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Chapter 50

BIOL 1030 Chapter 50: Chapter 50 An Introduction to Ecology and the Biosphere

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Biological Sciences
BIOL 1030
Scott Kevin

Chapter 50 An Introduction to Ecology and the Biosphere Lecture Outline Overview: The Scope of Ecology • Ecology is the scientific study of the interactions between organisms and their environment. Concept 50.1 Ecology is the study of interactions between organisms and the environment • Ecologists ask questions about factors affecting the distribution and abundance of organisms. • Ecologists might study how interactions between organisms and the environment affect the number of species living in an area, the cycling of nutrients, or the growth of populations. Ecology and evolutionary biology are closely related sciences. • Ecology has a long history as a descriptive science. • Modern ecology is also a rigorous experimental science. • Ecology and evolutionary biology are closely related sciences. • Events that occur over ecological time (minutes to years) translate into effects over evolutionary time (decades to millennia). • For example, hawks feeding on field mice kill certain individuals (over ecological time), reducing population size (an ecological effect), altering the gene pool (an evolutionary effect), and selecting for mice with fur color that camouflages them in their environment (over evolutionary time). Ecological research ranges from the adaptations of individual organisms to the dynamics of the biosphere. • The environment of any organism includes the following components: • Abiotic components: nonliving chemical and physical factors such as temperature, light, water, and nutrients. • Biotic components: all living organisms in the individual’s environment. • Ecology can be divided into a number of areas of study. • Organismal ecology is concerned with the behavioral, physiological, and morphological ways individuals interact with the environment. • A population is a group of individuals of the same species living in a particular geographic area. Population ecology examines factors that affect population size and composition. • A community consists of all the organisms of all the species that inhabit a particular area. Community ecology examines the interactions between species and considers how factors such as predation, competition, disease, and disturbance affect community structure and organization. • An ecosystem consists of all the abiotic factors in addition to the entire community of species that exist in a certain area. Ecosystem ecology studies energy flow and cycling of chemicals among the various abiotic and biotic components. • A landscape or seascape consists of several different ecosystems linked by exchanges of energy, materials, and organisms. Landscape ecology deals with arrays of ecosystems and their arrangement in a geographic region. • Each landscape or seascape consists of a mosaic of different types of patches, an environmental characteristic ecologists refer to as patchiness. Landscape ecological research focuses on the factors controlling exchanges of energy, materials, and organisms among ecosystem patches. • The biosphere is the global ecosystem, the sum of all of the planet’s ecosystems. The biosphere includes the entire portion of Earth inhabited by life, ranging from the atmosphere to a height of several kilometers to the oceans and water bearing rocks to a depth of several kilometers. Ecology provides a scientific context for evaluating environmental issues. • It is important to clarify the difference between ecology, the scientific study of the distribution and abundance of organisms, and environmentalism, advocacy for the protection or preservation of the natural environment. • To address environmental problems, we need to understand the interactions of organisms and the environment. • The science of ecology provides that understanding. • In 1962, Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring warned that the use of pesticides such as DDT was causing population declines in many nontarget organisms. • Today, acid precipitation, land misuse, toxic wastes, habitat destruction, and the growing list of endangered or extinct species are just a few of the problems that threaten the Earth. • Many influential ecologists feel a responsibility to educate legislators and the general public about decisions that affect the environment. • It is important to communicate the scientific complexity of environmental issues. • Our ecological information is always incomplete. The precautionary principle (essentially “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”) can guide decision making on environmental issues. Concept 50.2 Interactions between organisms and the environment limit the distribution of species • Ecologists have long recognized distinct global and regional patterns in the distribution of organisms. • Biogeography is the study of past and present distributions of individual species in the context of evolutionary theory. • Ecologists ask a series of questions to determine what limits the geographical distribution of any species. Species dispersal contributes to the distribution of organisms. • The movement of individuals away from centers of high population density or from their area of origin is called dispersal. • The dispersal of organisms is crucial to understanding geographic isolation in evolution and the broad patterns of geographic distribution of species. • One way to determine if dispersal is a key factor limiting distribution is to observe the results when humans have accidentally or intentionally transplanted a species to areas where it was previously absent. • For the transplant to be considered successful, the organisms must not only survive in the new area, but also reproduce there. • If the transplant is successful, then the potential range of the species is larger than its actual range. • Species introduced to new geographic locations may disrupt the communities and ecosystems to which they are introduced. • Consequently, ecologists rarely conduct transplant experiments today. • Instead, they study the outcome when a species has been transplanted accidentally or for another purpose. Behavior and habitat selection contribute to the distribution of organisms. • Sometimes organisms do not occupy all of their potential range but select particular habitats. • Does behavior play a role in limiting distribution in such cases? • Habitat selection is one of the least-understood ecological processes, but it appears to play an important role in limiting the distribution of many species. Biotic factors affect the distribution of organisms. • Do biotic factors limit the distribution of species? • Negative interactions with other organisms in the form of predation, parasitism, disease, or competition may limit the ability of organisms to survive and reproduce. • Predator-removal