Section 1.1: Biomes


The Gulf of Mexico is a marine salt water biome, but the surrounding region is part of the terrestrial Tropical Rainforest and Desert Biomes. The oil spill has had negative affects on both the abiotic and biotic components of these biomes. When the oil is spilled, it spreads very quickly with the help of wind and currents and can create oil slicks that can cover many acres in size. The BP oil spill covered 580 square miles in just three days. Oil spills dramatically effect the most basic abiotic feature of any biome which is water. The oil mixes with water to change its composition and becomes a substance called "mousse." Mousse is a very sticky substance that sticks to whatever it comes into contact with. Many marine animals don't have the adaptations necessary to avoid an oil slick and it may also resemble food and attract fish. Oil spills also have many damaging effects directed towards the biotic components of a biome. The oil spill in the Gulf has caused hypothermia in birds because the oil breaks down the insulation created by feathers. It has also causes the drowning of birds because the oil makes them heavier and prevents them from flying. The oil also damages the airways and immune systems of birds and animals.


external image oil-spill.jpg

Section 1.2: Ecosystems

The oil in the Gulf of Mexico has had a major impact on the surrounding ecosystems that exist on the shorelines and estuaries. Oil also interferes with the breeding grounds of animals and damages the shelters and feeding areas of animals. Since an oil spill limits the amount of resources available in an area, an increased amount of competition is present in the ecosystem. The increased competition farther limits the populations of the animals already affected by the oil spill. An oil spill can affect the niche of numerous organisms. When algae comes into contact with turtle eggs and fish larvae, it causes deformities and effects the niche of that organism. When the niche of an animal is affected, many changes can occur in the ecosystem. The oil spill in the Gulf affected the surrounding shorelines which have concentrated amounts of organisms. These areas have a lot of biodiversity indicating a healthy ecosystem, but the oil spill has caused a loss of habitat and decreased the biodiversity indicating an unhealthy ecosystem.

external image eco05.gif

Section 2.1: Energy Flow in Ecosystems

As a result of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, many producers in the food web are effected. Since producers make up the largest section of the food pyramid once they have been tainted by oil, all the consumers in the food web are subjected to the damaging effects of an oil spill. The oil spill released large amounts of carbon in to the ecosystems in and surrounding the Gulf of Mexico. The presence of the excessive amount of carbon and oil, makes bio degradation seemingly impossible for decomposers to perform. This reduces the amount of usable nutrients in the ecosystem and slows down the energy flow in the food chains.





external image food_web_600.jpg



Section 2.2: Nutrient Cycles in Ecosystems


Carbon Cycle


The BP oil spill has released an enormous amount of carbon into the carbon cycle. This carbon can not be sufficiently processed by the organisms in the Gulf ecosystem because it is in the form of oil and this addition makes the breaking down of carbon very difficult. This carbon will be absorbed by organisms which will go on to die and produce more dead organic matter because of the toxic oil. Decomposers are effected by the oil, disallowing them to break down the dead matter. Due to the toxic effects of the oil on plants, the excess carbon in the ecosystem can not be recycled by plants.

external image carbon_cycle_NASA.jpg




Section 2.3: Effects of Bioaccumulation on Ecosystems


The immense amount of oil being spilled into the Gulf of Mexico is causing biaccumulation in species of all trophic levels. As the amount of oil being accumulated in producers increases, the entire food pyramid is affected. The higher the levels of bioaccumulated toxins at the first trophic level, the more toxic organisms in the tertiary level are due to biomagnification. Oil and carbon are building up in the environment because decomposers cannot break them down. This build up and the rate of biomagnification is effecting the keystone species of the Gulf some of which are manatees, bottlenose dolphins, alligators, crocodiles, sea turtles, and whale sharks.

