary success of this individual plant is less than its potential - many ecosystems are dynamic - DISTURBANCE are ecosystems that have been stressed by, for example, an episode of destruction, can occur on a local scale - Macrodisturbance: local zone of damage, or small scale disturbance induces a Microsuccession - Occurs on a community level, ecological recovery called SUCCESSION: occurs in response to changes associated with natural disturbances such as wildlife, windstorms and insect and disease epidemics - These cataclysmic factors can kill many of the dominant organisms in an ecosystem Human Activities: Important Environmental Stressors - humans directly affect ecosystems and species in three ways: 1. harvesting economically valuable (trees and hunted animals) 2. by causing toxicity through pollution 3. converting natural ecosystems to agricultural, industrial or urban land uses - CULTURAL EVOLUTION has been characterized by increasingly more sophisticated methods, tools and social organizations used to secure resources nu exploiting the environment and other species [cause of ecological changes] - Early technological revolutions: o Weapons to hunt o Domestication of the dog o Fire o Cultivating and domesticating plants and livestock [increase in food availability] o Smelting metal containing minerals and raw metals into
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