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Ecosystems: What Are They and How Do They Work?. Chapter 4 APES Ms. Miller. Key Concepts. Basic ecological principles. Major components of ecosystems. Matter cycles and energy flow. Ecosystem studies. Principles of Sustainability. The Nature of Ecology. Ecosystem organization.

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Ecosystems: What Are They and How Do They Work?

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key concepts
Key Concepts
  • Basic ecological principles
  • Major components of ecosystems
  • Matter cycles and energy flow
  • Ecosystem studies
  • Principles of Sustainability
the nature of ecology
The Nature of Ecology
  • Ecosystem organization
  • Organisms—any form of life
  • Populations—group of interacting individuals of same species in a specific area
  • Communities—all populations of species interacting in an area
  • Ecosystems—a community interacting with abiotic factors
  • Biosphere—all earth’s ecosystems together

Fig. 4-2 p. 57

the earth s life support systems
The Earth’s Life-Support Systems
  • Troposphere-sea level to 11 mi above; most of Earth’s air
  • Stratosphere-11-30 miles above; contains ozone layer
  • Hydrosphere-all the Earth’s water
  • Lithosphere-earth’s crust and upper mantle
  • Biosphere-where all organisms live and interact

Fig. 4-7 p. 60

natural capital sustaining life of earth
Natural Capital: Sustaining Life of Earth
  • One-way flowof energy from Sun
  • Cycling ofCrucial Elements
  • Gravity

Fig. 4-8 p.60

natural capital major biomes
Natural Capital: Major Biomes
  • Biomes
  • Role of climate
  • Aquatic life zones

Fig. 4-10 p. 62

ecosystem factors
Ecosystem Factors
  • Range of tolerance
  • Abiotic factors
  • Limiting factors
  • Biotic factors

Fig. 4-13 p. 64

tolerance and limiting factors
Tolerance and Limiting Factors

Law of Tolerance—states “the existence, abundance and distribution of a species in an ecosystem are determined by whether the levels of one or more physical or chemical factors fall within the range tolerated by that species”


Limiting Factor Principle—states “too much or too little of any abiotic factor can limit or prevent growth of a population, even if all other factors are at or near the optimum range of tolerance”

components of ecosystems
Components of Ecosystems
  • Abiotic chemicals

Fig. 4-17 p. 67

  • Genetic diversity-the variety of genetic material within a species or a population

Functional diversity-biologicaland chemical processes such as energy flow and matter cycling needed for survival of species, communities and ecosystems

connections energy flow in ecosystems
Connections: Energy Flow in Ecosystems
  • Food chains-movement of energy and nutrients from one organism to the next
  • Trophic Levels-a feeding level in an ecosystem dependent on whether it is a producer or consumer
  • Food webs-complex network of interconnected food chains
trophic levels
Trophic Levels
  • Primary consumer (herbivore)
  • Secondary consumer (carnivore)
  • Tertiary consumer
  • Omnivore
  • Detritivores and scavengers
  • Decomposers
ecological pyramids
Ecological Pyramids
  • Pyramid ofenergy flow
  • Ecologicalefficiency
  • Pyramid ofbiomass
  • Pyramid ofnumbers

Fig. 4-21 p. 70

primary productivity of ecosystems
Primary Productivity of Ecosystems
  • Gross primary productivity (GPP)-rate at which solar energy converted to chemical energy
  • Net primary productivity (NPP)- GPP-rate at which producer uses stored energy

Fig. 4-24 p. 72


Origins—mixture of eroded rock, mineral nutrients, decaying organic material, water, air, and billions of living organisms

Importance—provides most of the nutrients needed for plant growth and helps purify water

Maturity and Horizons—mature soils have a series of horizontal layers called horizons (O horizon—surface litter layer; A horizon—topsoil; B horizon—subsoil; C horizon—bedrock)

Variations with Climate and Biomes—five major types of soil 1) desert; 2) grassland; 3) tropical rain forest; 4) deciduous forest; 5) coniferous forest

Variations in Texture and Porosity—size of particles and space between particles

Clay—very fine particles

Silt—fine particles

Sand—medium-sized particles

Gravel—coarse particles

connections matter cycling in ecosystems
Connections: Matter Cycling in Ecosystems
  • Biogeochemical cycles
  • Hydrologic cycle (H2O)
  • Carbon cycle
  • Nitrogen cycle
  • Phosphorus cycle
  • Sulfur cycle
the nitrogen cycle
The Nitrogen Cycle

Fig. 4-31 p. 80

the phosphorus cycle
The Phosphorus Cycle

Fig. 4-33 p. 82

the sulfur cycle
The Sulfur Cycle

Fig. 4-34 p. 83

how do ecologists learn about ecosystems
How Do Ecologists Learn About Ecosystems?
  • Field research—going into nature and observing and measuring structure of ecosystem and what happens in them
  • Remote sensing—field data collecting via aircraft and satellites
  • Geographic information systems (GIS)

Information gathered from broad geographic regions and stored in

computer databases

  • Laboratory research—model ecosystem situations tested under laboratory conditions
  • Systems analysis—mathematical and other models that simulate ecosystems
systems analysis
Systems Analysis

Fig. 4-36 p. 85