1.1 Biomes

The Gulf of Mexico has been hit by a huge disaster which is the oil spill. This oil spill is a poses a serious danger to all wildlife and plants in the marine biome. This spill not only affects the marine biome but as well as the terrestrial rainforest biome. Oil is being carried to the land which is a danger to all of the abiotic and biotic components. Oxygen, water, nutrients, light, and soil are some examples of abiotic components that are affected both on land and in water. All those effect the growth of plants and animals. This spill is jeopardizing the survival of many plants and animals because their sources of food and their habitat have been destroyed form the oil spill. About 400 species along the coastal areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida have been threatened.


1.2 Ecosystems

The oil spill has had lots of affects on our environment. It has thrown off the balance in relationships of biotic components. Some of these relationships include symbiotic relationships such as commensalisms, mutualism, and parasitism. Photosynthesis has been affected drastically. There is not enough sunlight going through the water to the plants because of the thick oil. This is affecting how plants grow. When plants are affected so are the animals that feed off of them. This disrupts the whole food web because all the animals are linked together in one way or another. This results in a lot of animals dying because they do not have enough food and their habitat is being destroyed. Competition also increases because there are fewer resources and the animals aren’t able to travel as far for food. This is also very dangerous because animals can get very physical.


Oil can reduce the amount of oxygen available to plants and organisms in a wetland ecosystem. A habitat is the place in which an organism lives. Sea animals live in the ocean but surviving in the rigs of oil isn’t easy. There is very limited oxygen and nutrients and sunlight barely gets through. Since there is habitat loss in the Gulf of Mexico due to the oil, this will cause a loss of biodiversity. Biodiversity indicates the health of an ecosystem. As far as we can see it, the health of the ecosystem is going down because of the oil. An example of this would be birds, they die because their feathers stick and they can’t move or fly.

external image gulf_of_mexico_oil_platorms.jpg external image oil-spill.jpg

2.1 Energy Flow in Ecosystems

Energy flows from one organism to another involving the producer and the consumer. The producer produces the nutrient so the consumer can take it in. These consumers can also become consumed by other organism for energy. Food Chains are being disrupted because of the oil spill.
A food chain in the
Gulf of Mexico would look something like this:
Tertiary Consumers (fourth trophic level) (top carnivores) – (eg Dolphins)
An animal that eats mainly other animals in order to get energy. It is the third consumer on a food chain.
Secondary Consumers (third trophic level) (carnivores) – (eg Pelicans)
An animal that eats plants and/or animals in order to get energy. It is the second consumer on a food chain
Primary Consumers (second trophic level) (herbivores)- (eg White Marlin)
An animal that eats mainly plants in order to get energy. It is the first consumer on a food chain.
Producers (first trophic level) (plants)- (eg Planktons)
Phytoplankton is a generic term which refers to the many microscopic plants (e.g., algae, diatoms) that live near the surface in water ecosystems.


FOOD WEB - is an interconnected food chain. If one organism is taken out, the rest are impacted immensely.
FOOD PYRAMID (ecological pyramid) of Biomass, Populations of organisms, and Energy loss.



external image foodweb.GIF

2.2 Nutrient Cycles in Ecosystems



Carbon Cycle
Decaying and dead form layers on the ground or on ocean ground during sedimentation, gradually turning into rock. This sedimentary rock that is formed contains carbon and oxygen which is known as carbonate. Carbon moves through ecosystems with respiration, photosynthesis, decomposition, ocean processes, and other drastic events, such as volcanoes and forest fires.

external image cycle_carbon_4.jpg


Respiration
Cellular respiration occurs when plants and animals release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is done by converting carbohydrates and oxygen into carbon dioxide and water; energy is then released. (Carbohydrate) + 6O2 --> 6CO2 + 6H2O + Energy


Photosynthesis
Solar energy is converted into chemical energy. Carbon (as CO2) enters the leaves of plants and then reacts with water. With the help of some sunlight, sugars and oxygen are produced.
Light energy + 6CO2 + 12H2O à C6H12O6 + 6O2


The energy flow is being affected because of the thick layer of oil on the surface of the water which prevents any sunlight to reach plants which once again comes to the point of no photosynthesis. This results in not allowing cyanobacteria to create carbohydrates from photosynthesis or living animals to carry out cellular respiration.



