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Ecology

o Describe an ecosystem in terms of organisms.


An ecosystem is the living organisms that inhabit a specific region, how they interact with each
other, and the effects on them of the non-living environment around them.
o List three types of ecosystems.
Some types of ecosystems are aquatic, marine, freshwater, terrestrial, grassland, desert, and
forest.
o Describe the main factors that affect Australias organisms.
Factors include:
Temperature
Biological processes such as digestion, respiration, excretion and reproduction take place at an
optimum temperature range. When living things get too hot or too cold, they do not function
properly.
Humidity of the air
This is the amount of water vapour in the air. The amount of water lost from an organism into the
air depends on the humidity of the air. If the air is very humid (as in tropical biomes) plants and
animals will lose very little water. In contrast, desert biomes have very little humidity. Plants and
animals that live in these areas have special features to help them retain as much water as
possible.
amount of light energy available
Light provides green plants with the energy they need to carry out photosynthesis. Light is
readily available on land. In a water environment, however, most of the light is reflected at the
surfacewith only a small percentage (the green and blue colours of the spectrum) penetrating
to any depth. This is called the photic zone and is where green plants such as seaweeds and kelp
will grow. Plants are not found on the deep, dark ocean floor.
mineral salts and trace elements available
acidity of the soil and water
Plants have a preferred soil acidity in which they like to live, as do organisms that live in water.
We measure the acidity using the pH scale.
wave and water currents
shelter
wind and air currents
shelter
wind and air currents
competition
dispersal
salinity of water
Salinity is a measure of the saltiness of water. Freshwater and marine organisms experience
very different salinity and show marked differences in the way their bodies function.

o Identify the factors that affect the size of populations of organisms.


o Describe some adaptions of living things to factors in their environment.
The albatross is a bird that lives close to the sea. Birds that live in this type of environment
possess special salt glands, which are situated on their heads above their eyes. The glands are
connected to the nostrils and remove any excess salt they consume. The salt runs out of the
nostrils and down grooves in the side of their beaks, finally dripping off the tip.
The camel is a mammal that has adapted to living in an area without food supplies. It has humps
on its back which it uses to store fat. This fat can be used as energy when the camel needs it,
meaning that camels can go for weeks without drinking.

o Give examples of physical (structural) and behavioural adaptions.
The echidna has a stocky body and its back and sides are covered with spines. Between the
spines is a thick, coarse fur, the amount and colour of which depends on where the echidna lives.
Each spine can have several bands of colours, providing an effective camouflage from predators.
These are all physical adaptions.

When the echidna is being attacked, it will roll into a tight ball. If the ground is soft it will then dig
itself in. Only the spines are exposed, making the echidna very painful and unappetising to the
attacker. This is a behavioural adaption.

o Distinguish between biotic and abiotic features in the environment.
A biotic feature is something that is alive. An abiotic feature is non-living.

o Write the equation for photosynthesis and respiration in ecosystems.
Photosynthesis:

Respiration:

o Construct simple food chains.
Food chain: only shows one specific path in a food web.


o Construct simple food webs.

o Outline the need for biodiversity.
Biodiversity refers to the number of different species present in a community. Communities with
a high biodiversity, where there are many different species of plants and animals living together,
survive environmental changes better than communities with low biodiversity. There are usually
many different sources of food in a community of high biodiversity: there are alternatives if one
food source is destroyed. The community is more stable and able to survive changes in the
environment more easily.

o Describe the role of decomposers in the food chain.
Decomposers are the group of organisms which break down the organic matter in dead bodies of
plants and animals and release the nutrients they contain for plants to use in their growth.
Decomposers include bacteria and fungi.

o Use examples to explain the relationships: mutualism and competition.
Mutualism (symbiosis): Both organisms benefit by their relationship with each other. An example
of mutualism is the relationship between the false clown anemone fish with the anemone. Slime
on the fishs body prevents it from being stung and it lives and feeds under the protection of its
host. The anemone receives in return scraps of food form the fish and is cleaned of parasites.

Competition: Often animals living in the same area have the same food or nesting requirements.
This means that the amount of available food or nesting materials must be shared. For example,
plants compete with each other for nutrients in the soil and for the light that is available.

o Describe how humans have affected the environment.
Humans have affected the environment though pollution and waste disposal, hereby making the
environment unfit and unhealthy for the organisms to live there. Some examples of this are air
pollution, enhanced global warming, water pollution, and soil pollution.

o Identify the causes of air pollution, enhanced global warming, water pollution, and soil
pollution.
Air pollution: Industrial activity releases a constant stream of pollutants into the atmosphere.
These include sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and carbon monoxide. Motor vehicles also
release harmful pollutants. In the presence of sunlight, these chemicals react to form a variety of
new pollutants such as ozone and nitric acids. This is often seen as smog.

