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Module 1:

Multidisciplinary Nature of
Environmental Studies

Lecture 1:
Environmental study (EVS): It is multidisciplinary subject that includes and/or integrates
Biology, Geology, Chemistry, Physics, Engineering, Sociology, Health, Anthropology,
Economics, Statistics, Computers, Philosophy, to the study of the environment and the solution
of environmental problems. It deals with every issue that affects living organisms.
Environment: A complex system that includes physical, chemical, biological, social, and
cultural elements. These elements are inter-linked to each other in a complicated manner. Any
disturbance of any of these elements will threaten the structure of the environment.
Broadly Environment is classified in to two types:(a) Natural Environment: In a natural environment there is no interference of human beings. It
is a self regulated mechanism referred to as Homeostasis means any change in natural
ecosystem is brought about by natural processes and it is counter balanced by natural changes in
other components of environment.
(b) Manmade / Anthropogenic Environment: The changes in environment are due to
interference of human activities, particularly due to the wide use enhanced technologies,
increased population etc.

1.1 Scope and Importance of EVS:


Scope:
1. Environmental pollution control
With the knowledge of environmental science everybody can control the pollution.
He/she can handle the waste management and also look for ways to control pollution on the
aspect of pollution control.
2. Environmental management
There are several independent environmental consultants who are working with the
knowledge of environmental science everybody can control the pollution.
He/she can handle the waste management and also look for ways to control pollution on the
aspect of pollution control.
Central and State pollution control Board they give direction for controlling pollution due to
industrial development.
There are several current consultants who are working with government pollution control
boards, involved in policy making, pollution control, and maintenance of ecological balance.

3. Environmental studies in industry


Environmental scientists work towards maintenance of ecological balance; they also work
towards conservation of biodiversity and regulation of natural resources as well as on
preservation of natural resources.
Most of the industries have a separate environmental research and development section.
These sections govern the impact that their industry has on the environment.
Our environment is being degraded by the rapid industrialization. To combat this menace
there is a growing trend towards manufacture of "green" goods and products.
4. Research and development
Research and development has tremendous scope due to increment in public awareness
regarding the environment.
Universities conduct research studies in order to develop the methods toward monitoring and
controlling the source of environmental pollution.
Due to an increasing threat from global warming, many steps are being undertaken for the
reduction of greenhouse gases and the adoption of renewable energy resources.
They generate awareness now regarding the use of solar energy for variety of purposes. This
provides scope of environmental history in the field of research and development.
5. Social Development
NGO (nongovernmental organizations) help in creating awareness regarding the protection of
the environment and making the masses aware of various environmental issues.
They generate a public opinion in this field. They work towards disseminating information
and in bringing about changes in political policies that are personally effect the environment.
The social dimension of this profession includes controlling population explosion through
organizing advisory awareness camps.

Importance:

It aims to develop environmental ethics among us.


It helps us to understand our role and duties in the environment.
It teaches us the importance of conservation of life and biodiversity of the environment.
It teaches us about sustainable development.
It provides us sufficient knowledge about global environmental problems and their abatement
and control.

1.2 Need for Public Awareness


Many people are not aware of air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution and their adverse
effect or impact on health. Even some of the people are aware about it but are least bothered.
Hence it is necessary to make people aware of it and educate them so that their each and every
act/action would be eco-friendly.
3

Objectives of Public awareness


Conservation of nature and natural resources
Protection of species
Solve existing environmental problems
Propagating Public awareness
Environmental education
Government Institutions and NGOs
Mass media (Radio, TV, Newspaper)
Seminars and conferences
Entertainment
Public supported Movements (Street Plays, March, Events)
Science centres

Questions:
1) Discuss the importance of the Environmental Study.
2) Explain various modes needed for public awareness to protect environmental
degradation?

Multiple Choice Questions:


1. Environmental study is a subject that encompasses
a) All branches of science only.
b) Only social science.
c) Branches of sciences and social science.
d) All branches of science, art and social science.
2. Biosphere is the
a) Envelope of gases surrounding the earth.
b) The outermost layer of earths crust.
c) The thin layer of organic matter containing all living things on the surface of the
earth.
d) None of the above.
3.