Decomposition
Decomposers, such as bacteria and fungi, convert organic molecules into carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is then released into the atmosphere.
When there is no photosynthesis, very little cellular respiration is carried out. The decomposers will biodegrade and then dead organisms will be able to break down. The nutrients from biodegradation will feed the detrivores.


Ocean Processes
Carbon dioxide is dissolved in the cold ocean waters. The cold waters move to the warm tropics. This is where it is warmed and then therefore rises as it warms. Carbon dioxide is released as warmed water is carried back to the poles. This process helps explains why there are so many trees and vegetation close to the equator.




2.3 Effects of Bioaccumulation on Ecosystems

The oil spill will cause damage to the natural processes of the earth. Some of these processes include bioaccumulation, biomagnifications, and bioremediation.
Bioaccumulation- the gradual build-up of chemicals in organisms which in this case could be oil. Chemicals or oil can enter an organism through food intake, skin contact, or respiration. If the intake of chemicals such as oil is too much it can be harmful to the organism. Since there is so much oil in the water and some moving on land both terrestrial and aquatic organisms can be affected.
Biomagnification- the process in which chemicals not only accumulate but become more concentrated at each trophic level. Since the organisms in the lower trophic levels will be affected more then others because they are consuming most of the contaminated food. This leads to keystone species. These are very important species that can affect entire population and the health of an ecosystem. So, if even one of these species dies off the entire ecosystem can suffer. This leads to bioremediation.
Bioremediation- the process in which micro-organisms or plants help clean them up. But if these organisms are being affected by the oil spill then bioremediation cannot take place. Meaning that the oil will remain as it is until, human efforts are made to get rid of it.









3.1 How Changes Occur Naturally in Ecosystems
Ecological succession is the process in which an ecosystem’s organisms change overtime.
Primary Succession occurs in areas where no soil exists, such as glaciations or a lava flow. The weathering and breaking down of rock by lichens and natural processes (wind, rain, freezing) form soil. Pioneer species are plants, such as lichens, that survive and eventually reproduce in a new area. Mosses grow and decay during this time and therefore add more nutrients to the soil. Different types of insects, grasses, and small plants are introduced to the developing community. A climax or mature community (boreal forests, grasslands, and deserts) is formed at the end of primary succession.


Secondary Succession
Secondary succession occurs faster than primary succession, which takes hundreds of years.
Forest fires and other disturbances cause the result of secondary succession. Examples are flooding, tsunamis, and droughts.

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3.2 How Human Influence Ecosystems

Due to the oil spill many habitats will be lost. Since the oil spill is a human accident, the animals and other organisms are the ones to suffer since they themselves cannot do anything about it or clean the mess. Habitat loss results from animals losing their homes from destruction of the ecosystem. Humans use much of the resources of the world and sometimes even over use them for agriculture, industry development, mining, and forestry. This includes land use, and deforestation. These two are major problems the humans put themselves and other organisms in.
Soil Degradation- water and wind erosion removes topsoil from bare land.
Soil Compaction- soil particles are squeezed together from farm vehicles and grazing animals.


3.3 How Introduced Species Affect Ecosystems

The oil spill can also affect native species which are the species that originally or naturally inhabit an area. Due to the spill, many new things may be introduced into the ecosystems of the Gulf in order to clean up the spill, which can subsequently become introduced invasive species. Since they are able to completely change an ecosystem, these new introduced species can put an end to the native species of the area.
Introduced invasive species affects native species. They do this through competition, predation, disease, parasitism, and habitat alteration.

Competition- Organisms compete for food sources and habitats. EX: Carpet burweed competing with rare native plants.
Predation- introduced species can have a bigger impact on prey than native predators. This is because prey may not have the adaptations to fight against them. EX: Yellow crazy ants against crabs.
Disease and Parasites- Less dominant species have a chance to harm other species. Immune systems of organism can be severely affected from diseases. EX: Sea lamprey attacking a fish.