Enhanced global warming: Every day the sun shines on Earth, delivering large amounts of energy.
Much of that energy is absorbed by the rocks, plants, and buildings but some of it is released
back into the atmosphere as heat. This heat would eventually escape into space if something
didnt stop it. However, certain gases in the atmosphere naturally trap this heat, keeping the
atmosphere warm. This is called the greenhouse effect.

A collection of greenhouse gases are released whenever fossil fuels such as coal, gas, petrol, and
oil are burnt. The main greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and
water vapour. The amount of these gases in the atmosphere has increased dramatically and with
increased industrialisation has caused more heat to be trapped. This is called the enhanced
greenhouse effect and leads to global warming.

Water pollution: Waterways and oceans have become polluted from a variety of sources. These
include sewage, agricultural run-off, agricultural run-off, sediment pollution, salinization, and
inorganic chemicals.

Soil pollution: Over 65 percent of soil degradation is caused by overgrazing and deforestation.
Overgrazing is caused by allowing more animals to graze in an area than the area can sustain.

Deforestation is the large-scale removal of trees. Trees act like giant straws, sucking the water
out of the ground and releasing it back into the atmosphere through their leaves. This keeps the
underground water table at a lower level. When trees are removed, the water level rises, bringing
with it dissolved salts. Remaining trees and plants will die if this salty water gets near the surface.
Removal of plant life makes the soil vulnerable to the effects of wind and rain. Uncontrolled
erosion results and the land is devastated.

o Analyse the impact of air pollution, enhanced global warming, water pollution, and soil
pollution on the environment.
Air pollution:
Air pollution causes rain droplets to absorb chemicals, and fall on Earth as acid rian. This
kills trees and animals.

Enhanced global warming:
Over the last 100 years, the average atmospheric temperature has risen by 0.6 degrees C,
causing the sea level to rise by several centimetres.

Water pollution:
Water pollution causes groundwater to become salty and unusable by many plant and
animal species, causing them to die out.

Soil pollution:
About 10 percent of the Earths surface has been reduced to desert and a further 25
percent has been placed at risk.

o Justify the need for conservation.
Humans rely on the living organisms around them. Plants provide us with the oxygen we need, as
well as being food for us to eat. They are also food for the animals we eat. Plants and fungi
provide the ingredients for many of the pharmaceutical drugs we use when we are ill. It is
estimated that of the 400 000 to 500 000 different species of known plants on the Earth, only 10
per cent have been investigated for their chemical components. Who knows what future cures
are to be found in the plants and animals we are destroying today?

Vocabulary

o Ecosystem
An ecosystem is the living organisms that inhabit a specific region, how they interact with each
other, and the effects on them of the non-living environment around them.
o Populations
The number of organisms present.
o Adaptions
Behavioural and physical characteristics that allow an organism to survive.
o Biotic
Something that is alive.
o Abiotic
Something that is non-living.
o Photosynthesis
When exposed to sunlight, the leaves of plants convert carbon dioxide from the air and water
form their surroundings into glucose and oxygen. They do this by using a chemical called
chlorophyll. The process is called photosynthesis.
o Respiration
The process of metabolizing sugars to yield energy for growth, reproduction, and other life
processes.
o Food chain
A series of organisms each dependent on the next as a source of food.
o Food web
A system of interlocking and interdependent food chains.
o Biodiversity
The number of different species present in a community.
o Competition
Different animals or plants may fight for the same food resource, water, or nesting material.
o Mutualism
Symbiosis. Both organisms benefit by their relationship with each other.
o Pollution
When the environment is made unfit or unhealthy for the organisms that live there.

o Degradation

o Salinity
Salinity is the saltiness or dissolved salt content of a body of water.
o Global warming
A gradual increase in the overall temperature of the earth's atmosphere generally attributed to
the greenhouse effect caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide, CFCs, and other pollutants.
o Fossil fuels
A natural fuel such as coal or gas, formed in the geological past from the remains of living
organisms.
o Conservation
Conservation is aimed at keeping alive all the plants and animals that live together in a specific
habitat, usually by keeping the habitat undisturbed and free of human interaction.
o Endangered species
A species of animal or plant that is seriously at risk of extinction.
o Sustainable

o Introduced species
An introduced species (also known as an exotic species) is an organism that is not native to the
place or area where it is considered introduced and instead has been accidentally or deliberately
transported to the new location by human activity.
o Deforestation
Deforestation is the process whereby natural forests are cleared through logging and/or burning,
either to use the timber or to replace the area for alternative uses.
o Greenhouse gases
A greenhouse gas is a gas in an atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal
infrared range.
o Decomposers
Organisms that break down the cells of dead plants and animals into simpler substances.
o Habitat
The natural home or environment of an animal, plant, or other organism.