Ecosystem Report - Report Assessment Answer

November 15, 2018
Author : Sara Lanning

Solution Code: 1FGJ

Question: Ecosystem Report

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Ecosystem Report

Case Scenario/ Task Introduction You have learnt during lectures that there are multiple levels to the field of ecology, starting from the study of individual organisms (organismal ecology) through to populations, communities and ecosystems. There is also a branch known as landscape ecology and finally, global ecology. There can sometimes be confusion among some ecological levels, particularly habitat, ecosystem and biomes. Typically, habitats are smaller components of an ecosystem (e.g. seagrass beds within a marine ecosystem) and you typically find many habitats within an ecosystem, but not the other way around. In contrast, biomes occur at a much broader scale and can consist or more than one ecosystem (e.g. tropical forest biomes can consist of both rainforest and dry forest ecosystems). There are many kinds of ecosystems, ranging from wetlands, forests, grasslands, lakes and even urban housing estates, which all form types of ecosystems. It is important to note that the boundaries of different ecosystems are not always entirely clear, and specific ecosystems are often defined by individual researchers. However, all ecosystems include both living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) components, which interact with each other. Even areas that are highly modified by human activity (e.g. football ovals and even urban areas) typically consist of these living and non-living components and their associated interactions. 2 Two definitions of an ecosystem are: All the organisms in a given area, along with the nonliving (abiotic) factors with which t h e y i n t e r a c t : a b i o l o g i c a l c o m m u n i t y a n d its p h y s i c a l e n v i r o n m e n t (Campbell et al. 2007). An ecological community together with the physical environment with which its members interact (Knox et al. 2005) Ecosystems are dynamic: that is, they change through time as the species in the community interact with each other and with the non-living components such as air, soil, water and rocks. As you will be aware, rainfall patterns change on a range of temporal scales, including daily, weekly and among seasons and years. This is just one example of changes in a single abiotic factor that could lead to a range of other changes in biotic components of the environment. The aim of this exercise is to look closely at two areas within a single ecosystem (which may consist of two different habitats). For example, you may compare a patch of seagrass habitat with an algal bed or a pool habitat and riffle habitat within a single stream. A terrestrial example may include comparing the vegetation at the top of a slope with the vegetation at the base of a slope. Alternatively, you could compare two separate ecosystems (e.g. a grassland versus a forest area). The purpose of the exercise is to help facilitate your understanding and appreciation of some key properties of an ecosystem. We will first consider the biotic components (living things) that make up an ecological community in an ecosystem, and their interrelationship with both other biotic components and also the abiotic components (i.e. nonliving, inorganic components such as rocks, water and air amongst many other things). The exercise then asks you to think about (and consider) energy flow and chemical (nutrient) cycling in your chosen areas. Note that things that once were living, but are now dead (e.g. logs, dead leaves) are also regarded as biotic components (they are now non-living, but are derived from biotic components and are still largely organic). 3 Further information that will assist you to understand ecosystems and successfully complete this assessment task can be found in your text (see pp 130-151). Information about ecosystems can also be found in most biology and ecology texts. Methods It is important to note that this task is not designed to teach you about appropriate experimental sampling designs (we want you to become more familiar with ecosystems at this stage). For example, if you are trying to determine differences between intertidal rocky shores and intertidal sandy shores, then it would be important to have replicate shores (i.e. sample at least 3 separate rocky shores and three separate sandy shores). However, this is beyond the scope of this particular exercise and you should be aware that any differences that you observe are limited to the two areas you have observed, which may or may not be related to differences in habitat (they could simply arise due to differences in space). The first step of this exercise is to select an ecosystem (or ecosystems) to study. You should select places that are not only accessible, but also places that are of interest to you and where you enjoy visiting. Some examples might be: - bush land - park - cemetery - sand-dune - an intertidal area - a nearby stream, lake or wetland (including urban stormwater traps) - a farm paddock When you select your two study areas, try to ensure that they consist of a variety of different plants and try to choose relatively homogenous areas that are representative of the ecosystem. For example, avoid selecting areas that form the boundary between two areas/habitats (e.g. bush land and open grassland or the boundary between a seagrass bed and 4 adjacent sandflat). You should also make