Habitat Alteration- Organisms take over other organisms’ habitats. They change structures such as light and oxygen levels, precipitation levels, pollination, soil chemistry, and nutrient cycling. EX: wild boar raiding an albatross nest.

Bibliography

“Pollution.” Gulf of Mexico oil spill threatens wildlife. June 1, 2010. <http://www.euronews.net/2010/05/07/gulf-of-mexico-oil-spill-threatens-wildlife/>
“BP Oil spill: death and devestation- and it’s just the start.” It could take months or yearsfor the true impact of the spill on surroundings ecosystems to emerge. 2010/05/07 <http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/may/31/bp-oil-spill-death-impact>
“What are Phytoplankton.” 2010/05/07 <http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Phytoplankton/>
"Oil Spill Puts Commercially Significant Cold-Water Reefs In Peril." 2010/05/07<http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100606004815.htm>
Images : June 7, 2010
http://beforeitsnews.com/news/44/395/What_Investors_are_Learning_From_the_BP_Oil_Spill.html
http://www.sustainabilityninja.com/eco-news/tanker-collision-spill-in-gulf-of-mexico-94770/
http://www.starsandseas.com/SAS%20Ecology/SAS%20chemcycles/cycle_carbon.htm


Using Wikispace :

I personally liked wikispaces because it was easy to use and very convenient. It was much better than doing a project on a poster board. It also saves time because everything is right on my computer. I also got to share my ideas and work with my fellow classmates. Wikispace also lets you express your ideas in more creative way rather than using a poster board. The one negative thing about wikispaces is that the computer can be very distracting and it's easy for people to copy but a good thing about wikispace is that it environmental friendly. I would recommend using it for other classes!
Describe How Natural Phenomena Can Affect Climate.






Volcanic eruptions have a negative affect on the climate. Major volcanic eruptions may release atmospheric pollutions which influence the global climate over a period of one to two years. Some other elements that are also released in the atmosphere from the major eruptions are dust and sulphur dioxide in the form of gases. These gases can almost reach the stratosphere layer. In any other small eruption, the pollution released does not last long because it is worn away by the rain. The stratosphere might have volcanic dust and aerosols that may last for about two years though. The volcanic pollution also reduces direct sunlight because of the highly reflective sulphuric acid aerosols.

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Some historic facts state that the long term climate changes on Earth are caused by volcanoes. There have been suggestions that excessive amount of carbon dioxide has caused global warming. These gases such as sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide were released when massive amounts of lava known as the Deccan traps were erupted. That’s one theory but another theory states that reduction in the direct sunlight might have been a cause of global warming. Whatever the reason may be, any natural phenomena can affect our earth’s climate and atmosphere drastically.

The sulphur dioxide released from volcanic eruptions can cause acid rain. Acid rain can also be formed by the splitting of nitrogen compounds by the energy produced by lightning strikes. Acid rain is harmful effects on plants and aquatic animals.
external image p0013033-acid-rain12.gif


The aurora affect also known as the northern and southern lights is another natural phenomenon. This phenomenon does not affect the climate in any negative way though. The aurora borealis is just a light display in the sky which is best seen during the night and in the Polar Regions. The purpose of these lights has not been discovered yet.



external image auroraborealis.jpg

In my opinion, a lot of natural phenomenons may come as disasters and some might not have any affects. But what I wonder is, what causes them and what’s the point of them? Do we have disasters such as hurricanes for a specific reason or the aurora borealis effect just for a striking sight?

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Buchdahl, Joe. "Volcanoes." Atmosphere, Climate and Environment. 25 April 2010. <http://www.ace.mmu.ac.uk/eae/climate_change/older/Volcanoes.html >

"Aurora." Astronomy. 25 April 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aurora_(astronomy)#References>

"Acid Rain." Weather. 25 April 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acid_rain>