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1 The Abiotic and Biotic Components

of the Environment
8.2 Colonisation and Succession in an
8.3 Population Ecology
8.4 Biodiversity
8.5 The Impact of Microorganisms on
8.6 Appreciating Biodiversity

Colonisation and Succession in
an Ecosystem
What is an ecosystem ?
1. An ecosystem is a dynamic system
formed by the interactions of organisms
with one another and with the non-living
2. It is a dynamic system where the living
organisms are in balance with each other
and with the abiotic components.
Habitat A habitat is the natural environment in which an
organism lives and obtains its basic resources
such as food and shelter.

Species A species is a group of organisms which can interbreed
to produce fertile offspring.

Population A population consists of organisms of the same species
living in the same habitat at the same time.

Community A community consists of different populations of plants
and animals living and interacting in the habitat of an

Niche The niche of an organism is the roles and activities of
the organism in its habitat. Two organisms sharing the
same habitat may have different niches.

Colonisation and succession
1. Natural phenomena or human activities such as
volcanic eruptions, fires, earthquakes and
uncontrolled mining activities leave the land with
no living organisms.
2. Later, some organisms will come to occupy the
bare land.
3. The process in which living organisms arrive at a
new habitat, live, reproduce and take control of
the habitat is known as colonisation.
4. The first species of organisms to colonise a new
habitat is called the pioneer species.
5. The pioneer species have special adaptations to
survive in unfavourable land conditions.

6. The pioneer species gradually changes the
conditions of the habitat, making it no longer
suitable for itself but more suitable for other
species, called the successor species. Gradually,
the successor species takes over the place of the
pioneer species.
7. The process whereby a pioneer species is gradually
replaced by other successor species is called

8. Succession will carry on until a relatively stable
community is formed. This type of community is
known as the climax community.
9. In Malaysia, the tropical rainforest is the climax
10. It usually takes hundreds of years to form a
climax community. After that it has little or no
changes in its species structure. Therefore, we
should treasure our forests.

Colonisation and succession in a
mangrove swamp
1. Swamps are formed by deposition of mud and
silt carried down by the river. It is found at the
estuary, that is where the river meets the sea.
2. Only mangrove trees are able to colonise the
soft, waterlogged, muddy soil which has a low
oxygen level but high salt concentration.
3. Mangrove trees have adaptive structures to
overcome the harsh conditions in a swampy
A mangrove swamp
Adaptations of mangrove trees
Problems faced by mangrove
Adaptive structures of mangrove
Ground too soft to provide

Have long, branched cable roots
or prop roots to support the plants
in soft ground.

Very little oxygen in
waterlogged mud
Have breathing roots called
pneumatophores which grow
upwards and protrude out of the
Gaseous exchanges also occurs
through lenticels on the bark of
mangrove tress.
The root systems of mangroves
Pneumatophores of
Avicennia sp.
Prop roots of
Rhizophora sp.
Buttress roots of
Bruguiera sp.
Problems faced by mangrove trees

Adaptive structures of mangrove

High salt content of sea water The cell sap in root cells has a
higher salt content. Sea water
enters the roots by osmosis. Excess
salt from the sea water is
eliminated through hydathodes
found at the lower epidermis of
Seeds sink into the mud and die
due to insufficient oxygen
Have viviparous seeds. A
radicle grows from the germinated
seed when it is still attached to the
parent tree. When the seedling is
released, the radicle holds the
shoot above the mud.
Exposure to strong sunlight and
intense heat leads to a higher rate
of transpiration
Leaves with thick cuticle and
sunken stomata to reduce
Store water in succulent leaves
4. Avicennia sp. and Sonneratia sp. are the pioneer
species of a mangrove swamp. Avicennia sp. grows
in areas facing the sea while Sonneratia sp. is found
in more sheltered areas.
5. The extensive cable root system of these plants
traps more mud and slit as well as organic matter
from decaying plant parts.
6. As time passes, the soil becomes more compact
and the shore level is slightly raised. The soil
becomes firmer and less waterlogged. Such
conditions favour the growth of another kind of
mangrove tree, namely Rhizophora sp.
7. Gradually, Rhizophora sp. replaces the pioneer