sure that the size of your chosen area is large enough to sample five replicate 1m x 1m quadrats, and that it is of a similar overall size to the second area you choose to sample from. Make sure there is at least 100m separating your 2 chosen areas. There are two important observations that we want you to make during this exercise: Firstly, we want you to become familiar with the macroscopic primary producers in your 2 areas. This will involve two simple forms of ecological measurement including species counts (i.e. estimate plant species richness) and also the percent cover of plants. Secondly, we want you to observe the diversity of macroscopic heterotrophs (animals and fungi). Macroscopic organism are those things that you can see with the naked eye. You will need: - notebook and pencils - four pegs to mark the corners of a quadrat (e.g. tent pegs, short posts, sticks, long pencils - a long ruler or tape measure (a dressmaker’s tape can be used too) - a compass may be useful, to identify the position of your ecosystem (e.g. northfacing slope). - you may need to take photographs of your plants for identification purposes (see video) TO BEGIN: Part 1. Recording species richness and percent cover of primary producers in your two areas. 1. Start by selecting a random point in your first area (you will repeat this for the second area). From this point, mark out a rectangular quadrat of 1 x 1 m with pegs. Please not that a quadrat is an area used for sampling and is usually square, rectangular or circular. It is not the same as a quadrant, which is a segment of a circle. 5 2. Search carefully within the quadrat and count and record each different species of plant that you can find. You will not necessarily know the common names (or scientific names) of these plants, but you can give them descriptive names to recognise that they are different (e.g. Grass species A, Grass species B for two grasses that differ in their morphology such as leaf shape or seed heads). You can take photos of these as a reference for your remaining quadrats because you need to be consistent with your records as you move from one quadrat to the next. Enter the data from your first quadrat into Table 1 (see results section below). 3. Now estimate the percentage cover of your two most abundant primary producers in your quadrat. This will be explained to you during tutorials and we have provided a schematic diagram to assist you with this (Appendix 1). You should enter these data into Table 2 (see results section below). 4. Now repeat this procedure (counts of species richness and estimates of percentage cover) so that you have records for a total of 5 replicate 1m x 1m quadrats in your first chosen area. 5. Once you have completed your first 5 quadrats, move to your next area and repeat steps 1 - 4 so that you now have another set of 5 1m x 1m quadrats in area 2. Here are some hints on how you could classify your terrestrial plants: Your demonstrators can assist you with potential groupings of marine plants (e.g. green, red and brown algae) and seagrasses during seminars. Other marine habitats 6 include saltmarshes, sand dunes and mangrove forests. Please treat all areas that you observe with respect and minimize any damage as much as possible. Note that items such as dead leaves, sticks or other non-living material are not included here. And ‘weeds’ is not a species of plant – but a name given to a plant that grows where it is not wanted. Try to identify what type of plant it is as per descriptions above. It is also important to note that fungi are heterotrophs, not autotrophs! Part 2: Observing the heterotrophs. Try to observe as many heterotrophs in your two ecosystems as possible. You could also list these for both ecosystems in a table if you wish (but this not compulsory). You should note where you find the different animals and fungi (e.g. on the leaves or flowers of plants, under rocks or logs, in the soil, etc.). Please make sure that you return any overturned rocks or logs to their original position and avoid as much damage to your ecosystem as possible. These observations will be very important for helping you address the questions below in the discussion. You should allow for at least 30 minutes of observations and taking notes after you have completed your quadrats in each area. You can work in pairs to collect data, but you must present your own tables, figures, and photos. The written component of your report, your interpretations and answers to questions must also be produced independently. If you have field guides that might help with identification of plants or animals, these could be useful; or you might seek the assistance of a friend or family member with some knowledge of natural history. If you have access to binoculars or a magnifying glass, these may also help with your observations. Results: Start this section with a written sentence, briefly summarising the data that you have collected and presented in both your tables and figures. For example, a total of 17 plants species was recorded in area 1 and 18 species recorded in area 2 (Table 1, Figure 1). The two most common plants in terms of percentage cover were eucalypt species 1 and Melaleuca 7 scrub in area 1 and Tea tree scrub and small shrub 1 in area 2 (Table 2, Figure 2). You can then insert your tables and figures directly below this written text as we have provided below. Table 1. Hypothetical example of the mean species richness of plants in area 1 and area 2.


