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Unit 1

1.0 Unit 1 Overview: The Living World: Ecosystems

4 min readnovember 4, 2021

jenni520065

Jenni MacLean


AP Environmental Science ♻️

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Unit 1 Overview: The Living World: Ecosystems

Unit 1 is a foundational unit for Environmental Science because it's going to look at how all of the processes on Earth work. Before we can jump into the fun stuff like climate change, we have to understand the fundamentals of the carbon cycle. By looking at these concepts out of context, this unit can seem a little bit Earth Science-ish, so try to always think about how humans interact with natural cycles or systems... and by interact, we mean interfere 😈. 

Biomes 

When you think of biomes, they come in two major categories: terrestrial (land 🌄) and aquatic (water 🌅). Biomes are categorized by the climate (temperature and precipitation) and the biomass (plants and animals) living in them. Not all of Earth gets the same amount of energy from the Sun. As we move farther from the equator, the angle of the Sun's energy is less direct, and less total energy is absorbed. This means the temperature and primary production are less in northern latitudes and create somewhat predictable biome distribution patterns. For the major biomes, we classify them based on yearly rainfall and temperature. This diagram shows what biome we can expect to find in a given area based on those factors.
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-gjN6RfTFV5Ia.png?alt=media&token=df48c78a-f4ec-4c2a-8100-db05a0182ca5

Major Terrestrial Biomes

Tundra
  • Climate: Cold, low precipitation.
  • Plants: No trees, small shrubs, lichens, and mosses. 
  • Animals: Mosquitos, Reindeer, arctic fox, arctic hare.
Taiga or Boreal Forest
  • Climate: Cold, low precipitation.
  • Plants: Coniferous evergreens that can withstand the cold.
  • Animals: Moose, bear, and wolves.
Temperate Rainforests
  • Climate: Moderate temperatures and high precipitation. Usually, near oceans, summers are foggy, and winters are rainy. 
  • Plants: 12-month growing period and climate produce very large trees such as redwoods as well as ferns and mosses.
  • Animals: Deer, elk, bear, squirrels, and raccoons.
Temperate Seasonal Forests
  • Climate: Warm summers and cold winters, over 40 inches of rain annually.
  • Plants: Predominantly deciduous trees such as maple, oak, and hickory. 
  • Animals: Deer, bear, squirrels, and raccoons.
Tropical Rainforests
  • Climate: Warm and wet with little seasonal change. 
  • Plants: Distinctive layers of plant growth including a canopy, sub-canopy, and understory. 
  • Animals:  More biodiversity than any other terrestrial biome with up to 60% of Earth's terrestrial species.
Shrubland 
  • Climate: Hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters.
  • Plants: Growth is constrained by lack of precipitation. Plants are well adapted to drought and fire. Yucca, sage, and scrub oak.
  • Animals: Drought-adapted animals, including reptiles, coyotes, and foxes. 
Temperate Grassland
  • Climate: Lowest precipitation of any temperate biome. Cold, harsh winters and hot, dry summers.
  • Plants: Grass and small flowering plants. Plants must be able to withstand fires, frost, and grazing animals. 
  • Animals: Large herds of grazing animals, including bison and antelope. 
Savanna
  • Climate:  Warm with wet and dry seasons. 
  • Plants: Plants drop leaves in the dry season rather than the winter. Predominantly grasses with the concentration of deciduous trees depending on the amount of annual rain in that given area. 
  • Animals: Large grazing animals. 
Desert
  • Climate: Hot temperatures and extremely dry. 
  • Plants: Limited vegetation, cacti, and succulents. Annual plants often grow rapidly after rain, reproduce and die. (This creates large flowering events 🌼🌻🌸)  
  • Animals: Drought-adapted animals, including reptiles, birds, and rodents.

Major Aquatic Biomes

Estuaries
  • One of the most productive biomes in the world. 
  • An area of the coast where freshwater and saltwater mix together.  
  • Considered a rookery or place where a lot of species, especially birds and fish, have their babies 🐟
Coral Reef
  • Found in warm, shallow water beyond the shoreline. 
  • Represent the most diverse ecosystem.
Streams and Rivers
  • Flowing freshwater that originates from precipitation, melting snow, or underground springs.
Lakes and Ponds
  • Containing standing water, some lakes are huge and extremely deep. 

Cycles

Every biome relies on natural cycles to move matter from one form to another. The major cycles we are going to study are carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and hydrologic (water) cycles. It's important to understand that Earth is a closed system for the most part–no mass or matter will be lost, just moved into a new form or location. In this unit, we will study the nitty-gritty of how the cycles work. To understand the big picture, here are the major topics pertaining to each cycle in this class:
Carbon Cycle: Climate Change 🌎
Nitrogen and Phosphorus Cycles: Large scale farming, runoff, and eutrophication 🌾
Water Cycle: Human access to clean water, water projects, and water pollution  🌊

Ecosystem Interactions 

All living things are constantly interacting with their environment and each other.  They compete for limited resources and must adapt physically and behaviorally to survive. 

Common species interactions 

Mutualism: 😀-😀
Commensalism: 😀-😐
Parasitism: 😀-😟
Predator and Prey: 😀-😟

Trophic levels 

In any ecosystem, we can follow the flow of energy from one trophic level to another.  Each time, an organism consumes something that is considered the next trophic level. As a rule, only 10% of the available energy is moved up each trophic level, and the other 90% is lost as heat 🔥 This means it takes a lot more energy to create an organism in a 3rd or 4th trophic level than something at the bottom. Here is a diagram to help us better visualize the movement of energy. 
https://firebasestorage.googleapis.com/v0/b/fiveable-92889.appspot.com/o/images%2F-brsIy81vsgXz.png?alt=media&token=6406f0ad-338b-46df-8365-5151dc2cbda2
 

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🏜Unit 1: The Living World: Ecosystems
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