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Ecological Communities

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  1. 45 Ecological Communities

  2. Chapter 45 Ecological Communities • Key Concepts • 45.1 Communities Contain Species That Colonize and Persist • 45.2 Communities Change over Space and Time • 45.3 Trophic Interactions Determine How Energy and Materials Move through Communities

  3. Chapter 45 Ecological Communities Key Concepts 45.4 Species Diversity Affects Community Function 45.5 Diversity Patterns Provide Clues to Determinants of Diversity 45.6 Community Ecology Suggests Strategies for Conserving Community Function

  4. Chapter 45 Opening Question Can we use principles of community ecology to improve methods of coffee cultivation?

  5. Concept 45.1 Communities Contain Species That Colonize and Persist Community—a group of species that coexist and interact with one another within a defined area Biologists may designate community boundaries based on natural boundaries (e.g., the edge of a pond) or arbitrarily. They may restrict study to certain groups (e.g., the bird community).

  6. Concept 45.1 Communities Contain Species That Colonize and Persist Communities are characterized by species composition; that is, which species they contain and the relative abundances of those species. A species can occur in a location only if it is able to colonize and persist there. A community contains those species that have colonized minus those that have gone extinct locally.

  7. Concept 45.1 Communities Contain Species That Colonize and Persist Local extinctions can occur for many reasons: Species unable to tolerate local conditions A resource may be lacking Exclusion by competitors, predators, or pathogens Population size too small; no reproduction

  8. Concept 45.1 Communities Contain Species That Colonize and Persist In 1883 the volcano on Krakatau erupted, killing everything on the island. Scientists studied the return of living organisms. Within 3 years, seeds of 24 plant species had reached the island. Later, as trees grew up, some pioneering plant species that require high light levels disappeared from the island’s now-shady interior. Species composition continues to change as new species colonize and others go extinct.

  9. Figure 45.1 Vegetation Recolonized Krakatau (Part 1)

  10. Figure 45.1 Vegetation Recolonized Krakatau (Part 2)

  11. Concept 45.2 Communities Change over Space and Time Ecologists have documented recurring patterns of species compositional change. Species composition varies along environmental gradients, after disturbances, and with changing climate.

  12. Concept 45.2 Communities Change over Space and Time Species composition changes along environmental gradients, such as elevation or soil types. A transect is a straight line used for ecological surveys. A transect along an environmental gradient will show the species turnover through space.

  13. Figure 45.2 Species Turnover along an Environmental Gradient

  14. Concept 45.2 Communities Change over Space and Time Many animal species are associated with particular plant communities: The plants they eat may be there; or because plants modify physical conditions and contribute to habitat structure. Habitat structure determines the animal’s ability to get food or avoid predators.

  15. Figure 45.3 Many Animals Associate with Habitats of a Particular Structure (Part 1)

  16. Figure 45.3 Many Animals Associate with Habitats of a Particular Structure (Part 2)

  17. Concept 45.2 Communities Change over Space and Time In any community there is ongoing colonization and extinction, and thus a steady turnover in species composition. Species turnover can result from disturbance events: volcanic eruptions, wildfires, hurricanes, landslides, human activities. Some or all the species are wiped out, and environmental conditions are changed.

  18. Concept 45.2 Communities Change over Space and Time Species often replace one another in a predictable sequence called succession. Example: A patch of elephant dung is colonized by a sequence of dung beetle species.

  19. Figure 45.4 Dung Beetle Species Composition Changes over Time

  20. Concept 45.2 Communities Change over Space and Time Some species are better at colonizing than others. Early-arriving dung beetles tend to be strong fliers with a good sense of smell, or “hitchhikers” that ride on the dung-producers. On Krakatau, the first plants were species that have seeds that are easily dispersed by sea or wind.

  21. Concept 45.2 Communities Change over Space and Time After a disturbance, environmental conditions change with time. Examples: Dung starts out wet and dries over time. As trees grow, the forest canopy closes and light conditions change.

  22. Concept 45.2 Communities Change over Space and Time After a disturbance, succession often leads to a community that resembles the original one. Example: On Krakatau, tropical forests eventually came back.

  23. Concept 45.2 Communities Change over Space and Time If the original community is not reestablished, there is an ecological transition to a different community. Example: Conversion of grasslands to shrublands in the U.S.–Mexico Borderlands after intensive cattle grazing.

  24. Concept 45.2 Communities Change over Space and Time Climate change can also cause temporal variation in communities. As physical conditions change, the geographic ranges of species necessarily change with them. One way to reconstruct such change is analysis of fossilized plant remains in packrat middens. Biologists can show how plant communities of the Borderlands changed over the last 14,000 years as the climate became drier.

  25. Figure 45.5 Species Composition Changes with Climate Change

  26. Concept 45.3 Trophic Interactions Determine HowEnergy and Materials Move through Communities Each species in a community has a unique niche. This concept refers to the environmental tolerances of a species, which define where it can live. Also refers to the ways a species obtains energy and materials and to patterns of interaction with other species in the community.