Table 2 Hypothetical example of the percentage cover of the two most common plants observed in areas in area 1 and area 2.


Here you will learn how to prepare graphs that show the mean (plus standard deviation) species richness and percentage cover of plants in your two areas using excel (if you haven’t already done this before). It will help if you enter these data into excel in a slightly different format so that you can produce the 2 plots required. This will be demonstrated to you during the seminar and we have also posted a video to guide you through the process on CloudDeakin (in Assessment task 3 folder). Your plots (figures) should look like the two examples provided below. For your first plot, you require mean species richness on the Y-axis (vertical) and the area on the X-axis (horizontal). For the second plot, you require mean percentage cover on the Y-axis and your two common species and area on the X-axis.

Figure 1. Mean number of plant species in each of the two areas observed within a marine ecosystem.


Figure 2. The mean percentage cover (+SD) of the two most common plants in area 1 and area 2 You also need to include at least one photo of each area that you sampled (ie minimum 2 photos) in this result section. An example of how you would refer to these is provided below. The two areas sampled are shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. The two sample areas at Wattle Park Reserve 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 Eucalypt species 1 Melaleuca shrub Tea tree shrub Small shrub 1 Area 1 Area 2 Mean plant cover (%) A B 10 Discussion: Biotic components of the ecosystem 1. Comment on any differences in the number or types of primary producers that were present in your 2 ecosystems. 2. Provide at least 2 abiotic factors and 2 biotic factors that might be influencing these differences in primary producers between your two ecosystems. If you didn’t find major differences, you should still comment on two abiotic and biotic factors that you think are having a significant influence on the primary producers in this system. 3. Think about any differences you have found and how these might influence the types of niches available for other plants and animals (e.g. how much structural complexity occurs in your 2 ecosystems and why might this be important Interactions between biotic and abiotic components of the ecosystem In addition to plant species, a range of different heterotrophs (animals, fungi and some bacteria) are typically found in an ecosystem. The dynamics and interactions between these plants and animals is also greatly influenced by the abiotic components of an ecosystem. This is where your list of heterotrophs will assist you with the following questions. Think about the kinds of animals you observed and where they were found. Now think about the abiotic components of your ecosystems, such as water, soil, rocks, air, light and other non-living components. 4. For each of your ecosystems, describe one example of how: - the abiotic environment affects living things in each ecosystem; - living things can change or modify the abiotic environment in each ecosystem over time. 5. Other than feeding, what types of biotic interaction did you observe or would you expect to observe at other times (i.e. just those interactions among heterotrophs)? 11 Energy flow in the ecosystem All living organismsrequire energy for daily metabolism, growth, reproduction and movement (animals). Energy comes into most ecosystems from sunlight. Light energy from the sun is converted into chemical energy in plants by the process of photosynthesis. This chemical energy then flows through the ecosystem in several ways. First, the ‘grazing pathway’ involves the flow of energy from one organism to another as primary consumers eat plants, and secondary consumers eat primary consumers and so on. Second, the ‘detritus pathway’ involves the flow of energy as degraders breakdown this detritus into small components and materials that are then recycled in the ecosystem. This often starts with larger detritivores (that typically eat leaf/woody material) and scavengers (that typically feed on carrion) and is finally broken down by the decomposers, which include fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms. The degraders form part of the food chain because they are also consumed by higher trophic levels (e.g. the secondary and tertiary consumers). Energy is transferred along these food chains, from one trophic level to the next, with large amounts being lost as heat along the way. Ultimately, all energy that enters the ecosystem is lost as heat: energy is NOT recycled. Look carefully within your ecosystem to identify organisms that represent different trophic levels along the pathway of energy flow. Primary producers (or autotrophs). 6. What were the two most common primary producers, based on percent cover, in each of your ecosystems? 7. From what you can recall, were these species also the most abundant within your ecosystem?? Remember, percentage cover and abundance are two very different measures of how ‘common’ particular species might be. 8. Why do you think these species were more common than other primary producers in these ecosystems? 9. What other primary producers might be present in your ecosystem that you could not observe? 12 Primary consumers (heterotrophs) 10. What were the two most common primary consumers in each of your two ecosystems? 