World Environment Day is observed on


a) April 22nd
b) May 1st
c) June 5th
d) October 2nd

4. The Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for contributions towards


environmental conservation was awarded to
a) Mother Teresa
b) Barack Obama
c) Nelson Mandela
d) Wangari Maathai
5. Global atmospheric temperatures are likely to be increased due to ,
a) Burning of fossil fuels
b) Water pollution
c) Soil pollution
d) None of these

Keys: 1(d) 2(c) 3(c) 4(d) 5(a)

Lecture 2:
1.3 Depleting Nature of Environmental Resources
Depleting Nature of Forest:
The problem of depletion and destruction of forests cause imbalances and enhance
threatening the survival of the human species. In the past 100 years the world has lost
almost half its forest area. And, as indicated by reports of the FAO (Food and
Agriculture) the Earth is losing on net every year 11.2 million hectares of virgin
forest.
Over the years, the area under forest cover has decreased steadily, as forests have been
cleared for agriculture, industry, housing, mining and other development activities
like the construction of roads, railways, and hydroelectric plants.
This decline of forests, particularly serious in the case of tropical forests not only
increases the greenhouse effect by reducing the absorption of carbon dioxide but also
aggravated the decline of water resources.
As the dwindling forest cover, logically increases rainfall runoff, which favours
floods, soil erosion and reduces the amount that seeps into the ground to recharge
aquifers.
Since the beginning of civilization, as seen from the Indus Valley Civilization, people
have been clearing land for agriculture to meet the food needs of the ever- growing
population. Most forest communities follow a method of slash and burn or shifting
cultivation, known as Jhum in the Indian subcontinent. They clear a patch of forest,
cultivate crops on it, and abandon it the following season. Then they move on to a
new area and follow the same pattern. They often return to the same area after a few
years. This method is more common in the hilly regions.
It is now believed that Jhum was a good method of cultivation as the land was left
uncultivated for a long period. This allowed the forest to regenerate and the soil to
stabilize. Once the trees are felled, the soil becomes less fertile as it removes the
nutrient-giving vegetation layer. This also leads to severe soil erosion. If the land is
left to regenerate, the forest re-grows and the soil becomes stable.
Today, though, this method of cultivation causes extensive damage to the area. Due to
the increase in population, people are compelled to cultivate on the same plot of land
more frequently as there is very little forest area available. Forests are also being
converted to permanent settlements. Thus, forests cannot regenerate, and, in some
cases, forest areas have become wasteland within a few years due to frequent
cultivation.
Forest conservation measures:

Adoption of massive plantation (commercial forestry) and forest extensions (social


forestry, argo forestry, urban forestry).
Prohibition of mining activities, dam construction , road,rails etc.
Enforcement of strict environmental laws and legal provisions (reserve forests, sacred
forests, reforestation, block cutting).
Public awareness through afforestation and forest conservation programmes.

Depleting Nature of Soil:

Soil is the most important component of land.


It is the fertile surface layer of the earth capable of supporting plant growth. It is a
mixture of mineral matter, air, water, organic matter (humus) and organisms.
Soil provides water and minerals to plants and serves as a habitat for bacteria, fungi
and many kinds of animals.
Unfortunately, industrial agriculture practices continue to damage and deplete this
valuable natural resource.
Productive land is reducing due to dams, roads, railways, urban settlements, factories,
canals, mines, and others.
While intensive ploughing and monocrop agriculture systems have caused nutrient
depletion and wide-scale soil erosion, over-application of fertilizers and pesticides
have contaminated our soils and polluted our waterways.
Although there is evidence that our fruits and vegetables contain lesser amounts of
nutrients and minerals than they did 20 years and 50 years ago, it is not clear whether
this is solely from soil depletion or from some other cause such as non-organic
farming practices and green harvesting as well.
On an organic farm, soil quality is maintained through the use of organic matter like
manure and field waste. These products are turned into useable nutrients by worms,
nematodes, bacteria, mycorrhizal fungi and other organism in the soil.
In contrast, soils on non-organic farms are often lacking in soil biota. Many of the
beneficial micronutrients in the produce fall into the class of 'phenolics'.
Plants make phenolics to repel pests and if the plants are sprayed with pesticides they
have little need to produce phenolics and so produce far fewer, resulting in less
nutritious food for us.

Measures for soil conservation:

Soil conservation is a combination of all methods of management and land use that
safeguard the soil against depletion or deterioration by natural or man-induced factors.
Planting cover crops such as grasses, on uncultivated land. Trees should be planted
along hill slopes.
Adoption of correct farming techniques such as contour ploughing, terracing and strip
cropping.
Construction of check dams on steep slopes which prevent gully erosion and spread
gullies.
Creation of wind breaks by planting lines of trees, hedges or fences which obstruct the
path of wind thereby reducing its speed and hence reducing soil erosion.
Controlling grazing of pastures.
Suspending cultivation for one season and more, so as to help the soil recover its
fertility.

Depleting Nature of Water:

Water covers more than two-thirds of the Earth's surface. But fresh water represents
less than 0.5% of the total water on Earth. The rest is either in the form of seawater or
locked up in icecaps or the soil, which is why one often hears of water scarcity in
many areas.

