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Ecosystems. Ecosystem Ecology Ecosystem ecology is the study of how energy and materials are used in natural systems.

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Presentation on theme: "Ecosystems. Ecosystem Ecology Ecosystem ecology is the study of how energy and materials are used in natural systems."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ecosystems

2 Ecosystem Ecology Ecosystem ecology is the study of how energy and materials are used in natural systems

3 Ecosystems An ecosystem consists of communities of organisms and the physical environment they share. This includes both the biotic and abiotic portion.

4 All Organisms Need Energy and Matter To study biotic factors in an ecosystem we must look at the movement of these two things! The physical, chemical, and biological processes that link the biotic and abiotic worlds in an ecosystem are known as ecosystem processes

5 Energy Capture in Ecosystems With few exceptions, life on Earth depends directly or indirectly on the capture of energy from the Sun What is one of the exceptions of this rule?

6 Energy Flow through Ecosystems Producers get their energy from abiotic sources Consumers extract energy from the biomass of other organisms

7 Energy in Ecosystems Plants and other photosynthetic organisms store energy captured from the sun in chemical compounds such as carbohydrates The amount of food available in an ecosystem is dependent on the amount of energy captured by producers

8 Energy Capture Net primary productivity is the amount of energy acquired through photosynthesis that is available for growth and reproduction NPP decreases as the amount of solar radiation decreases from the equator to the poles

9 Energy Capture The NPP can be estimated by the amount of new biomass produced in a given area during a specified period of time Biomass is the mass of living organisms in a given area or ecosystem at one time In terrestrial ecosystems, water, sunlight, temperature, and nutrients affect NPP

10 Energy Capture Nutrients drained off the land stimulate the growth of producers, especially in estuaries. As on land, the NPP in aquatic ecosystems can be strongly limited by sunlight

11 Energy Pyramids Unlike nutrients, energy cannot be recycled within an ecosystem – all energy that is lost from the biotic portion of the ecosystem is as heat As biomass is transferred along a food chain, the available energy declines by 90%!

12 Energy: Secondary Productivity Secondary productivity is the rate of new biomass production by consumers – highest in ecosystems with high net primary productivity Remember net primary productivity is concerned with producers, secondary productivity is concerned with consumers.

13 Eventually, all biomass made by all trophic levels is consumed by decomposers Energy goes in three possible directions: to heat loss, consumers, and decomposers. Who gets the most energy? Energy: Decomposers

14 Nutrients in Ecosystems Nutrients are chemical elements required by living organisms Producers obtain nutrients needed for growth from the soil, water, or air How do consumers get their nutrients?

15 Biogeochemical Cycles Nutrients are transferred between organisms and the physical environment in cyclical patterns called nutrient or biogeochemical cycles

16 Biogeochemical Cycles Reservoir- abiotic long-term storage of nutrients. Not availably to the biotic community in this form Exchange Pool- abiotic source of nutrient that is available to biotic community.

17 Biogeochemical Cycles Once captured by producers, nutrients can be passed from the producer along the food chain Final step: decomposers break down once-living tissues into simple chemical components, returning the nutrients to the physical environment

18 Biogeochemical Cycles The type of nutrient and the abiotic conditions influence the length of time it takes for a nutrient to cycle from the biotic community to the exchange pool and back

19 Biogeochemical Cycles Nutrients that exist as a gas under natural conditions have an atmospheric cycle, which means they can be released into or absorbed from the atmosphere

20 Biogeochemical Cycles A few nutrients, including phosphorus, are said to have a sedimentary cycle because they are not commonly found as a gas under natural conditions and move mostly through land and water rather than the atmosphere

21 Carbon Cycle Carbon cycling between the biotic and abiotic worlds is driven by photosynthesis and respiration (production of CO 2 )

22 Living organisms acquire carbon mainly through photosynthesis and convert it into biomass Decomposers are responsible for releasing the carbon contained in the dead organisms back into the carbon cycle

23 Nitrogen found in soil and water originates from a process called nitrogen fixation that is carried out by certain prokaryotes Nitrogen fixed by bacteria is added to soil or water when these organisms and any host produce waste or die and decompose Consumers acquire nitrogen when they eat plants that have acquired nitrogen from the soil or through their association with nitrogen-fixing bacteria

24 Why do we fertilize with nitrogen?

25 Nitrogen Cycle Nitrogen is not naturally abundant in soil and water and therefore limits the growth of producers in most ecosystems that are unaltered by humans Biological nitrogen fixation is the most important source of nitrogen for biotic communities


27 Phosphorus Cycle Phosphorus is the only nutrient, with a large impact on NPP, that has a sedimentary aspect to the cycle

28 Phosphorus first cycles within terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems for variable periods of time and is eventually deposited as sediment on the ocean floor, where it remains for many years

29 Phosphorus Cycle In Panama there are areas of trees that will lose their leaves, and other that don’t Due to Phosphorus levels In high Phosphorus soil trees can afford to loss their leaves each year In low Phosphorus soil they retain their leaves which causes more water loss

30 Human Actions Can Alter Ecosystem Processes Humans have been disrupting ecological communities for many hundreds of years with often-tragic consequences The past 200 years have brought about large-scale ecological changes that we are only beginning to understand Approximately 58,000 square kilometers of tropical rainforest, equivalent to the size of Illinois, is destroyed every year

31 Human Activities Can Alter Nutrient Cycles When people alter nutrient cycles, the effects can be seen throughout the world. Examples: – Acid rain – Eutrophication – Alteration of land by construction and removal of vegetation

32 Human Activities Can Alter Nutrient Cycles Acid rain is rain with a decreased pH that results from the burning of fossil fuel Acid rain has drastically reduced fish populations in thousands of Scandinavian and Canadian lakes and damaged many acres of forest in North America and Europe



35 Why does excess nitrogen in bodies of water often cause huge algal blooms?


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