The final paper will combine the ecological concepts from the course under one analysis: ecosystem and community ecology. The overall objective is to understand how the biotic and abiotic factors influence the physical and biological structures of ecosystems and the communities within them. This knowledge is fundamental for developing effective policy, and managing wildlife and habitats.
To begin the assignment, select one of the following ecosystems. Then, address the questions below. Analyzing ecological communities can be accomplished by taking apart all of the physical and biological pieces that make up an ecological community, and then relating them back to one another in order to understand how they interact to form a functioning system. Conclude the paper with an assessment of human impacts on your selected ecosystem and how this will affect the ecology and future adaptation capabilities of the species in your community. Reference your textbook and a minimum of six scholarly sources (i.e., academic journal research articles) to provide examples and evidence that support your main points.
Before beginning the assignment, be sure to read chapters 16 through 18 on community ecology carefully and to learn more about specific ecosystems, review chapters 23 through 25 in the course text, Smith, T.M. & Smith, R.L. (2015). Elements of Ecology. 9th edition. MA: Pearson.
Step 1: Choose one ecosystem to analyze.
Lakes and ponds
Step 2: Address the following points in your paper.
- Describe the physical structure of the selected ecosystem and explain how structural factors come together to create the ecosystem. The physical structure refers to the abiotic (non-living) components—such as temperature, precipitation, bedrock, soil type, riverbed or ocean floor, boulders, and topography—that make up your ecosystem.
- Describe the biological structure of your selected ecosystem. Explain how life forms come together to shape your ecosystem. The biological structure is how the ecosystem is shaped by plants and animals, and it includes forest levels and coral reef structures. It also includes the overall level of diversity, species composition, and dominant plant and animal species with details about niche, height, size, density, and/or function.
- Analyze the function of the selected ecosystem by indicating how the physical and biological structures are related to the ecosystem’s productivity (i.e., the amount of biomass produced), complexity of food webs, nutrient availability, and nutrient cycling.
- Explain the process of succession in your selected ecosystem.
- Describe one mutualistic interaction in your selected ecosystem. Explain the role that each species has in the interaction and the resulting mutual benefits to each species population. In other words, what does each species give and what does each one get in return.
- Describe one predator-prey (or plant-herbivore) interaction. Explain how this interaction impacts the ecological community as a whole. Evaluate the magnitude of human impact on your ecosystem. This includes how humans are affecting the physical structure and species in your ecosystem. Predict whether the species and their interactions presented in your paper will be able to adapt to these changes. For example, what would happen to pollinators in a plant-pollinator mutualism, if plants are destroyed due to urbanization?
Must be 8 to 12 double-spaced pages in length (not including title and references pages) and formatted according to APA style
- Include an introduction stating your selected aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem followed by an overview of topics that will be discussed.
- Include a summary of the main points discussed in the paper, with particular attention to ecosystem function and the future of your selected ecosystem.