Module 2 biocomplexity of the north
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Module 2 Biocomplexity of the North. Dactylica arctica. Xanthoria elegens. Algae under Arctic sea ice. Poripidia flavocaerulescens. Objectives. Learning about feedback mechanisms Using feedbacks to meet management goals Properties of ecological systems Material and energy cycles

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Module 2 biocomplexity of the north l.jpg
Module 2Biocomplexity of the North

Dactylica arctica

Xanthoria elegens

Algae under Arctic sea ice

Poripidia flavocaerulescens

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  • Learning about feedback mechanisms

  • Using feedbacks to meet management goals

  • Properties of ecological systems

  • Material and energy cycles

  • Human-induced ecological changes

  • Notion of ecological health

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Terms and Concepts

  • Homeostasis

    • Maintenance by an organism of a constant internal environment, such as regulation of blood sugar level

  • Equilibrium

    • Steady state for a population, community, or environmental parameter

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Terms and Concepts

  • Chemical cycles

    • Temporal and spatial changes in the distribution of a chemical compound in the environment due to physical or biological processes

  • Energy flow

    • Transfer of energy from sun radiation, through food chains, and dissipation to the environment (subject to the 2 laws of thermodynamics)

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Terms and Concepts

  • Resiliency

    • The ability of a natural system to return to a state of equilibrium after a disturbance (similar to “environmental robustness”)

  • Carrying capacity

    • The level of a population that can be sustained in an ecological environment assuming no human exploitation: dynamic in nature

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Life on earth depends on:

  • Natural cycling of chemical elements

  • Energy flow

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No ecosystem can function without a source of energy, generally through photosynthesis

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Required Reading

  • Box11: The role of fungi

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Feedback Systems

Positive feedback:

An interaction that increases or amplifies the response of the system in which it is incorporated

  • Positive feedback increases change

    • E.g. Increased CO2  warmer temperatures  more methane production in peat lands  higher greenhouse effect  higher temperatures

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Feedback Systems

Negative feedback

  • An interaction that reduces or dampens the response of the system in which it is incorporate

  • Stabilizing; tends to oppose change

    • E.g. Population regulation; increased CO2 increased cloud cover;

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Using feedback systems to meet management goals

  • Increased harvest of caribou leads to lower caribou numbers, less competition for food, less predation, and higher caribou reproduction

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Biological Organization

  • Individual

    • One whole organism

    • Individuals have size, shape, health, or condition

    • They grow, reproduce, and die over time

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Biological Organization

  • Population

    • A group of individuals of the same species occupying the same area at a given time

    • Populations have abundance, biomass, size, and age and sex class structures

    • They compete, exploit prey, and produce biomass

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Biological Organization

  • Community

    • The collection of all organisms that live in a specific region at a given time

    • Communities have biomass, diversity (evenness, richness), and trophic structure

    • Produce biomass, process materials, and change through succession over time

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Biological Organization

  • Ecosystem

    • All of the organisms in an area, together with the physical environment with which they interact

    • Ecosystems have biological as well as physical and chemical structure

    • They move energy, materials, and nutrients

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Energy Flow

  • Energy is a requirement for any ecosystems

  • The North receives less sun energy due to the earth’s orientation towards the sun (changes with season)

  • Ambient temperatures are lower in the Arctic, which means less primary productivity

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Energy Flow within Trophic Chains











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Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program. 1997. Arctic Pollution Issues: A State of the Arctic Environment Report. [online] Oslo: AMAP.

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Ecological health in the Arctic

  • Functions: productivity, food chain integrity, biodiversity

  • Toxicology (contaminants)

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Stresses of Arctic Ecosystems

  • Global changes (e.g. climate)

  • Industrial developments

  • Human exploitation (new technologies)

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Case Study: Snow Geese

  • Rapid expansion (26 million in N. Canada

  • Habitat Degradation (over grazing)

  • Conclusions:

  • South-North landscapes are connected

  • Humans’ influences at macro scales

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Required Reading

  • Implementing the Precautionary Principle by P.L deFur and M. Kaszuba

    • Sections 1, 2, 3, 4.1, 5