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Ecosystems what are they ? (Refer to Essentials of Ecology, G.

Tyler Miller)

Ecosystems
Levels of organization Individual/Organism Population Community Ecosystem Biosphere an Ecosystem consists of all of the organisms living in a community (or communities) together with the abiotic factors with which they interact

Rocky Shore community an example


the mix of barnacles, algal mats, herbivorous snails on rocks etc. the physical environment (dessication, temp, wave action) leads to a vertical zonation pattern predation and competition influence distribution eg. snails grazing algal spores, predatory snails eating herbivores disturbance opens spaces, allows establishment of new species different communities result in different locations

Rocky Shore community

Structure of a community is usually the result of many interactions results from:


many competitive interactions complex mutualisms predators increasing and decreasing variety of disturbances through time environmental fluctuations and more!

Biomes ecosystems & communities on a global scale


(Miller Ch 4 Fig 4.8)

vegetation structure in different parts of the world is similar in similar environments - even
though species are different

biomes are communities with similar structure

Biosphere (ecosphere) - the biosphere (i.e. all


ecosystems on earth) is an additional level of organization

an ecosystem is all of the organisms living in a community (or communities) together with their abiotic factors

Existence of life depends upon


an energy source (the sun) oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and other elements, all of which are part of worldwide geological and chemical cycles

All ecosystems on Earth are linked via global biogeochemical cycles.

Ecosystem function through


Energy flow Cycling of materials A systems approach attempts to understand
the way energy is passed through the system how nutrients are cycled

Individual organisms or species can be considered in terms of the function they perform

What does biodiversity actually do ?


biological diversity allows the different ecosystem functions to be carried out

the primary ecosystem functions are to

Capture Store Transfer

Energy Carbon dioxide Nutrients Water

ECOSYSTEMS ecosystems are a network of interactions, beginning with the PRIMARY PRODUCERS (the PLANTS) and connecting to herbivores, carnivores, parasites, decomposers ...energy, nutrients & water are cycled through the network by these different groups

Systems approach to ecosystem function


Miller Ch 4 Fig 4.6

Flow of energy and materials through an ecosystem

Essential characteristics of ecosystems 1. Energy flow

Energy flows in a unidirectional way (it does not cycle!) fig 4.13 Miller Ch 4 This requires a continuous input of energy into an ecosystem Energy source autotrophs heterotrophs

Essential characteristics of ecosystems 1. Energy flow


Autotrophs
(e.g. plants, algae) organisms capable of synthesizing all their required organic molecules from simple organic substances and an energy source

Essential characteristics of ecosystems 1. Energy flow


Heterotrophs
(e.g. animals) organisms that cannot synthesize complex organic compounds and must feed on organic material formed by other organisms to obtain energy and necessary molecular building blocks for metabolism and growth

Essential characteristics of ecosystems 2. Cycling of materials


Materials (e.g. carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus) are cycled from the abiotic environment, through living organisms, and back to the abiotic environment This results from metabolic activities of plants and animals, and organisms such as bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter

Energy in ecosystems
All organisms require energy
maintenance, growth, reproduction, (and movement)

The energy driving the biosphere (and all ecosystems) is solar radiation, captured via photosynthesis by autotrophs
about 1% of visible light converted to chemical energy about 120 billion tonnes of new organic material produced each year about 99% of all organic matter in the biosphere is autotrophs (i.e. mostly plants)

Sunlight - the source of energy for the biosphere

Miller Ch 4 Fig 4.14

Photosynthesis
Photosynthesis
(+ solar energy) 6 CO2 + 12 H2O C6H12O6 + 6 O2 + 6H2O

Respiration
Energy (from photosynthesis) is released and used by the organism when the complex molecules are subsequently broken down during metabolism

Productivity in ecosystems (Refer to David T. Krohne ;Pg 358-366)


Primary productivity - the rate at which solar radiation is converted into chemical energy by autotrophs (plants) (amount of material or
energy per unit time, e.g. g/m2/yr)

Secondary productivity - the rate at which heterotrophs (animals) convert the chemical energy of their food into new tissue

Productivity in ecosystems
However, not all of the energy is converted into new living tissues
respiration (metabolism) accounts for a large part

Gross primary productivity - energy fixed in


photosynthesis per unit time

Nett primary productivity - energy fixed in


photosynthesis minus energy used in respiration (that is, it is the amount available for harvest at next level)

Productivity in ecosystems
A measure of nett primary productivity is the change in biomass per unit time
(but be aware of what may have been lost)

Biomass - the weight of living tissue per unit area (e.g. kg/ha)

What limits primary productivity?


(The factors that limit rate of photosynthesis limit production) light water temperature nutrients (N, P, trace elements) all are essential - the resource in shortest supply will be the one limiting biomass production

Which are the most productive ecosystems on Earth?

Which are the most productive ecosystems?


Ecosystem Nett primary production (g/m2/yr) 2200 700 600 90 2000 125 500 2500 World primary production (billion t/yr) 37.4 6.0 5.4 1.6 4.0 41.5 0.2 1.6

Tropical rain forest Woodland/shrubland Temperate grassland Desert and scrub Swamp and marsh Open ocean Upwelling ocean zones Algal beds and reefs

Productivity through time


Primary productivity will vary seasonally depending on environmental conditions - growing season in agriculture - tropical vs temperate forests

Productivity may change with the age of an ecosystem (regenerating vs older)


Young ecosystems - often a greater proportion of young actively growing tissue