Worldwide, the consumption of water is doubling every 20 years - more than twice
the rate of increase in population.
Though depletion of water resources is not a problem for everyone, the United
Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) notes that 1.2 billion people,
almost 20 percent of the Earth's population, are experiencing water scarcity. Another
500 million come perilously close to that threshold.
A large amount of water is wasted in agriculture, industry, and urban areas.
Excessive extraction for irrigation where groundwater is slowly renewed is the main
cause of the depletion, and climate change has the potential to exacerbate the problem
in some regions.
It has been estimated that with available technologies and better operational practices,
agricultural water demand could be cut by about 50% and that in urban areas by about
33% without affecting the quality or economics of life.
But most governments do not have adequate laws or regulations to protect their water
systems.
Due to the increase in population there has been a rise in the demand for food, space
for housing, consumer products, etc., which has in turn resulted in increased
industrialization, urbanization, and demands in agriculture thereby leading to both
river and groundwater contamination.
Drought and changes in routine weather patterns are responsible for water depletion in
some areas.

Conservation measures for water resources:


Identification and isolation of contamination sources.
Adoption of latest technologies in order to reduce the waste generation and/or to treat
them effectively.
Improved and innovative planning of water resources.
Increased participation of the public, either directly or indirectly in solving the crisis.
Enhanced co-ordination among the Agencies involved (both Governmental and NonGovernmental) for the cause of the Nation.

Depleting Nature of Minerals:

Mining and recovery of mineral resources has been with us for a long time.
Human wealth basically comes from agriculture, manufacturing, and mineral
resources.
Our complex modern society is built around the exploitation and use of mineral
resources.
Since the future of humanity depends on mineral resources, we must understand that
these resources have limits; our known supply of minerals will be used up early in the
third millennium of our calendar.
Furthermore, modern agriculture and the ability to feed an overpopulated world are
dependent on mineral resources to construct the machines that till the soil enrich it
with mineral fertilizers, and to transport the products.
The presently available resources were created by earth processes and after we
exhaust them, more will develop in a few tens of millions years, which is not in
human life-spans. We are now reaching limits of reserves for many minerals .
Human population growth and increased modern industry are depleting our available
resources at increasing rates.

The consumption of natural resources proceeded at a phenomenal rate during the past
hundred years and population and production increases cannot continue without
increasing pollution and depletion of mineral resources.
The geometric rise of population has been joined by a period of rapid
industrialization, which has placed incredible pressure on the natural resources.
Limits of growth in the world are imposed not as much by pollution as by the
depletion of natural resources. As the industrialized nations of the world continue the
rapid depletion of energy and mineral resources, and resource-rich less-developed
nations become increasingly aware of the value of their raw materials, resource driven
conflicts will increase.
By about the middle of the next century the critical factors come together to impose a
drastic population reduction by catastrophe.

Conservation and sustainable use of minerals:

Avoid wastage of mineral resources.


Recycle, reuse of mineral resources.

Use of environment friendly substitutes.

Full-cost pricing (include the harmful environmental costs of mining and processing
minerals in the prices of items).

Redesign manufacturing processes (use less mineral resources, produce less pollution
and waste, mineral based waste as raw materials).

Sell services instead of things.

Questions:
1)
2)
3)
4)

State causes of soil erosion.


Discuss the environmental problems arises from deforestation.
Write a note on depleting nature of environmental resource-forest.
Explain in detail the depleting nature of environmental resource- water.

Multiple Choice Questions:


1. Which of the following is not the viable protection against deforestation
a) Reduce the consumption of the forest & related products
b) Boycott products of the companies involved in deforestation
c) Privatisation of the forest land
d) Environmental education
2. Which of the following forms of land degradation is more common in India
a) Desertification
b) Soil erosion
c) Land slide
d) Soil subsidence
3. How does dams affects deforestation
a) Open up previously inaccessible forest to public
b) Submerges forests
c) Damages downstream ecosystem
d) All of the above
4. Which of the following is not true about deforestation
a) Population explosion is one of the reason for deforestation
b) Clearing of forest for agriculture causes deforestation
c) Deforestation is taking place only in developing country
d) Cash crop economy of third world is the cause of deforestation
5. Which of the following statement about the forest is not correct
a) Forest reduces soil erosion
b) Provides recreational opportunities
c) Provides a source of economic development
d) None of the above
Keys: 1(c), 2(b), 3(d), 4(c), 5(d)

Lecture 3:
1.4 Global Environmental Crisis
Global Environmental Crisis Related to Population:

The United Nations projects that the worlds population will be anywhere between 7.7
billion to 11.2 billion by 2050, that's an average of 9.4 billion by that time.
Population growth in poor countries is damaging many local environmental resources,
including fresh water, trees and topsoil and that this in turn makes survival even harder
for the poorest people.
Ironically we focus our attention on the 7 billion, actually the real source of
environmental destruction are not the 7 billion, but the 1%, the handful of millionaires
and billionaires who own more, consume more, control more, and destroy more than
all the rest of us put together.
The argument is that as long as humans continue to come up with scientific
advancements then the earths resources are infinite. Humans have been making these
advancements since the beginning of time, not even necessarily because the resource
ran out, but even because the new advancement is more efficient.
For example, to cook food humans have switched from burning wood to burning
natural gas. Silicon was used before primarily for glass, now it is a significant
component in microchips and optical fibres.
If humans re-arrange the resources they already have to substitute for the ones they
may lose due to the growth, then no amount of population increase can dry up the
planet - in theory.

