Ecosystem Ecology — 007
Marine Ecology

Ecosystem Ecology — 007

In this video Paul Andersen explains how ecosystems function.

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He begins with a description of how life on the planet is ordered from large to small in biomes, ecosystems, communities, population, and individuals. He describes the major terrestrial and aquatic biomes on the planet. He then describes interactions at the ecosystem level with food webs. He also explains the importance of niche, keystone species, and the edge effect.

Transcript provided by YouTube:

Hi. It’s Mr. Andersen and this is environmental science video 7. It is on ecosystem ecology.

Ecosystems are large areas on our planet that contain both living and nonliving material.

A great example could be these giant kelp forests. The kelp are producers. So they are

taking energy from the sun and converting that into food, which is eaten by herbivores

like this sea urchin, which in turn are eaten by carnivores like this sea otter. Now the

problem with the sea otter is if it dies due to hunting or predation, then the sea urchin

populations will take off. Sea urchins feed on kelp by trimming the bottom and sometimes

the kelp will simply float away. And so if you have too many sea urchins you get what

are called urchin barrens where there are no kelp. And therefore the whole ecosystem

kind of folds in on itself. And so we like to think of the otter as a keystone species.

Just like on this arch, this keystone at the top holds everything else in place. You can

think of each of these stones now as a different species. If we remove that keystone species

then the whole things folds in on itself. In other words some species are actually more

important than others. Before we get to ecosystems we should understand how life is organized

from the very small, one individual for example, sea urchin. It is in part of what is called

a population, or all of the sea urchins in an area. We then take all of the populations

together. That is a community. We then add the non living material. That is an ecosystem.

And then we even have larger areas which are called the biomes. What is larger than the

biomes? That is going to be the biosphere. That is going to be our planet. And so before

we get to ecosystems we will start by studying the major biomes, both terrestrial or land

based and aquatic. We will then move on to the interactions at the ecosystem level. So

that is going to be all of the producers and consumers interacting. A good way to study

that is going to be with their food webs. We are also going to add abiotic or non living

material. We will then jump to individuals and the role of a niche. That is going to

be the job that an individual has. We will then move to the importance of keystone species,

diversity. And then finally edge effects in keeping that ecosystem healthy. And so let’s

start with terrestrial biomes. A desert could be an example. A boreal forest could be an

example. Now there is really only two properties that determine what biome we are going to

have. That is going to be the temperature, average temperature and the average precipitation.

So you could be given a map and just told what is the average temperature and precipitation.

You could make a pretty good guess as to what the biome is going to look like. And so if

we graph those on a graph where we have precipitation on the y, so that is going to be the amount

of annual precipitation from 0 to 400 centimeters per year. And then we look at temperature

from the very cold on the left, -10 degrees celsius as an average up to 30 plus degrees

celsius. You could kind of guess as to what biome are we going to find where it is really,

really hot and where it is really, really moist. You could even point to it on a biome

map. It is going to be the tropical rainforest. And so what you can do on this map is just

read precipitation, temperature. That tells you the biome. If we were to go in Africa

right here and then move to an area where it is still hot but we have less precipitation,

that is going to be a tropical forest or savannah. You are probably familiar with that. If we

keep moving up, so we have even less precipitation then we are going to get into a subtropical

desert. And you can see those at this latitude and at this latitude right here. If we keep

going across from Africa though, lets go up here, we are then going to have temperate

grasslands. Sometimes we have temperate deserts. You can see we have a lot of those in the

midwest of the United States. If we keep going then we are going to get to temperate seasonal

forests. If we keep going then we go to the boreal or northern forests. And then we eventually

get to the tundra. So these are the major biomes. We could fill in a couple of other

ones. So right here in the mediterranean we are going to have woodland shrub lands. We

would have that over in California as well. And then if we go up here we will have these

temperate rainforests where it is cooler but they receive tons and tons of precipitation

throughout the year. And so you can see those are those the major biomes. If we start looking

at aquatic biomes it is not temperature and precipitation, because water exists. And so

it is going to be salinity, the amount of salt, the depth within that water and then

the flow of the water. And so the first way to divide the aquatic biomes is to those that

are freshwater and those that are going to be saltwater. If we look at those that are

freshwater you are probably familiar with almost all of these. Wetlands are areas where

we are going to have water for a large portion of the year but we still have vegetation in

that area. We could move from there to areas that are kind of the boundary between fresh

and salt water. So a salt marsh is going to be an area where we have water flowing in.

So we could have a mix of freshwater and saltwater. Estuaries are like this. Or we co

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