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Ecosystems

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A. An ecologist studying desert plants performed the following experiment. She staked out two identical plots that included a few sagebrush plants and numerous small annual wildflowers. She found the same five wildflower species in similar numbers in both plots. The she enclosed one of the plots with a fence to keep out kangaroo rats, the most common herbivores in the area. After two years, four species of wildflowers were no longer present in the fenced plot, but one wildflower species had increased dramatically. The unfenced control plot had not changed significantly in species composition. Using the concepts discussed in the chapter, what do you think happened?

B. Imagine that you have been chosen as the biologist for the design team implementing a self-contained space station to be assembled in orbit. It will be stocked with organisms you choose, creating an ecosystem that will support you and five other people for two years. Describe the main functions that you expect the organisms to perform. List the types of organisms you would select, and explain why you chose them.

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Solution Preview

A. This example highlights the impact of plant predation on species selection. In the fenced off plot animal predation is not a factor on plant selection. In this case plants will compete for resources only with each other and in this case one plant had a selective advantage over the other 3 species of plants. In the plot exposed to animal predation the ratio of the four species is equal. This is likely do to an increased preference of animals for the plant species that dominates in the fenced off plot and/or anti-animal predation tactics by the other three species. Plants often develop ...

Solution Summary

Short paragraphs with web references addressing two ecosystem questions.

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Ecosystems Conservation and Ecosystem Resilience

Ecosystems can change over time in a process known as natural succession. When an ecosystem is disturbed, both the physical (abiotic) and living (biotic) characteristics may be altered. Disturbances may be natural (e.g., a fire started by lightning) or anthropogenic - human caused (e.g., a fire started by a campfire.)

Choose a specific ecosystem and discuss the consequences for damage to the ecosystem and recovery of the ecosystem when it is disturbed by a natural AND an anthropogenic event. Describe the severity of the disturbances. How will the abiotic and biotic characteristics of the ecosystem change? How quickly will the ecosystem recover (the ecosystem's resilience)? Should recovery be allowed to proceed naturally, or should humans intervene with restoration practices? Why or why not?

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