  27. Concept 45.3 Trophic Interactions Determine HowEnergy and Materials Move through Communities Consumer–resource, or trophic interactions cause energy and materials to flow through a community. Trophic levels—feeding positions Primary producers, or autotrophs, convert solar energy into a form that can be used by the rest of the community.

  28. Concept 45.3 Trophic Interactions Determine HowEnergy and Materials Move through Communities Heterotrophs get energy by breaking apart organic compounds that were assembled by other organisms. Primary consumers (herbivores) eat primary producers. Secondary consumers (carnivores) eat herbivores. Tertiary consumers eat secondary consumers.

  29. Concept 45.3 Trophic Interactions Determine HowEnergy and Materials Move through Communities Omnivores feed from multiple trophic levels. Decomposers, or detritivores, feed on waste products or dead bodies of organisms. Decomposers are responsible for recycling of materials; they break down organic matter into inorganic components that primary producers can absorb.

  30. Table 45.1 The Major Trophic Levels

  31. Concept 45.3 Trophic Interactions Determine HowEnergy and Materials Move through Communities Trophic interactions are shown in diagrams called food webs. Arrows indicate the flow of energy and materials —who eats whom.

  32. Figure 45.6 A Food Web in the Yellowstone Grasslands

  33. Concept 45.3 Trophic Interactions Determine HowEnergy and Materials Move through Communities Gross primary productivity (GPP)—total amount of energy that primary producers convert to chemical energy. Net primary productivity (NPP)—energy contained in tissues of primary producers and is available for consumption. Change in biomass of primary producers (dry mass) per unit of time is an approximation for NPP.

  34. Concept 45.3 Trophic Interactions Determine HowEnergy and Materials Move through Communities Ecological efficiency is about 10%: Only about 10% of the energy in biomass at one trophic level is incorporated into the biomass of the next trophic level. This loss of available energy at successive levels limits the number trophic levels in a community.

  35. Concept 45.3 Trophic Interactions Determine HowEnergy and Materials Move through Communities Ecological efficiency is low because: Not all the biomass at one trophic level is ingested by the next one. Some ingested matter is indigestible and is excreted as waste. Organisms use much of the energy they assimilate to fuel their own metabolism.

  36. Figure 45.7 Energy Flow through Ecological Communities

  37. Concept 45.3 Trophic Interactions Determine HowEnergy and Materials Move through Communities The per capita growth rate of a species is related to the sum of positive and negative contributions of species with which it interacts. Succession can be driven by such interactions. Examples: Late-colonizing dung beetles inhibit early colonizers by competing for nutrients. Late-arriving plant species shade out pioneering species.

  38. Concept 45.3 Trophic Interactions Determine HowEnergy and Materials Move through Communities Consumer–resource interactions can have ripple effects across trophic levels, resulting in a trophic cascade. In Yellowstone National Park, wolves were extirpated by hunting by 1926. Elk were culled each year to prevent them from exceeding carrying capacity, until 1968. Elk population then rapidly increased. The elk browsed aspen trees so heavily that no young aspens could get a start.

  39. Concept 45.3 Trophic Interactions Determine HowEnergy and Materials Move through Communities Elk also browsed streamside willows to the point that beavers (who depend on willows for food) were nearly exterminated. Wolves were reintroduced in 1995 and preyed primarily on elk. Aspen and willows grew again, and the beaver population increased.

  40. Figure 45.8 Removing Wolves Initiated a Trophic Cascade (Part 1)

  41. Figure 45.8 Removing Wolves Initiated a Trophic Cascade (Part 2)

  42. Figure 45.8 Removing Wolves Initiated a Trophic Cascade (Part 3)

  43. Concept 45.4 Species Diversity Affects Community Function Species diversity has two components: Species richness—the number of species in the community. Species evenness—the distribution of species’ abundances

  44. Figure 45.9 Species Richness and Species Evenness Contribute to Diversity

  45. Concept 45.4 Species Diversity Affects Community Function Both aspects of diversity affect community function. A species’ influence in a community depends on its interactions, and also its abundance. Communities with a few very abundant species are largely defined by them, rather than by the many rare ones.

  46. Concept 45.4 Species Diversity Affects Community Function Communities can be thought of as systems with inputs and outputs. Important measures of community function are the total flow of energy into the community (GPP), and net energy available for consumption by heterotrophs (NPP).

  47. Concept 45.4 Species Diversity Affects Community Function Community outputs vary with species diversity. Within a community type, NPP is generally greater and more stable as species diversity increases. A long-term study of prairie plant communities found that above-ground biomass increased as species diversity increased.

  48. Figure 45.10 Species and Functional Group Diversity Affect Grassland Productivity (Part 1)

  49. Concept 45.4 Species Diversity Affects Community Function Possible reasons that species diversity affects community function: Sampling: communities with more species are more likely to have some with a strong influence on community output. Niche complementarity: communities with more species may be better able to use all available resources.

  50. Concept 45.4 Species Diversity Affects Community Function In the prairie plant experiment, the most species-rich plots also had the most plant functional groups: Plant groups differing in traits such as ability to grow in warm versus cool seasons, associations with N-fixing bacteria, allocation to growth versus reproduction, etc.