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Ecology is the study of life in

the environment, as well as

how all factors of the living
and non-living world
Earth is an elaborate,
interconnected system
Because of this, we are
concerned with the health of
all parts of the world


Global Declines in Biodiversity

Much of ecology focuses on Earths biodiversity

Currently in sixth mass extinction

Biodiversity: the sum total of all life on Earth

Wild and domesticated species

Biodiversity has both intrinsic and extrinsic value and

Ecosystem functions down

is worth conserving
Used to learn more about ourselves and our world
Potential source of resources
Intrinsic beauty/happiness

Organization of Life
Habitat: wherever an organism lives
To keep systems organized, we describe life on Earth in

a string of hierarchies:
Species Population Community Ecosystem

Biome Biosphere
Every organism has a niche, or a role in the



Large zones of land or aquatic habitat with similar

climate, organisms, and soils

Caused by climate bands, wind currents, and cycling

of the atmosphere
Six major terrestrial biomes: Tundra, taiga, temperate

deciduous forest, grassland, tropical rainforest, desert

Some biomes are more fragile than others (tundra, TRF)
Some biomes are more diverse

Energy Flow
Energy comes from an initial

source (a producer or
autotroph) and flows to
organisms that cannot produce
their own energy (a consumer
or heterotroph)
Most energy on Earth from the
process of photosynthesis
Energy supplied to animals by
the process of cellular

Energy Flow

Energy Flow

Energy efficiency depends

Energy efficiencies

on how it is transferred
and where it comes from
Energy tiered in trophic
levels and often arranged
in pyramids
Rule of 10 states than on
average, only about 10% of
energy transfers from one
level to the next

depend also on
procurement and transfer:
Herbivores more efficient

procurers of food but get

less energy from what
they consume
Predators get more
energy from their food,
but have to invest more
energy into obtaining it


Food Chains

Levels of Feeding

Show order of energy


Simple link of one

Primary consumers


organism to the next

Arrows show direction of
energy flow: point from
what is being
eaten/consumed to what
is doing the consuming
All chains start with the
Each day 1019 kcal of solar

energy = 100 million

atomic bombs

Secondary consumers
Tertiary consumers

Quaternary consumers
Detritivores: feed on decomposing matter, often at all

or many levels of the food chain

Food Webs

Organismal Interactions

More accurate representation

Organisms in an ecosystem interact in dynamic and

of energy transfer
As ecosystems are interactive,
food chains arent always as
simple as they seem

diverse ways
Primarily driven by competition
Competition is what ultimately drives evolution

Example: Alligator can be a

top predator OR consumed

by a secondary consumer

Resource Partitioning
Competition over resources is what leads to

Rather than compete, organisms segregate into different

Niches are determined based on partitioning
Can lead to adaptive radiation in extreme instances



Organismal Interactions

Mutualism: both organisms benefit

Symbiosis: organisms working together or closely to

More to come on bees

Commensalism: one benefits

other is neither harmed nor

Parasitism: one organism benefits,

the other is harmed


Crypsis and Mimicry

Crypsis: an organisms ability to hide or blend in
Highly evolved survival strategy that helps an organism
avoid predation
Mimicry: organisms that resemble other, more

dangerous organisms or inanimate objects

Typically an example of coevolution

Solar (or geothermal) energy converted to chemical

energy = Gross Primary Productivity

Energy available for the next trophic level after

respiration, etc. is subtracted= Net Primary

This will tie in to photosynthesis later dont forget!

PP varies depending on
Amount of CO2
Amount of light
Minerals available
Amount of water
Temperature roughly doubles each 10oC
All of the above are also photosynthetic limiting



Availability of Resources and

Competition Leads to Specific
Population Interactions!