Global Environmental Crisis Related to Water

Water is life and is necessary for all ecosystems. Sound ecosystems ensure balanced
communities of species and rich livelihoods. Rich and diverse livelihoods are
fundamental for our well-being and for the survival of the poorest.
Our meals, our health and our livelihoods depend on biodiversity. Food resources
from agriculture or fisheries, the diversity of medicinal herbs, water-consuming
industries, or tourist activities developed next to lakes and rivers demonstrate that
water resources are vital to nature and human. In addition, nature plays a role of
regulation and purification of water resources, thus contributing to better water supply
and quality.
For instance, the average American uses 176 gallons of water a day while the average
African family uses just 5 gallons.
While the world's population tripled in the 20th century, the use of renewable water
resources has grown six-fold. Within the next fifty years, the world population will
increase by another 40 to 50%. This population growth - coupled with
industrialization and urbanization - will result in an increasing demand for water and
will have serious consequences on the environment.

Already there is more waste water generated and dispersed today than at any other
time in the history of our planet: more than one out of six people lack access to safe
drinking water, namely 1.1 billion people, and more than two out of six lack adequate
sanitation, namely 2.6 billion people, 3900 children die every day from water borne
diseases (WHO 2004).
One must know that these figures represent only people with very poor conditions. In
reality, these figures should be much higher.

Global Environmental Crisis Related to Land

Agriculture, particularly the use of industrial fertilizers and other chemicals, has
fundamentally upset the chemistry of the entire planet. Already, the use of fertilizers
has more than doubled the flows of nitrogen and phosphorus compounds in the
environment, resulting in widespread water pollution and the massive degradation of
lakes and rivers.
Excess nutrient pollution is now so widespread, it is even contributing to the
disruption of coastal oceans and fishing grounds by creating hypoxic "dead zones,.
Given our current practices, future increases in food demand will dramatically
increase water pollution and ecosystem destruction through agricultural effluent.
Ironically, the fertilizer runoff from farmlands compromises another crucial source of
food: coastal fishing grounds.
Land use is also one of the biggest contributors to global warming. Of the three most
important man-made greenhouse gasses carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide
land use and agricultural practices, including tropical deforestation, emit 30
percent of the total. That's more than the emissions from all the world's passenger
cars, trucks, trains and planes, or the emissions from all electricity generation or
manufacturing.
The vast majority comes from deforestation, methane emissions from animals and rice
fields, and nitrous oxide emissions from heavily fertilized fields.

Global Environmental Crisis Related to Sanitation

There are at least 2.6 billion people in the world without improved sanitation. Most of
these 2.6 billion reside in rural Asia and Africa.
Improved sanitation is defined by the World Health Organization as connection to a
public sewer, connection to a septic system, a pour-flush latrine, a simple pit latrine or
a ventilated improved pit latrine.
But technically, even access to improved sanitation does not solve the problem
because conventional pit latrines usually fail to sanitize and they contribute to
groundwater pollution.
Also, septic systems and sewage treatment plants often discharge into the
environment with little or no sanitization or nutrient removal. In turn, the effluent and
sludge produced at sewage treatment facilities often pollutes groundwater, lakes and
seas.
So in actuality, far more than 2.6 billion people need to gain access to effective and
sustainable sanitation.
Sanitation can improve social and economic conditions for all, but especially for
impoverished communities.

It offers empowerment and safety, particularly to women and girls in the areas that are
often without sanitation, by providing a private and dignified environment for
urinating and defecating.
Even if the sanitation crisis can be communicated to and understood by more people,
the need to find sustainable alternatives to conventional approaches for both
developed and developing countries remains.
Sustainable and ecological sanitation calls for a holistic approach.

1.5 Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a
particular area, as well as the non-living, physical components of the environment with which
the organism interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight.

Structure of Ecosystem
An ecosystem comprises two main components:
(i)
Biotic include plants, animals and microorganisms and
(ii)
Abiotic mainly include sunlight, substratum, water, minerals, carbon dioxide and
oxygen.
Biotic components are the living things in the ecosystem. From the tiniest bacteria to the
largest mammal, all need abiotic components in order to survive. They need air to breath and
light to photosynthesize, for example.
If the ecosystem is small, the biotic factors will rely on the abiotic components more than if
the ecosystem is large. If there is much diversity in an ecosystem the biotic factors rely on
each other as well as on the abiotic components.
Components of Ecosystem

Biotic

Abiotic

Autotrophs

Heterotrophs

Producers

Consumers
Herbivores

Producers

Decomposers
Carnivores

In an ecosystem, producers are those organisms that use photosynthesis to capture


energy by using sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to create carbohydrates, and then
use that energy to create more complex molecules like proteins, lipids and starches
that are crucial to life processes.
Producers, which are mostly green plants, are also called Autotrophs.
In a process called photosynthesis, plants convert radiant energy from sunlight into
chemical energy. They use this chemical energy to convert water and carbon dioxide
into sugars. Plants use some of the sugars they create to build plant parts like stems
and leaves. Some is used as active energy for growth, reproduction and
photosynthesis. The rest is stored within the plant as a kind of energy reserve.