Section 3.2: How Humans Influence Ecosystems


The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was a direct effect of resource exploitation. Humans are consuming fossil fuels at an alarming pace which causes contamination in ecosystems. The oil spill has released an overwhelming amount of toxins into the Gulf ecosystems. A contamination of such extremes can cause the possible extinction of species. The oil spill is responsible for the habitat loss of numerous organisms. The oil spill has had an effect on the ability of surrounding ecosystems to sustain biological processes and this decrease of sustainability has affected the biodiversity of the Gulf.


external image large_spill.JPG



Bibliography

"Effects on marine life" Murrenhil Corporation 7 June 2010
<http://www.hoytsales.com/rocbarrier/effects_on_marine_life.htm>

Joseph Stutzman "How Do Oil Spills Effect the Environment? " Ezine @rticles 7 June 2010
<http://ezinearticles.com/?How-Do-Oil-Spills-Effect-the-Environment?&id=4264140>

Michael Bloch "Effects of oil spills" Green Living Tips 7 June 2010
<http://www.greenlivingtips.com/blogs/164/Effects-of-oil-spills.html>

I enjoyed using wikispaces this year for doing projects. It allowed me to experience a different format of doing assignments. Wikispaces has definitely been a learning experience and I learned about all the different elements that I can add to my projects like video which would not have been possible with a poster board. Wikispaces is very easy to use, although I did not get to utilize all the available features in my assignments. I have enjoyed doing my work using wikispaces, but it is not a preference of mine. I would rather do a presentation with a poster board because of the ease that option provides.




















TOPIC 5: Describe how climate can be influenced by human activities (eg. Greenhouse gasses, depletion of ozone layer)


Human activity influences climate by causing changes in the Earth's atmosphere. Activities carried out by humans such as driving cars, fertlizing the grass in our backyard and the use landfills. The by-products of these activities affect the atmosphere's incoming solar radiation and outgoing thermal radiation causing higher temperatures in the past decades. Human activity has caused an enhanced greenhouse gas effect by releasing larger amounts of green house gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Changing the components that make up the atmosphere can lead to either a warming climate system or a cooling climate system, but in the past era, humans have had a warming effect. The increase in global temperatures can be traced back to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution around 1750.

A pie graph showing the amount of greenhouse gases that are a by-product of human activity
A pie graph showing the amount of greenhouse gases that are a by-product of human activity






Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and halocarbons are the four main greenhouse gases emitted as a result of human activity. Over time, these gases gather in the atmosphere causing their amounts to increase through time. A large increase in these gases have been occurring since the Industrial Revolution and are a result of human activity.


A graph showing the increase of the three main greenhouse gases. As you can see, a steady increase of the temperature began at around 1750.
A graph showing the increase of the three main greenhouse gases. As you can see, a steady increase of the temperature began at around 1750.

Carbon dioxide, although occurs naturally in the atmosphere, is beginning to have larger concentration. Larger concentrations of carbon dioxide are present in the atmosphere because fossil fuels are used in tranportation, air conditioning for buildings and with the manfacuting of cement and other goods.


A graph showing the increase of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere over the past few decades
A graph showing the increase of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere over the past few decades


Concentrations of methane in the atmosphere have also increased as a result of human activity. Methane is a greenhouse gas released from human activities that are related to farming and because of landfills. The fast food industry is also an indirect cause of increased amounts of methane in the atmosphere. The increased demand of beef results in a larger population of cattle. Methane is the natural by-product of cattle bodily processes. If you increase cattle population, you increase the naturally occurring amount of methane in the air hence causing global warming.

A graph showing the increase of methane in the atmosphere.
A graph showing the increase of methane in the atmosphere.

Nitrous oxide occurs in the atmosphere through natural processes in soils and in the oceans. Fossil fuel burning and using fertilizer are human activites which also release nitrous oxide in to the air.

Human activities are a primary cause of halocarbon gases in our atmosphere. They were used in industrial processes as refrigeration agents and so forth before they were found out to be causing ozone depletion.



A graph showing the increase of temperature in the past era.
A graph showing the increase of temperature in the past era.





Large concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere increase incoming solar radiation and decrease outgoing thermal radiation. This change in the greenhouse gas effect causes global temperatures to rise. Human activities release greenhouse gases as by-products which affect the climate. In the past era, global temperatures have increased drastically affecting climate. An increased climate causing changes to the water vapour in the atmosphere which then goes on to create major changes in climate over long periods of time. Human activities have caused climate change both directly and indirectly.

Bibliography

1. "
How do Human Activities Contribute to Climate Change and How do They Compare with Natural Influences?" 24 April 2010
<http://co2now.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=43&Itemid=86>

2. "Human Activity and Climate Change" 24 April 2010
<http://www.ucar.edu/learn/1_4_2_20t.htm#top>

3."Climate change FAQs" 24 April 2010
<http://www.eoearth.org/article/Climate_change_FAQs#Is_sea_level_rising.3F>