S-shaped curve

Every ecosystem has a limited amount of energy and

resources, so populations cannot grow indefinitely

The maximum amount of organisms in an area is that

ecosystems carrying capacity

Carrying Capacity
Different organisms have evolved differently to combat

competition and carrying capacity

r and k Strategists
r-strategists: Give birth
to many offspring which
mostly die early in life
k-strategists: Give birth
to a few offspring, care
for them, many reach

Limiting Factors
Ultimately what limits the size of populations are

limiting factors
Either living factors (biotic) or nonliving (abiotic)
Can be dependent on density or not
Can be devastating or regulatory


Matter Recycling

Hydrologic Cycle

Matter can neither be

created nor destroyed, so

all matter on Earth cycles
through various phases
Predictable patterns of
cycling are what create and
dictate Earths
biogeochemical cycles
Biogeochemical cycles

typically have both abiotic

and biotic components

Carbon Cycle

Phosphorus Cycle

Nitrogen Cycle

Nitrogen Fixation

Nitrogen is the primary

Natural or synthetic process

component of the atmosphere

Atmospheric N cannot be used
by plants or animals
It must first be converted
through a process called nitrogen


Living N Fixation
Done exclusively by prokaryotes
Best-known N fixers are bacteria called

Found in most soils
Both free-living and attached to plant

Primarily associated with leguminous
plants (peanuts, beans, peas, clover,
Can fix the most bacteria when found in
plant root nodules

What we need for N-fixing and

where we get it
H+ come from a chemical in

the plant called NADP

ATP (energy) comes from the
break-down of sugar in
cellular respiration
Anaerobic conditions
maintained by plant using a
protein called

First step in N-Fixation

Bacteria must transform nitrogen gas into ammonium

Catalyzed by the enzyme nitrogenase
Needs a supply of hydrogen, ATP for energy, and NO

oxygen (anaerobic)

Nitrogen Fixation as a Relationship

Considered a type of mutualism:
Rhizobium get a habitat and suitable place to live as well
as what they need to fix nitrogen
Plants in turn get a supply of usable nitrogen

Nitrogen Fixing elsewhere

The Haber Process

Lightning has enough energy to sever the triple bonds

Ammonium is an essential

between two N
N then combines with oxygen in nitrogen oxides which
are soluble in water
Significant source of nitrogen in areas of heavy
thunderstorms (tropics)

plant nutrient, so it is
necessary in many fertilizers
Haber process combines
nitrogen and hydrogen gases
into ammonia
Takes a lot of energy, though


How plants use fixed nitrogen

If the plant has Rhizobium in its roots: amino acids

synthesized right there in the nodules and then

transported to rest of plant
Amino acids proteins
If no Rhizobium: plants uptake fixed nitrogen from soil

Transform nitrates nitrites ammonia amino

acids in the roots, OR

Transport nitrates to leaves where they are transformed

eventually into amino acids

Eventual goal is proteins either way

From plants to animals

We can only get nitrogen from organic

molecules like those in plants or other

Some amino acids but mostly proteins
ingested and broken down into AAs
AAs absorbed by blood in primarily

the small intestine and transported to

all cells
Excess AAs are broken down via
deamination in the liver and excreted
in urine.

Animals to soil
Proteins are broken down by decomposers like fungi

and bacteria using protease enzymes

Ammonia is released by these bacteria in the process of


Ammonia is in turn broken down by different bacteria

into first nitrites and then nitrates

Process of nitrification carried out by nitrifying

bacteria, especially those in the groups Nitrosomonas

and Nitrobacter get energy from nitrification
Requires lots of oxygen


Reverse the process and turn nitrates into nitrogen gas
Common in decomposition sites (compost, wet soils,

boggy areas, sewage treatment)

Brings the cycle full circle!

Life is ordered in a hierarchy


The Five Kingdoms

Prokaryota = Prokaryotes
Sometimes divided into Archaebacteria and Eubacteria
Protoctista = Protists. Called Kingdom Protista in

the States
Fungi = true mushrooms, slime molds, molds, shelf

Plantae= Plants
Animalia = Animals










Organizing biology is all about

Already talked about the

5 (6) kingdom system

Each large group is split

into smaller groups

(Domain) Kingdom

Phylum Class Order

Family Genus

Carl Linnaeus

Binomial Nomenclature

Nobilized as Carl Von Linne,

Every organism on Earth that is described by a

he was a Swedish botanist who

revolutionized the way
scientists communicate about
Published the Systema Naturae
in 1735

scientist has two names (Bi- nomial)

Genus name: Larger group
Species name:

specific to ability to

Widely hailed as one of the

most important biological texts

ever written

Why care about binomial

Standardizes scientific

Enables scientists from different
cultures to communicate about
the same organism
Common names are VERY

Dichotomous Keys
Series of two-condition questions used to identify

organisms by morphological traits

Based in the logic that genetically (and thus

evolutionary hierarchically) similar organism are

similar in appearance