Consumers
Consumers are heterotrophic organisms mostly animals, which generally ingest and
swallow their food.
The food of consumers consists of organic compounds produced by other living
organisms.
Decomposers
These are saprophytic (sapro = to decompose) micro organisms such as bacteria and
fungi, which obtain their food from dead bodies to producers and consumers and their
organic wastes.
Abiotic components are non-living components in the environment. This can be either a
chemical or physical presence. Abiotic components fall into three basic categories:
Climatic factors include humidity, sunlight and factors involving the climate.
Edaphic refers to soil conditions, so edaphic factors include soil and geography of the
land.
Social factors include how the land is being used and water resources in the area.

Questions:
1)
2)
3)
4)
5)

What is the impact of growing population on environment?


Write a brief note on environmental crisis related to water.
Discuss the sanitation status in developing country?
In which manner the land is one of the most vital factors for our existence? How?
Explain the Ecosystem.

6) Explain the structural components of Ecosystem.

Multiple Choice Questions:


1. Population explosion will cause
a) Socio-economical problems
b) Food scarcity
c) Energy crises
d) All of the above
2. Population growth in developing countries as compared to developed countries is
a) Negligible
b) Slower
c) Faster
d) At almost the same growth rate
3. The threat to global environmental balance & fast depletion of natural resources
are all outcome of
a) Overviews of natural resources
b) Population explosion
c) Pollution
d) All of the above
4. Which of the following is a possible producer in an ecosystem?
a. Plants & some bacteria capable of producing their own food
b. Animals
c. Human beings
d. Fish
5

The energy flow in the ecosystem is


a. unidirectional
b. bidirectional
c. multidirectional
d. cyclic
What is the term for a collection of similar ecosystems?
a.
b.
c.
d.

ecosystem
Ecotone
biome
community

Keys: 1(d), 2(c), 3(b), 4(a), 5(a), 6(c).

Lecture 4:
Classification of Ecosystems
An ecosystem may be natural (like forest, lake, ocean etc) or man-made (such as an
aquarium, a crop field etc), temporary (like a rain fed pond) or permanent (like a lake, forest,
etc), aquatic (such as pond, ocean etc) or terrestrial (like grassland, forest, etc).

a) Natural Ecosystem: Natural Ecosystem may be terrestrial (like desert, forest, etc) or
aquatic like pond, river, lake etc. A natural ecosystem is a biological environment that
is found in nature (e.g. a forest) rather than created or altered by man (a farm).
b) Artificial Ecosystem: Humans have modified some ecosystems for their own benefits
and these are Artificial Ecosystem. They can be terrestrial (crop field, garden etc.) or
aquatic (aquarium, dam, manmade pond etc.).

Terrestrial ecosystems
Terrestrial ecosystems are found everywhere apart from water bodies. They are broadly
classified into:

The Forest Ecosystem


These are the ecosystems where abundance of flora (plants) is seen and they have a large
number of organisms living in relatively small areas. Therefore, the density of life in forest
ecosystems is very high. Any small change in the ecosystem can affect the whole balance and
collapse the ecosystem. They are again divided into few types.
Tropical evergreen forest: Tropical forests which receive an average rainfall of 80 to
400 inches in a year. These forests are marked by dense vegetation comprising of tall
trees with different levels. Each level gives shelter to different kinds of animals.
Tropical deciduous forest: Dense bushes and shrubs rule here along with broad
levels of trees. This type of forests is found in many parts of the world and large
variety of flora and fauna are found here.
Temperate evergreen forest: These have very few numbers of trees but ferns and
mosses make up for them. Trees have spiked leaves to minimize transpiration.
Temperate deciduous forest: This forest is found in the moist temperate regions with
sufficient rainfall. Winters and summers are well defined and with trees shedding their
leaves during winter.
Taiga: Situated just south of the arctic regions, Taiga is distinguished by evergreen
conifers. While the temperature is subzero for almost six months, the rest of the year it
is buzzing with insects and migratory birds.
The Desert Ecosystem
Desert ecosystems are found in regions receiving an annual rainfall of less than 25cm. They
occupy around 17 percent of all land on the planet. Due to very high temperature, intense
sunlight and low water availability, flora and fauna are very poorly developed and scarce.
Vegetation is mainly bushes, shrubs, few grasses and rarely trees. Leaves and stems of these
plants are modified to conserve water. The best known desert plants are the succulents like
spiny leaved cacti. Animal life includes insects, reptiles, birds, camels all of whom are
adapted to the xeric (desert) conditions.
The Grassland Ecosystem
Grasslands are found in both temperate and tropical regions of the world but the ecosystems
are slightly varying. This area mainly comprises of grasses with very little amount of shrubs
and trees. Main vegetation is grasses, legumes and plants belonging to composite family.
Many grazing animals, herbivores and insectivores are found in grasslands. Two main types
of grasslands ecosystems are:
1. Savanna: These tropical grasslands are seasonally dry with few individual trees. They
support large number of grazers and predators.
2. Prairies: This is temperate grassland. It is completely devoid of trees and large shrubs.
Prairies can be categorized as tall grass, mixed grass and short grass prairie.
The Mountain Ecosystem
Mountain lands provide a scattered but diverse array of habitats in which a large range of
plants and animals are found. At higher altitudes harsh environmental conditions generally
prevail, and only treeless alpine vegetation is found. The animals living here have thick fur
coats for prevention from cold and hibernate in winter months. Lower slopes commonly are
covered by coniferous forests.

