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Contents Topic 1 Systems and models The concept and characteristics of systems 1 Laws of thermodynamics 2 Equilibria and feedback

ack 4 Representing and evaluating systems and models 5 Gaia theory and Daisyworld 8 Topic 2 The ecosystem Introduction 9 Ecosystem structure and components 10 Food chains, webs and pyramids 12 Abiotic and biotic factors 20 Quantifying and measuring in ecosystems 24 Ecosystem function 31 The cycling of materials 34 Biomes and their distribution 36 Productivity and its calculation 37 Populations and life strategies 40 Succession and zonation 44 Environmental impact assessment 47 Topic 3 Human populations, resource use and carrying capacity Population dynamics, structure and demographic transition 50 Resources, sustainability and sustainable development 56 Energy resources 61 Soil resources 65 Food resources 70 Water resources 73 Carrying capacity and ecological footprints 75 Topic 4 Biodiversity and conservation Evolution and extinction of biodiversity 80 Evaluating biodiversity and vulnerability 86 Conserving biodiversity 91 Topic 5 Pollution management Nature and sources of pollution 97 Monitoring pollution 98 Pollution management model 102 Eutrophication 106 Solid waste management 110 Stratospheric ozone depletion 113 Urban air pollution 117 Acid deposition 119 Topic 6 The issue of global warming 123 Topic 7 Environmental values systems 133 Answers and references 140

Soil resources The soil system Soils are living ecosystems, and a zone of interaction between the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere (rocks) and the biosphere (ecosystem above). Consider in the diagram below how there is a two-way cause and effect interaction between each of the components.

Figure 3.5 A diagram showing interaction between soils and the major spheres of the earth This can be considered in terms of material interactions, including both transfer and transformation processes. The water cycle moves through the soil by infiltration and water may evaporate from the surface. The atmosphere may contain particulate matter that is deposited on the soil and particles may blow up into the atmosphere. Rocks in the lithosphere weather to form soils, and soils at depth and pressure may form rocks. Plants in the biosphere may extract nutrients from the soil and dead plants may end up forming parts of the soil. Consider this diagram in relation to the profile below. Soil profiles and processes Soils can be examined by digging down, normally a metre or so, to reveal the soil profile. This shows horizons (layers) that indicate changing composition with depth. Soil profiles show the transition from the living to the non-living components of the ecosystem. The kinds of soil profiles found vary according to climate, relief and geology. A dark layer containing organic material, when fully decomposed it is called humus. Deepest in waterlogged and cold conditions where decomposition rates are slow, such as tundra. Shallow or none where little organic matter is e.g. desert, or where decomposition is fast e.g. tropical rainforests. This layer of soil is the mixed layer, a mixture of organic and mineral particles. The mixed layers vary in depth depending on the living community in the soil. The deepest mixed layers are normally found under temperate grassland biomes due to the abundance of earthworms. In temperate deciduous forests the acid conditions reduce the number of earthworms and so the mixed layer is shallow.

O horizon

A horizon

B horizon

This layer consists of weathered mineral materials. The depth of the mineral layer varies greatly according to the climate and geology. Tropical soils have deep weathered layers often due to the chemical weathering of the underlying rocks. Leaching in soils occurs when rainwater dissolves useful nutrients in the soil and as the water infiltrates they are moved down into the upper part of these horizons.

C horizon

This layer is made up of the underlying rock type, in various states of weathering.

Figure 3.6 Generalised soil profile

Revision questions 25. Write out the full name and define the following terms: Full Name GP NP R NPP GPP GSP NSP 26. Calculate NPP, R and GPP using the provided data from the light and dark bottle techniques carried out on a temperate freshwater lake. Use the average NPP for all five bottles and give your answers in mg/m3/hr. Bottle Type and Depth (m) (Light - Photosynthesis + Respiration) 0.1 (Light - Photosynthesis + Respiration) 0.5 (Light - Photosynthesis + Respiration) 1.0 (Light - Photosynthesis + Respiration) 1.5 (Light - Photosynthesis + Respiration) 2.0 (Dark bottle Respiration only) 2.0 Oxygen (mg/m /hr) 612 350 1049 1166 1633 -2245