8. The prop root system of Rhizophora sp. continues to
trap more slit and mud. Humus is formed from
the old pioneer species as well as decaying leaves
of Rhizophora sp. The soil becomes firmer, more
compact and fertile. The shore level is raised and is
less saline. The condition now is more suitable for
Bruguiera sp.
9. The buttress root system of Bruguiera sp. Traps more
silt and mud causing the shore to extend further to
the sea.
10. As time passes, coconut trees, Nipah and Pandanus
sp. gradually replace the Bruguiera sp. when the soil
becomes more like terrestrial ground.
11. Eventually a tropical rainforest, which is the climax
community, is formed.

Distribution of different mangrove species at
the mouth of a river
Colonisation and succession in a pond
1. Colonisation by pioneer species
(a) Submerged plants such as Hydrilla sp.,
Elodea sp. and Cabomba sp. as well as
phytoplankton are the pioneer species in a pond.
(b) These submerged plants have adaptive
features such as long fibrous roots which
penetrate deep into the soil to absorb nutrients
and hold the sand together. Fine leaves enable
the plants to flow with the water.

Submerged plants
Hydrilla sp.
Elodea sp.
Cabomba sp.
2. Succession by floating plants
(a) When the pioneer species die, they settle to
the bottom of the pond and become humus. At
the same time, the soil eroded from the sides of
the pond makes the pond shallower.
(b) Such a condition becomes unfavourable for
the submerged plants but more suitable for
floating plants such as Nymphaea sp. (lily),
Lemna sp. (duckweed) and Eichornia sp. (water
hyacinth) which gradually replace the pioneer
Floating plants
Water lily
Water hyacinth
Pistia sp.
3. Succession by emergent (amphibious) plants
(a) The floating plants reproduce rapidly as they
receive enough sunlight for photosynthesis. They
cover a large area of the surface of the pond. This
prevents sunlight from reaching the bottom of the
(b) Without sunlight, the submerged plants cannot
perform photosynthesis. As a result, these plants
die and become humus.
(c) The amount of humus deposited at the bottom
of the pond increases. More soil erosion occurs
which results in the pond becoming shallower. This
makes the pond too shallow for the floating plants.

(d) Floating plants are gradually being replaced by
emergent plants such as Fimbristylis sp. and
Lepironia sp.
(e) Emergent plants can live in water as well as on
land. Their extensive rhizomes grow rapidlly to
bind the soil together and to absorb nutrients,
changing the habitat. They grow from the edge of
the pond to the middle of the pond.

Amphibious plants
Cyperus sp.
4. Succession by terrestrial plants
(a) The death of emergent plants as well as
deposition of more organic matter make the pond
even shallower. Evaporation of pond water finally
dries the pond.
(b) Terrestrial plants such as creepers, grasses,
ferns and herbaceous plants begin to grow.
(c) Later, shrubs and woody plants begin to grow.
5. Climax community
Over hundreds of years, a tropical rainforest
which is a climax community is formed.

Questions 8.2
1. Which of the following describes a population?
A. The function of an organism or the role it
plays in an ecosystem
B. The natural environment in which an
organism lives
C. A group of organisms of the same species
living in the same habitat at the same time
D. A natural collection of plant and animal
species living within a habitat in an ecosystem

Answer : C
2. Phytoplankton, zooplankton and algae are often
among the first species to establish themselves in
a mining pond. As time passes, submerged and
floating plants will grow, followed by amphibious
plants, grasses, small shrubs, bushes and
eventually trees.
This is an example of
A. colonisation
B. competition
C. evolution
D. succession

Answer : D
3. Over many years a forest can be found on an
initially barren piece of land left behind by a
volcanic eruption. What is the correct sequence
of ecological processes that have taken place?
A. Colonisation, succession, climax community
B. Colonisation, climax community, succession
C. Succession, colonisation, climax communiity
D. Succession, climax community, colonisation
Answer : A
4. Which gives the correct sequence of plants
involved in the process of succession in a
disused pond?
A. Emergent plants floating plants
land plants submerged plants
B. Floating plants submerged plants
land plants emergent plants
C. Submerged plants floating plants
emergent plants land plants
D. Land plants emergent plants
floating plants submerged plant
Answer : C
5. Diagram 1 shows the seed of Rhizophora sp. which
germinates while it is still attached to the parent plant.

