Ecology is the study of nature and the environment.
Everything is connected - plants and animals, sun and rain. In this unit, we
will be looking at the relationships between various components of the
Over the course of this unit, we will go outside a few
times. Students should be prepared for that and dress appropriately - although
this will be weather-permitting, of course. Students should understand that
poor behavior or failure to follow directions in the classroom may result in
them having to remain inside and miss the activity. Make-up activities will be
offered, when appropriate.
One of the major ideas in Ecology is that all
parts of the environment are connected. Every living thing must interact with
other living things to survive. Nonliving things (abiotic
factors) affect the living things (biotic
- Ecology - The study of the environment
and all of the things that interact in it.
- Abiotic Factors - The things
in an environment that are nonliving (never were living).
Factors - The things in an environment that are or were living.
- Environment - An organisms's surroundings, including
all the things and conditions in it.
- Habitat - The
place where an organism lives.
- Niche - The "role" an
organism plays in its habitat. (How it uses/is used by other things in the
- Organism -
A complete living thing.
- Population - All of one type of
living thing in an area.
- Community - All of the populations
in an area. (All of the living things, of all kinds, in an
- Ecosystem - All of the living and nonliving things
that interact in an area.
- Biosphere - All of the
livable space on the Earth.
- Mutualism (+/+) - A
relationship where both sides benefit.
- (i.e. - A bee and a flower. The bee
gets food, the flower gets pollinated.)
(+/o) - A relationship where one side benefits and the other is not
- (i.e. - A bird and a tree. The bird gets a home, the tree is not
- Parasitism (+/-) - A relationship where one side
benefits and the other is harmed.
- (i.e. - A mosquito and a human. The
mosquito gets a meal, the human gets an itchy bite - and possibly diseases!)
The Predator Effect
- Food Chain - A diagram that shows one set of
relationships in an ecosystem.
- Food Web - A diagram
that shows many sets of relationships in an
- Consumer - An organism that must take in food
from its environment.
- Producer - An organism that makes
its own food inside of its body.
- Herbivore - An animal
that eats plants.
- Carnivore - An animal that eats other
- Omnivore - An animal that eats both plants and
- Predator - An animal that kills and eats another
- Prey - An animal that is killed and eaten by a
- Decomposer - An organism that breaks down dead
material, turning it back into soil.
- Scavenger - An
organism that eats animals that were already dead.
Predators help to
stabilize prey populations, so they don't get out of
is the change in an environment over a period of time. For example, if
we stopped mowing the grass on the soccer field, what would happen? The grass
would get long, and other weeds would move in. In a year or two, we would start
getting tall grasses and weeds like goldenrod and milkweed. A few years later,
woody shrubs would start to show up. Young trees would grow. A few decades
later, the soccer field would be a forest.Carrying Capacity is the number of
living things that a given area can support.
Invasive Species are
species that are not native to a certain area; they were brought in from
someplace else. Invasive species can cause problems in an ecosystem because
they have no natural predators in their new habitat, so they quickly
overpopulate and crowd out the native species. Examples include rock bass,
asian longhorned beetle, purple loosetrife, and variable milfoil. The NH guide
to Upland Invasive Species can be found here.
is a region with a certain climate (the average weather over a long time) and a
certain set of organisms that live there.
An ecotone is
the place where two biomes blend together.
There are six major types of
biomes in the world, and many smaller, more specific types. The six major types
1. Tropical Rain Forest
- warm temperatures
& lots of rain (every day) all year long
- tall trees, with many
types of animals that live in them
- separate seasons (temp. changes over the course of a
- rain varies at different times of the year
(broadleaf) and coniferous (evergreen) trees
- hot during the day, cool/cold at night
very little rain
- organisms store water (i.e. - cactus)
- cold most of the year
- very little
- lichens are very common
- 2 types:
arctic tundra - in the far northern parts of the world
- alpine tundra - on mountains, above the
- tree line: no trees grow above this point on the
- more rain than deserts, less
- few trees, mostly grass grows here
- can be saltwater or freshwater
- the types
of organisms that you find depends on the
temperature, depth, salt,