Aquatic ecosystem
An aquatic ecosystem is an ecosystem located in a body of water. It comprises aquatic fauna,
flora and the properties of water too. There are two types of aquatic ecosystems, Marine and
freshwater.
The Marine Ecosystem
Marine ecosystems are the largest ecosystems with coverage of nearly 71% of the Earth's
surface and containing 97% of the planet's water. The water in Marine ecosystems has salts
and minerals dissolved in them in high amounts. Different divisions of marine ecosystems
are:
Oceanic: The relatively shallow part of the ocean that lies over the continental
shelf.
Profundal: Bottom or deep water.
Benthic: Bottom substrates.
Inter-tidal: The area between high and low tides.
Estuaries
Salt marshes
Coral reefs
Hydrothermal vents-where chemosynthetic bacteria form the food base.
Many types of organisms are found in marine ecosystems including brown algae, corals,
cephalopods, echinoderms, and sharks.
The Freshwater Ecosystem
In contrast to the Marine ecosystem, freshwater ecosystems only cover 0.8% of the Earth's
surface and contain 0.009% of its total water. There are three basic types of freshwater
ecosystems:
Lentic: Still or slow-moving water like pools, ponds, and lakes.
Lotic: Fast-moving water like streams and rivers.
Wetlands: Places where the soil is saturated or inundated for at least some
time.
These ecosystems are home to amphibians, reptiles and almost 41% of worlds fish species.
Faster moving turbulent water typically contains greater concentrations of dissolved oxygen,
which supports greater biodiversity than the slow moving water of pools.

Importance of ecosystem

Ecosystem study gives information about the amount of available solar energy in an
area.
It gives data about the availability of mineral elements, their utilization and recycling
in the environment.
Inter-relationships between various types of organisms as well as between organisms
and abiotic environment can be determined.

Productivity of producers and consumers is known.


The maximum number of producers and consumers of various categories which can
be supported in the ecosystem is known.
Information can be gathered about ways to increase productivity, effect of pollution,
degree of exploitation along with conservation of resources.

Food chain
In an ecosystem energy flows from one trophic level to another. A trophic level represents a
group of organisms, which are either predators or they get consumed. All organisms in an
ecosystem are linked to one another based on their nutritional needs. This relation between
the individuals constitutes a linear chain called the food chain.
Ultimately a food chain always begins with the producers. The various components of the
food chain can be defined as a group of organisms in which there is transfer of food energy
through a series of repeated eating and being eaten
A food chain shows how each living thing gets food and how nutrients and energy are passed
from creature to creature. Food chains begin with plant-life, and end with animal-life. Some
animals eat plants, some animals eat other animals.

Two types of food chains are recognized in nature. These are Grazing food chain and Detritus
food chain.
1. Grazing food chain:
The grazing food chain starts from green plants passes on to herbivorous primary
consumers and ends with carnivorous animals. Thus the nutrition produced by plants utilizing
energy of solar radiation are used in the following three ways (i) Used for respiratory activity of the plant
(ii) Get decayed
(iii) May be consumed by herbivores
In a grazing food chain there are basically four trophic levies - Auto trophic, primary
consumers, secondary consumers and tertiary consumers. Grazing food chain is the most
important food chain in nature.