11. Were they consuming primary producers while you were observing them, and if so, what were they consuming? 12. If these primary consumers were not observed feeding, then how can you be sure that they are primary consumers? Secondary consumers 13. What were the two most common secondary consumers that you observed in each of your two ecosystems? 14. If feeding, what were these secondary consumers eating during your observations? 15. If these secondary consumers were not observed feeding, then how do you be sure that they are secondary consumers? Tertiary consumers 16. Can you identify any tertiary consumers in this ecosystem? Tertiary consumers are often harder to find. If not, describe at least one tertiary consumer that could potentially occur, even if you have not observed any? Hint: you may have observed evidence of tertiary consumers in your area, such as feathers, dropping, bones, etc. 17. Explain why tertiary consumers usually occur at a low density in ecosystems (hint: think in terms of availability of energy). Food chain 18. Based on your observations, present a simple food chain for each of your two ecosystems (up to the level of tertiary consumer). Give the name of the organism at each 13 trophic level and use arrows to indicate the direction of energy flow. You should provide references that support the trophic status of each level in your food chain. Chemical cycling in the ecosystem In contrast to energy, chemicals such as carbon (C), nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), iron (Fe) and oxygen (O) are recycled within the ecosystem between the living community and the abiotic environment. For example, carbon occurs in living organic material of plants and animals in many kinds of molecules (carbohydrates, proteins etc.) and in the abiotic environment in the form of carbon dioxide (a gas), calcium carbonate or limestone (a rock) and other materials. It is also bound up in dead plants and animals, which would be locked away forever if it wasn’t for the very important degraders that facilitate the breakdown and release of carbon and other nutrients contained within this material. Look closely in this ecosystem for evidence of chemical cycling; for example where non-living organic material (detritus and carrion) is decomposing and being converted into inorganic material. 19. What kinds of detritus or carrion can you observe in this ecosystem? Is there any evidence that scavengers, detritivores or decomposers are utilising this decomposing organic matter? If yes, describe what you observed. 20. If you cannot directly see any decomposers, please describe the broad kinds of organism that are typically involved in the processing of detritus and carrion in an ecosystem? Format for presenting this assessment report A coversheet is not necessary for this report as a declaration of originality will be include at the point of submission. Submit as a word-processed report (hand written reports will not be accepted). 14 Font: Arial, Cambria, Calibri Font size: 12pt Paragraphing: Left Aligned or Justified Spacing: 1.5pt spacing Your report should include the following: *At least 2 photos of your ecosystem must be included, and correctly referenced. Title page (this should be given one whole page) including: - Your name - Student Number - Your seminarsession time - Your tutor’s name. Introduction An introduction (At least 2 paragraphs) that introduces the exercise, describes what an ecosystem is and why it is relevant to study ecosystems, and the objectives of this exercise (these should be in your own words), and should include references. Methods This section should include a paragraph (and map) describing: - the general study area (e.g. location, vegetation types, topography) - the ecosystem you are studying - the date and time(s) you visited You should also outline the methods you used to collect data and make observations: for example, the sizes of the plots, what you recorded etc. Don’t assume that the reader has read these assignment notes. You cannot just rewrite the methods you must put them into your own words, and in paragraph format. Within your methods you must also indicate whether you did your observations with any other students giving their full name in your report. INCLUDE A FIGURE (MAP) SHOWING THE LOCATION OF YOUR STUDY AREAS. 15 Results Your Table of Mean Species richness in each area and percent cover by the two most dominant plants in each area (see example above) and the two figures representing the data in these tables must be presented in the Results Section under Biotic components, not in an appendix or in a separate file. Include at least one photo from each area sampled. Check that all figures and tables are labelled and have a title. Start each section with a sentence: it is not satisfactory to simply present a figure or table. Use a sentence to tell the reader about your result and then refer them to the relevant figure or table. Discussion In the discussion section, you should set out your observations following the structure above and respond to the questions in each section in full sentences and paragraphs. Set out your work using the main headings (i.e. Biotic components, Interactions, Energy flow etc.) and use the numbering in each section to structure your results (e.g. 1, 2, 3 etc.). Conclusion Provide a one paragraph summary of your report based on the relevance and purpose outlined in the introduction.