experiments can provide information about how predators limit distribution of prey species. • Absence of other species may also limit distribution of a species. • For example, the absence of a specific pollinator or prey species may limit distribution of an organism. Abiotic factors affect the distribution of organisms. • The global distribution of organisms broadly reflects the influence of abiotic factors such as temperature, water, and sunlight. • The environment is characterized by spatial and temporal heterogeneity. • Environmental temperature is an important factor in the distribution of organisms because of its effect on biological processes. • Very few organisms can maintain an active metabolism at very high or very low temperatures. • Some organisms have extraordinary adaptations to allow them to live outside the temperature range habitable for most other living things. • The variation in water availability among habitats is an important factor in species distribution. • Most aquatic organisms are restricted to either freshwater or marine environments. • Terrestrial organisms face a nearly constant threat of desiccation and have adaptations to allow them to obtain and conserve water. • Sunlight provides the energy that drives nearly all ecosystems. • Intensity of light is not the most important factor limiting plant growth in most terrestrial environments, although shading by a forest canopy makes competition for light in the understory intense. • In aquatic environments, light intensity limits distribution of photosynthetic organisms. • Every meter of water depth selectively absorbs 45% of red light and 2% of blue light passing through it. • As a result, most photosynthesis in aquatic environments occurs near the surface. • Photoperiod, the relative length of daytime and nighttime, is a reliable indicator of seasonal events and is an important cue for the development or behavior of many organisms. • Wind amplifies the effects of temperature by increasing heat loss due to evaporation and convection. It also increases water loss by increasing the rate of evaporative cooling in animals and transpiration in plants. • The physical structure, pH, and mineral composition of soils and rocks limit distribution of plants and, thus, of the animals that feed upon them, contributing to the patchiness of terrestrial ecosystems. • In streams and rivers, substrate composition can affect water chemistry, affecting distribution of organisms. • In marine environments, the structure of substrates in the intertidal areas or seafloor limits the organisms that can attach to or burrow in those habitats. Four abiotic factors are the major components of climate. • Climate is the prevailing weather conditions in an area. • Four abiotic factors—temperature, water, sunlight, and wind— are the major components of climate. • Climatic factors, especially temperature and water, have a major influence on the distribution of organisms. • Climate patterns can be described on two scales. Macroclimate patterns are on global, regional, or local levels, and microclimate patterns are very fine patterns such as the conditions experienced by a community of organisms under a fallen log. • Climate determines the makeup of biomes, the major types of ecosystems. • Annual means for temperature and rainfall are reasonably well correlated with the biomes found in different regions. • Global climate patterns are determined by sunlight and Earth’s movement in space. • The sun’s warming effect on the atmosphere, land, and water establishes the temperature variations, cycles of air movement, and evaporation of water that are responsible for latitudinal variations in climate. • Bodies of water and topographic features such as mountain ranges create regional climatic variations, while smaller features of the landscape affect local climates. • Ocean currents influence climate along the coast by heating or cooling overlying air masses, which may pass over land. • Coastal regions are generally moister than inland areas at the same latitude. • In general, oceans and large lakes moderate the climate of nearby terrestrial environments. • In certain regions, cool, dry ocean breezes are warmed when they move over land, absorbing moisture and creating a hot, rainless climate slightly inland. • This Mediterranean climate pattern occurs inland from the Mediterranean Sea. • Ocean currents also influence climate in coastal areas. • Mountains have a significant effect on the amount of sunlight reaching an area, as well as on local temperature and rainfall. • In the Northern Hemisphere, south-facing slopes receive more sunlight than north-facing slopes, and are therefore warmer and drier. • These environmental differences affect species distribution. • At any given latitude, air temperature declines 6°C with every 1,000- m increase in elevation. • This temperature change is equivalent to that caused by an 880-km increase in latitude. • As moist, warm air approaches a mountain, it rises and cools, releasing moisture on the windward side of the peak. • On the leeward side of the mountain, cool, dry air descends, absorbing moisture and producing a rain shadow. • Deserts commonly occur on the leeward side of mountain ranges. • The changing angle of the sun over the course of a year affects local environments. • Belts of wet and dry air on either side of the equator shift with the changing angle of the sun, producing marked wet and dry seasons around 20° latitude. • Seasonal changes in wind patterns produce variations in ocean currents, occasionally causing the upwelling of nutrient-rich, cold water from deep ocean layers. • Lakes are also sensitive to seasonal temperature changes. • During the summer and winter, many temperate lakes are thermally stratified or layered vertically according to temperature. • These lakes undergo a semiannual mixing, or turnover, of their waters in spring and fall. Turnover brings oxygenated water to the bottom and nutrient-rich water to the surface. • Many features in the environment influence microclimates. • Forest trees moderate the microclimate beneath them. • Cleared areas experience greater temperature extremes than the forest interior. • A log or large stone shelters organisms, buffering them from temperature and moisture fluctuations. • Every environment on Earth is characterized by a mosaic of small-scale differences in abiotic factors that influence the local distribution of organisms. • Long-term climate changes profoundly affect the biosphere. • One way to predict possible effects of current climate changes is to consider the changes that have occurred in temperate regions since the end of the last Ice Age. • Until about 16,000 years ago, continental glaciers covered much of North America and Eurasia. • As the climate warmed and the glaciers melted, tree distribution expanded northward. • A detailed record of these migrations is captured in fossil po
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