Characteristics of Grazing Food Chain


a) These are directly dependent upon solar radiations as the primary source of energy and the
producers (green plants) synthesize their plant biomass by the process of photosynthesis.
Producers form the first trophic level.
b) Herbivores or primary consumers eat upon the producers and form the second trophic
level.
c) Herbivores are in-turn eaten by different categories of carnivores forming the higher
trophic levels.
d) Grazing food chains are longer food chains and they always end at decomposer level.
2. Detritus food chain:
Detritus or decomposing food chain begins with dead organic matter goes to micro organisms
and then passes on to organisms that feed on detrivores (organisms that - eat detritus) and
their predators. Ecosystems of this type are less dependent on direct solar energy. On the
other hand they depend on the supply of organic matter produced by another ecosystem.
Detritus food chains are seen in those areas where there is plenty of organic matter in the soil
as in temperate forests. In a detritus food chain organic matter to start the chain comes from
outside. The main source of organic matter is the leaf fall from the trees producing lot of
litter. The fallen leaf fragments are acted upon by saprophytic fungi and bacteria and are
eaten by a small group of animals.
These animals include crabs, copepods, insect larvae, grass shrimps, nematodes etc. All these
animals are called detritus consumers or detrivores. These animals are in-turn eaten by small
fish. These small fish form food for large fish, fish eating birds constituting the large
carnivores.
Characteristics of Detritus Food Chain
a) Primary source of energy is dead organic matter called 'detritus' which are fallen leaves,
plant parts or dead animal bodies.
b) Primary consumers are 'detritivores' including protozoans, bacteria, fungi, etc which feed
upon the detritus saprophytically.
c) Detritivores are inturn eaten by secondary consumers such as insect larvae, nematodes, etc.

d) Detritus food chains are generally shorter than grazing food chains
e) In nature, detritus food chains are indispensable as the dead organic matter of grazing food
chain is acted upon by the detritivores to recycle the inorganic elements into the ecosystem.
Grazing Food Chain
1. It always starts from green plants to
tertiary consumer level.
2. Green plant is the first organism to absorb
solar energy.
3. They do not help in nutrient cycle.
4. Generally large organism maintains this
type of food chain.

Detritus Food Chain


1. It always starts from detrivores.
2. Bacteria, fungi are the first one.
3. There is an involvement of nutrient cycle.
4. Generally, small organism maintains this
type of food chain.

Food web
A food web is a graphical description of feeding relationships among species in an ecological
community, that is, of who eats whom (Fig. 1). It is also a means of showing how energy and
materials (e.g., carbon) flow through a community of species as a result of these feeding
relationships. Typically, species are connected by lines or arrows called "links", and the
species are sometimes referred to as "nodes" in food web diagrams.
A food web differs from a food chain in that the latter shows only a portion of the food web
involving a simple, linear series of species (e.g., predator, herbivore, plant) connected by
feeding links. A food web aims to depict a more complete picture of the feeding relationships,
and can be considered a bundle of many interconnected food chains occurring within the
community.
All species occupying the same position within a food chain comprise a trophic level within
the food web. For instance, all of the plants in the foodweb comprise the first or "primary
producer" tropic level, all herbivores comprise the second or "primary consumer" trophic
level, and carnivores that eat herbivores comprise the third or "secondary consumer" trophic
level. Additional levels, in which carnivores eat other carnivores, comprise a tertiary trophic
level.

Importance of food chain and food web:

Food chains help in understanding food relationship and interdependence among


various organisms in an ecosystem.

Food webs are important tools in understanding that plants are the foundation of all
ecosystems and food chains, sustaining life by providing nourishment and oxygen
needed for survival and reproduction.

The mechanism of transfer of food, energy and nutrients through various components
of nature can be studied.

The movement of some toxic substances (like DDT) in the ecosystem, sprayed to kill
the pests and insects, through the various trophic levels, their accumulation at the
highest trophic level, etc. can be studied. (The phenomenon is known as biological
magnification.)

The disruptions in populations in the ecosystem due to over-hunting, poaching, global


warming and habitat destruction result in food scarcities leading to extinction can be
explained.

Ecological Pyramid
An ecological pyramid is a graphical representation designed to show the number of
organisms, energy relationships, and biomass of an ecosystem. They are also called Eltonian
pyramids after Charles Elton, who developed the concept of ecological pyramids.
The producers form the base and the carnivore occurs at the top of food chain. The different
organisms in the pyramid are present in the sequence wise and include the producers at the
base which are followed by the herbivore. These are followed by the primary carnivore with
the lion at the top.
They can be upright which means that the base is larger in size and it decreases as we move
upwards. They can be inverted also which means that the base is smaller in size and it
increases as we move upwards. It can be spindle shape which means that the base is thin
along with the top but the middle part is broad.
The ecological pyramids are of three types:
(i)
Pyramid of energy
(ii)
Pyramid of biomass and
(iii)
Pyramid of numbers.
1. The pyramid of energy
The energy pyramids give the best picture of the overall nature of the ecosystem.
Here there will be gradual decrease in the availability of energy from the autotrophs higher
trophic levels. In other words, there is decrease in energy flow from autotrophs at successive
trophic levels.

