Communities and Ecosystems Biological Community The collection of all populations of all species living together and potentially interacting in a restricted area (biotic components of the ecosystem). • Examples are all of the organisms within a pond or a forest. Populations of different species in a community interact and form a system with its own special attributes that cannot be predicted based on knowledge of the individual populations alone. Species Diversity The variety of different organisms included in a community. Diversity has two components: • species richness the total number of different species. • relative abundance the number of individuals of each species. Trophic Structure The feeding relationships between and among all of the species that make up the community • Food chains • Food webs The trophic structure determines the way that energy and nutrients pass through the community • From photosynthesizing plants, through herbivores, through carnivores, and ultimately to the decomposers Trophic Levels in a Food Chain Bluegills 2o consumers Daphnia 1o consumers Humans 4o consumers Bass 3o consumers Algae - producers Trophic Level Producer/Consumer Plant/Herbivore/Carnivore Example Fifth Decomposers Decomposers Fungi & Bacteria Fourth Tertiary Consumer Larger Carnivore Mountain Lion Third Secondary Consumer Carnivore Weasel Second Primary Consumer Herbivore Gopher First Producer Photosynthetic Green Plant Wild Mustard The organization of a typical terrestial food chain. Food Webs Food webs essentially show "who eats whom" within a community or ecosystem. The direction of energy flow is shown by the arrows. Since food chains rarely follow a precise linear sequence, the food web is a better way to show energy flow between different trophic levels. The food web interconnects several different food chains within the community. Ecological Succession The orderly, predictable sequence of stages in the development of a mature (climax) community over time. • Start with a clear area with no communities • Succession begins with a PIONEER community, which includes opportunistic settlers, such as low weeds and grasses • Succession ends in a CLIMAX community, such as a hardwood forest, which is quite stable in the absence of natural disasters. Primary Succession Occurs in a new habitat where no community has previously existed Indiana Dunes Volcanic island Dune Succession (Indiana Dunes) Beach and Foredune Vegetation Marram grass Ammophila breviligulata Pioneer species, roots help to hold sand together. Holds moisture and nutrients in the soil. Cutaway view of dune stabilized by Marram grass Stabilized Dune Vegetation Shrub Zone: note Junipers and Bearberries Pine Zone: mainly Jackpines Oak-Hickory Forest - the Climax Community Secondary Succession Replacement of one community by another • Old field succession • Fire succession Species Interactions Keystone Species Keystone Species Based on idea of the keystone in an arch. Keystone takes the weight of all the other stones in the arch. Without the keystone the entire structure collapses. Keystone Predator (Paine 1969) Pisaster Starfish Mussels Keystone Predator: a species that preferentially consumes and holds in check another species that would otherwise dominate the system. Pisaster keeps mussel population under control and thereby increases species diversity of rocky intertidal community. Rocky shoreline on Northwest coast Site of Paine’s experiments Note mussel bed above highest spray line. Diverse algal and invertebrate community below spray line Mussels cleared by Pisaster - Barnacles beginning to colonize Keystone Species A keystone species is any species whose impact on its community or ecosystem is large and disproportionately large relative to its abundance. • Does not have to be a predator! Maintenance of keystone species is critical to conserving ecosystems. PROBLEM?? We rarely know which species are the keystones. Disturbance Disturbance and Diversity Ecosystems First Law of Thermodynamics: Energy cannot be created or destroyed but can only be transformed from one one form into another. Second Law of Thermodynamics: Whenever energy is changed from one form to another, there is always a "loss" of usable energy. • Electrical energy to light energy: the light bulb get hot due to the lost energy Energy in Ecosystems Energy enters ecosystems in the form of sunlight It is captured by plants and stored in the chemical bonds of sugar (organic matter) Sugar is broken down by all cells to release the stored energy. This process is not completely efficient, and some of the energy is lost as heat. Thus, energy passes through an ecosystem, entering as light energy and leaving as heat energy. Photosynthetic Producers Photosynthesis 6 CO2 + 6H2O 6 C6H12O6 Respiration The sun is the ultimate source of energy for most ecosystems on Earth Pyramid of Energy At each link in the food chain, energy that was originally stored by the autotrophic plants is dissipated along the food chain. The more links in the food chain, the more dissipated or unusable energy. There is generally a 90% loss at each link of the food chain, creating a pyramidshaped diagram that is wider at the bottom and narrow at the top. Pyramid of Mass & Numbers The mass (weight) and numbers of organisms decreases along a food chain (e.g. grass-grasshoppers-frogs-snakeshawk). It takes many pounds of grass (or numerous grass plants) to support one hawk at the top of a food chain. • Why does the pyramid of numbers look different for the oak woodland? • Why do the two pyramids of biomass look the same? Pyramids of Numbers Hawk Hawk Frogs Frogs insects Grass Grassland insects Oak Trees Woodland Pyramids of Biomass Hawk Hawk Birds Birds Insects Insects Grass Oak Trees An Ocean Food Pyramid It takes about 2500 pounds (1136 kg) of phytoplankton to support 0.5 pound (0.227 kg) of tuna. This is roughly the amount of tuna packed into a single can sold at the supermarket. • Note: The decrease from 2500 to 500 is 80 percent. The other trophic levels in this pyramid are decreased by 90 percent. Human Food Chains With a 90 percent decrease in energy for each link of a food chain, the efficiency of each link is approximately 10 percent. In other words, about 10 percent of the food energy available to each link is utilized and the remainder is lost "dissipated.“ Food chains with fewer links have more energy available to the top level consumer. The following table compares human food chains in the U.S. and Asia. Asian food chains typically support more people because they have fewer links and less energy lost from the ecosystem. Which diet can support more people: a diet rich in meat proteins, or a diet based on rice and beans (also supply all the necessary proteins). U.S. Asia Plants 1000 kcal Plants 1000 kcal Beef 100 kcal People 10 kcal People 100 kcal Biomagnification The red dots represent units of DDT. Starting with a low concentration in the water, the DDT concentration (density of red dots) increases within the bodies of each successive trophic level, ultimately reaching a lethal concentration in the Grebes.