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What is ecology? the study of the interactions between organisms and their environment. Schindler et al., 1974, Canada Will adding nitrogen and phosphorus promote the growth of algae in lakes?. N and P added to this lake. Barrier separating the lakes. Two months later:.

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What is ecology?

the study of the interactions

between organisms and their


Schindler et al., 1974, Canada

Will adding nitrogen and phosphorus

promote the growth of algae in lakes?

N and P added

to this lake

Barrier separating the lakes

2. What would be the effect of these

nutrients on life forms in the lake?

What are the components of the


Abiotic (temperature, light, water,

minerals, air)

Biotic (living things; how they interact

with each other and the abiotic


How do you study these interactions?

Organismal ecology- how do organisms

cope with the abiotic limits of their


Population ecology-factors that affect

population density and growth?

Community ecology- interactions

between species: predation,

competition, symbiosis

Ecosystem ecology- energy flow, nutrient

cycling (abiotic components are

considered, too)

Biosphere- from the highest mountains

to the deepest oceans

Abiotic components

  • Sunlight

    • Significance of sunlight?

    • Factors that affect access to sunlight?

    • terrestrial

    • aquatic

II. Water


aquatic organisms

III. Temperature

effect on metabolism

distribution of organisms

“warm-blooded” and “cold-blooded”


IV. Wind- effect on homeostasis


growth patterns

V. Rocks and soil

effect on distribution, density of


VI. Natural disasters


rare events (volcanic eruptions)

more frequent events (fires)

human-caused (oil spills)

Air circulation


As warm air rises, it cools and produces


Cooled air sinks at 30o N and 30o S

and is warmed as it sinks

Wet again at 60o N and 60o S

Dry at poles

Ocean currents



Ocean currents tend to moderate climate

near the coast

Water heats and cools more slowly than

air, so climate is more stable

Local climate

proximity to water


effect of altitude on temperature

effect on air flow

Biomes- ecosystems that cover large

geographical areas



Features of tropical forests

“Vertical stratification”

Little light penetrates the canopy

Many epiphytes (plants that grow on

other plants)

Rainfall is variable


Large herbivores and their predators

Grasslands with a few scattered trees


Very sparse rainfall

Soil temperature can be as high as 140o

during the day

Plants grow very slowly

Plants and animals are adapted to

conserve water

Plants often have spines or thorns

Temperate grassland




Seasonal drought



Soil is deep and rich in nutrients

Temperate deciduous forests

Climate is moist enough to support

growth of trees

Cold winters:

trees drop leaves

animals hibernate

birds migrate

Few original forests left in North America,

but some have recovered

Coniferous forests

Usually have very few tree species

Northern coniferous forest (taiga)

is the largest terrestrial biome

(“spruce-moose” biome)

Subject to heavy snowfall. Significance of

tree shape?

Significance of needles?


Permafrost, cold temperatures, high winds

Very dry climate, but water stands because

it cannot penetrate the permafrost

Growing season is very short (2 months)

Similar conditions exist at high altitudes,

whatever the latitude (alpine tundra)


Mild, rainy winters; long, hot dry


“Mediterranean climate”

Dense, spiny evergreen shrubs

Plants are adapted to and dependent

on fire

Summary: what factors affect biomes?




Ocean, wind currents

What factors threaten biomes?

  • Rain forest

  • Why is the rain forest being cleared

  • at a rapid rate?

  • Is this an appropriate use for this land?

  • Why is the rain forest exceptionally

  • “productive”, compared to other biomes?

Grasslands (savanna, prairie)

Why are these biomes disappearing?


Why does irrigation tend to damage

soils? Why are deserts particularly

sensitive to this damage?

Deciduous forests

what has been the effect of defores-

tation on “top carnivores”?

Why has deforestation benefited

such species as robins, woodchucks,

and deer?

Coniferous forests

What is acid rain? Why are the northern

forests (coniferous and deciduous)

especially affected by acid rain?


What would happen if the permafrost



Can too much fire prevention be bad

for the biome (and the people

living in it)?

Aquatic biomes




Largest part of the biosphere

Example: lake

(plants have roots)


(too dark for photosynthesis)

Benthic zone

Lakes vary in the nutrients they have

Oligotropic: few nutrients, clear water

Eutropic: lots of nutrients: algae and

the animals that feed on them

Estuaries: where freshwater and marine

systems meet. Very productive because:

Moving water

Stirring up silt

Wetlands: can be freshwater or marine

habitat for migratory birds

Coastal zone



Intertidal zone- between low tide and

high tide marks

organisms are subject to wet and

dry conditions,

changes in temperature

wave action

What types of organisms live there?

Open sea- pelagic zone

Photic, aphotic zones- more productive

near poles than the equator

Phytoplankton- photosynthetic microbes

Zooplankton- drifting animals (krill)

that eat phytoplankton

What eats the zooplankton?

How do organisms adapt to their


Physiological (acclimatization)

how do humans adjust to high


Anatomical (protection from elements

or predators)

Behavioral-animals can go somewhere