Chapter 52: Ecology and Distribution of Life

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Biological Sciences
Kamini Persaud

CHAPTER 52: ECOLOGY AND THE DISTRIBUTION OF LIFE 52.1 What is Ecology? Ecology the scientific study of the rich and varied interaction between organisms and their environment. Community any ecologically integrated group of species of microorganisms, plants, and animals inhabiting a given area. Ecosystem the organisms of a particular habitat, such as a pond or forest, together with the physical environment in which they live. Biosphere all regions of Earth (terrestrial and aquatic) and Earths atmosphere in which organisms can live. Environment whatever surrounds and interacts with a population, organism, or cell. May be external or internal encompasses both abiotic (physical and chemical) factors, such as water, light, temperature, and biotic factors (living organisms). Abiotic nonliving Biotic alive Organisms both influence and are influenced by their environment. Climate is one of the abiotic factors that determines what kinds of organisms can survuce and reproduce in a particular place. 52.2 How are Climates Distributed on Earth? Climate the average of the atmospheric conditions (temperature, precipitation, wind direction, and velocity) found in a region overtime. Weather is the short-term state of those atmospheric conditions (climate). Therefore climate is what you expect, weather is what you get. Climates vary greatly from place to place on Earth, primarily because different places receive different amounts of solar energy. Atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns are the factors that most strongly influence climates. Solar Energy Drives Global Change: The differences on air temperature among different places on Earth are largely determined by differences in solar energy input. Every place on Earth receives same total #s of hours of sunlight each year an average of 12 hours per day but not same amount of solar energy. Rate at which solar energy arrives on Earths surface depends primarily on the angle of sunlight. If sun low in sky, a given amount of solar energy is spread over a larger area (and therefore less intense) than if the sun is directly overhead. When sun is low in sky, its light must pass through more of Earths atmosphere, so more of its energy is absorbed and reflected before it reaches the ground. Therefore higher latitudes (closer to poles) receive less solar energy than latitudes closer to the equator. On average, mean annual air temperature decreases 0.4 C for every degree of latitude (110 km) at sea level. Ait temperature also decreases with elevation. As air rises, it expands (its molecules move farther apart), its pressure and temperature drops, and it releases moisture. When air descends, it is compressed, its pressure rises, its temperature increases, and it takes up moisture. Global air circulation patterns result from global variation in solar energy input and from the spinning of Earth on its axis.
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