In the course of energy flow from one organism to the other, is considerable loss of energy in
the form of heat. More energy is available in the autotrophs is the primary consumers. The
least amount of available energy will be in the tertiary consumer. Therefore, shorter the food
chain, greater is the amount of energy available at the top.
1. The energy pyramid always upright and erect.
2. It shows the rate of energy flows at different trophic levels.
3. It shows that energy is maximum at producer level and minimum at the carnivores' level.
4. At every successive trophic level there is a loss of energy in the form of heat, respiration
etc.

2. The pyramid of biomass


Pyramid of biomass is the graphic representation of biomass present per unit area of different
trophic levels, with producers at the base and top carnivores at the tip.
The total amount of living or organic matter in an ecosystem at any time is called 'Biomass'.
1. Pyramid of biomass shows the total biomass at each trophic level in a food chain.
2. Pyramid of biomass can be inverted or upright.
Examples:
In a terrestrial ecosystem, the maximum biomass occurs in producers, and there is
progressive decrease in biomass from lower to higher trophic levels. Thus, the pyramid of
biomass in a terrestrial ecosystem is upright.
In an aquatic habitat the pyramid of biomass is inverted or spindle shaped where the biomass
of trophic level depends upon the reproductive potential and longevity of the member.

3. The pyramid of numbers


They show the relationship between producers, herbivores and carnivores at successive
trophic levels in terms of their number. It shows the number of organism at different levels.
Pyramid of numbers can be either upright or inverted.
There will be a gradual decrease in the number of individuals from the lower to the higher
trophic levels in an upright pyramid. The smaller animals are preyed upon larger animals and
smaller animals increase faster in number of organism at each stage of food chain, makes a
triangular figure that is known as pyramid of number.
This may be studied by taking the example of trophic levels in grassland.
The grasses occupy the lowest trophic level and they are abundantly present in the grassland
ecosystem. The mice occupy the second level; their number is less than compared to the
grasses.
The snakes, which feed upon the mice, are far less in number when compared to the number
of mice. The hawks, which occupy the next trophic level, feed upon snakes, and the number
of individuals in the last trophic level is greatly reduced.

In the parasitic food chain, the pyramid of numbers is found to be inverted. Here, a single
plant or tree might support varieties of herbivore. These herbivores like birds in turn, support
varieties of parasites like lice, bugs that outnumber the herbivores.

Subsequently each parasite might support a number of hyperparasites like bacteria and fungi,
which will outnumber the parasites. Thus from the producer level onwards, towards the
consumers, in the parasitic food chain there is a gradual increase in the number of organisms,
instead of the usual decrease.
As a result of this, the pyramid becomes inverted in the parasitic food chain. There is a
gradual increase in the numbers of individuals from autotrophs to the higher trophic levels.

Questions:
1)
2)
3)
4)
5)
6)

What is Food Chain? Explain/Brief diagrammatically.


What is Food Web? Explain/ Brief diagrammatically.
Explain the structure of Ecosystem-forest.
Explain the structure of Ecosystem-aquatic.
How does Bio-mass & Energy-flow are related in ecological pyramid?
Discuss in detail the significance of Ecological Pyramid.

Multiple Choice Questions:

1. A food web consists of


a. A portion of food chain
b. Producers, consumers & decomposers
c. Interlocking of food chains
d. A set of similar consumers
2. A trophic level refers to
a. Area in the trophic
b. An organisms position in a food chain
c. An organisms position in an ecosystem
d. An organisms position in a biome
3. Tendency of pollutants to become concentrated in successive trophic level is
known as
a. Bioremediation
b. Biomagnifications
c. Biopiracy
d. Biorhythm
4. Eutrophication is
a. An improved water quality status of lakes
b. The result of accumulation of plant nutrients in water bodies
c. A process in the carbon cycle
d. A water purification technique
5. There are ___ types of ecological pyramids
a. One
b. Four
c. Three
d. Five
6. The pyramid which cannot be inverted in a stable ecosystem is
a. Pyramid of number
b. Pyramid of food
c. Pyramid of energy
d. Pyramid of biomass
7. The primary producers in forest ecosystem are
a. Chlorophyll containing trees and plants
b. Herbivores
c. Carnivores
d. Bacteria and other microorganism
8. In an aquatic ecosystem phytoplankton can be considered as a
a. Consumer
b. Producer
c. Saprotrophic organism
d. Macroconsumer
9. Largest ecosystem of the world is

a.
b.
c.
d.

Grassland
Forest
Oceans
Desert

10. Man-engineered ecosystem consists of


a.
b.
c.
d.

Desert and forest ecosystem


Grassland and marine ecosystem
Agriculture and aquaculture ecosystem
None of these

Keys: 1(c), 2(b), 3(b), 4(b), 5(c), 6(c), 7(a), 8(b), 9(c), 10(c).
.