Diagram 1
This phenomenon is know as
A. double fertilisation
B. oviparity
C. viviparity
D. vegetative reproduction

Answer : C

8.3 Population Ecology
1. Population is a group of organisms of the same
species living in a habitat. The number of
organisms in a population is called the
population size.
2. The study of the measurement of population
size and the factors affecting the population size
is know as population ecology.
3. The quadrat sampling technique is mainly
used to estimate population size, densiity and
distribution of plants and immobile animals.
4. The capture, mark, release and recapture
technique is used to estimate the population
sizes of mobile animals.

Capture, mark, release and
recapture technique
1. To estimate the population size of
animals which move freely such as
snails and woodlice, the capture,
mark, release and recapture
technique is used.

Capture, mark, release and recapture technique
A number of animals are captured at random and
marked with waterproof paint, ink or a ring.

The marked animals are released.

A second capture is carried out after a few days.

The number of animals captured in the second
sample and the number of marked animals are

2. The following assumptions are made in
this technique:
a) The size of the population does not change and is
stable throughout the period of investigation.
b) The marked animals are not harmed or predated
c) The animals are captured at random.
d) The marked animals are able to mix randomly
with the other animals before the second
e) Each marked animals has the same probability of
being recaptured as an unmarked animals.

3. To increase the accuracy of this
a) more animals must be captured.
b) the animals must be captured at random.
c) the markings must be permanent.
d) enough time must be allowed for the
marked and unmarked animals to mix.

Quadrat sampling technique
1. A quadrat sampling technique is used to
determine the distribution of plants
whereby the density, frequency and
percentage coverage of the plants can be
2. A quadrat has a square or rectangular
frame made of wood, metal or rope. It is
subdivided into smaller squares.
3. The size of the quadrat depends on the size
and density of the plants sampled.
4. In this technique, a number of quadrats are
placed randomly in the area being studied.
5. The species found within the quadrat are
counted and recorded.

6. The distribution of the plants can be
determined in three ways:
a) The percentage coverage is the
percentage of how much of an area is
covered by the plants.
b) The frequency is the number of times a
particular plant is found from the total
number of quadrats used.
c) The density is the number of individuals
per unit area. This value is difficult to
determine for the population of plants which
reproduce vegetatively.
Influence of abiotic factors on the
population distribution of an organism
1. Abiotic factors refer to the non-living
components of an ecosystem which include
pH, temperature, light intensity, humidity,
topography and climate.
2. The population distribution of an organism
is influenced by the changes in the abiotic
Questions 8.3
1. The quadrat sampling technique can be used in
the study of the populations of
A. birds
B. earthworms
C. grasshoppers
D. rabbits
Answer : B
2. Which of the following steps need to be taken to
improve the accuracy of the capture, mark, release
and recapture technique ?
A. Put a bigger mark.
B. Capture more animals.
C. Capture the bigger animals.
D. Do recapture after one month.

Answer : B
3. The following information is about the capture,
mark, release and recapture technique.
P Mark the captured animals.
Q A second sample is captured.
R Release the marked animals.
S An initial sample is captured.
Which of the following is the correct sequence of
the capture, mark, release and recapture
A. P R S Q
B. P S R Q
C. S P R Q
D. S R Q P

Answer : C
4. The table shows the results obtained from an
investigation into the distribution of mimosa plants
on a school field.

Table 1
The percentage frequency of the mimosa plants is
A. 25%
B. 36%
C. 66%
D. 70%
Quadrat 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
of plants
5 2 0 1 8 2 0 3 4 5
Answer : D