Some IB students were provided with seven giant pond snails and a water tank. The snails were weighed during class times and the faeces filtered off along with uneaten food. They were provided with pond weed, which was weighed. The water was changed at the same time. Their results from the laboratory measurements are shown below. Total Wet Mass of Seven Snails (g 0.05) 380.6 390.8 Dates 27th April 28th April 29th April Total Food Given (g 0.05) 30.9 18.8 219.2 268.9 4th May waste food (g 0.05) 2.0 Faeces produced (g 0.05) 8.3


27th April 4th May

A laboratory estimation of secondary productivity of the golden apple snail, Pomacea canaliculata over eight days 27. Calculate NSP, R and GSP from the data using the following steps: a. Calculate NSP in g/day of wet mass for all seven snails during the eight days.

b. Estimate food assimilated. Combine the mass of waste and faeces and remove this from the total food given. Convert this figure to g/day to give GSPP.

Topic 1 Systems and models

Positive feedbacks Positive feedbacks are produced by an initial change in the system triggering a cycle that returns to and amplifies that change. Positive feedbacks produce change in a system; they move away from equilibrium to a new state. Further decrease in x Further increase in x

Decrease in x

Increase in x

New equilibrium of x

Equilibrium of x

New equilibrium of x

Figure 1.3 Generalised flow diagram of positive feedback loops Positive feedback in climate change and succession Positive feedbacks change systems over time, spiralling away from initial equilibrium. Such feedbacks in the global climate system lead to an increase in warming.

Albedo Refers to the reflectivity of a surface; black is lowest and white is highest.

For example, the melting of the polar ice caps will lead to a decrease in global albedo as white ice and snow cover reflects more light. This would lead to an increase in warming as the ground absorbs more heat, leading to a decrease in ice cover. Positive feedbacks work on an ecosystem that is undergoing succession. Changes in microclimate and soils lead to changes in community structure, diversity and productivity. At climax, the community remains in balance unless a disturbance such as tree fall, disease or human interference. See the succession section of unit 2 on page 44 for more details of this.

Representing and evaluating systems and models

Evaluating models Models are simplified representations of the real world. They may help us think clearly about what occurs in the real world and to help us analyse how the real world may respond. However, they are not the real world and so weaknesses and limitations occur in all models as a result of simplification. Making predictions based on models is particularly difficult in environmental systems or societies as there are so many factors and thresholds at which system behaviour can change and feedback loops may alter (tipping points). When you are asked to evaluate methods or models you need to explore both the strengths and the weaknesses of the technique. Consider the following points: What are the limitations of knowledge? (The data may not be known or not available) Is the data a representative sample of the whole system? Is the data reliable? Is it an evidence based model that makes logical sense? Are there feedbacks with possible tipping points? Are there potential influences on the model that are missing? Is the model a useful tool for analysing the situation?

Topic 1 Systems and models

The Gaia theory and Daisyworld

James Lovelocks Gaia theory suggests that feedback mechanisms are important in regulating conditions on a planetary scale. His model of Daisyworld is used to show how populations of white and black daisies could regulate temperature on a otherwise barren planet. White daisies keep cool an when it is hot, therefore they survive and reproduce. Their population grows and as it does so the planets albedo increases. The planet cools down following a population boom of whites. As it cools down the black daisies gain the advantage as they absorb more heat and keep warm, therefore they advantage survive and reproduce. As they reduce the albedo of the planet it warms up further further. See if you can spot these trends on the graph below. In this world the sun has some random changes in solar energy output, which affects the temperature. Daisies influence albedo; white daisies cool the planet, dark ones warm it. Daisy populations are shown at the top, the dark line represents black daisies, and temperature is shown underneath. Temperature is in arbitrary units.

Figure 1.5 Graph showing temperature regulation, based on t Daisyworld model the aisyworld generated by a simulating spreadsheet (Lovelock, 1989). Revision questions 17. Draw a model to show feedback loops in Daisyworld Daisyworld. 18. Evaluate Daisyworld as a model for predicting temperature change on Earth. 19. Apply the systems concept on a range of scales, from small scale to global.