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An ecosystem is made up of all living things such as animals, plants and organisms in a particular area. These living things interact with each other and along with that they also interact with non-living environment such as soil, sun, earth, climate, weather, and atmosphere. In an ecosystem all the living and non-living objects affect each other either directly or indirectly. In this manner there are two components of an ecosystem that are biotic component and abiotic component. Biotic components are those that inhibit it and abiotic are non-living.  It is significant to study ecosystem of a particular area to understand the interaction of living and non-living being in that area. It also helps in establishing a relationship between biotic and abiotic components. The major objective of this report is to understand the ecology of Alps national park Australia by dividing it into two parts. The objective of this exercise is to closely observe the ecosystem of Alps national park. It aims to understand the impact of abiotic factors on biotic factors and vice versa.


To achieve the objectives of the study various methods will be used. First of all the location map will be provided along with the study area and date and time of the study. Then there will be a clear description on the methodology that is used to explore the ecological aspects of Alps national park. It will be followed by the description of the area.

  1. Location

The location of this study is Alps national park and the map of the study is given below in the picture. The picture consists of the region where Alps grasslands are present in Australia and in small circle the exact location of the study is marked. The Alps Montane grasslands range is huge and is spread across 600 Km. Figure 1: Alps national Park Map

  1. The methodology

The methodology is denoted by mode that has been used for collecting the information. The primary methodology has been used to collect the information about the ecosystem of the Alps Montane grasslands. To collect the information about two different areas in Alps, two teams have been formed first. One team opted to study lower elevations and the second team opted to study about Montane zone. The lower elevation includes lower slopes of mountains and tableland plains.  Here is a dry open forest and the shallow soil. The monatne zone is higher and the forest here is dense and wetter than lower elevations. There are ferns and small trees here. The two teams have made two quadrants on paper to collect the data and write it in a proper manner. The differentiation is made on the basis of terrestrial plants, herbs, shrubs, etc. Both the teams had measuring scales as well as pencils. A camera was also used to click the photograph of grass, trees and plants. The teams have also done macroscopic primary procedures that involved measuring as well as diversity of hetrotrophs. From here the actual process started in which both the areas were recorded for their species of plants. It involved successfully searching the different varieties and species of plants. A member from both the teams was writing the description of these small plants so as to give estimation in the form of table as required (Frawley, 2011). This process was replicated after that. Once the quadrants are filled in a particular place then the same procedure was followed. The classification of terrestrial plants for both the locations is given below: Table given below consist the information area one that is lower elevation: Table 1: Lower elevation area information Table given below consist the information of area two that is montane land: After that the heterotrophs have been observed and listed into a table. The heterotrophs have been observed carefully below the logs, rocks, etc Area description , topography and general vegetation type The Australian Alps Montane grasslandis an eco-region of eastern Australia. These grasslands are a mixed habitat of heath, grasslands and bog. It is home to the rich collection of Alpine and various other plants. The ecosystem of this region is worth studying due to its harsh forests and cold climate and its diversity.  There are varieties of flora and fauna in this region. The fauna includes Alpine thermoclour grasshopper, mountain corroboree frog, mountain pygmy possum, baw-baw frog. Except for these small creatures there are a number of large animals such as tiger quoll, platypus, common wombat, red-necked wallaby and swamp wallaby. The montane slopes are characterized by small trees and ferns, a mixture of dominant trees,eucalyptus, etc. In this area there are high rates of organic breakdown and the soil is very deep.  There is also a band of Alpine Ash forest which is also referred as Woollybutt. This area is characterized by high precipitation rates and here the growth of plants is vigorous. In the lower altitudes of this forest there are small herbs, shrubs and trees. The table land is less elevated and is found in Victoria in its foothills (Nankin, 2008). These are grassy and dry woodland with open forests. The trees grow lower in this region and shallow soil is there. In summer, one can find yellow Billy buttons, white snow, pink trigger plants and silver daisies. Nearly all the Australian plant family species grow here in this forest.  The most common species are Marsh Marigold, Mountain Swamp Gum, Yellow box, River red gum, red stringybark, broad-leaved peppermint, white gum , narrow –leaved pepper-mint, candlebark, brown-barrel, mountain gum, manna gum, yellow kunzea, alpine grevillea, leafy bossiaea, common oxylobium, mountain plum pine, shade-tolerant herbs, prickly snow grass, mountain gentian , alpine marsh marigold, alpine wallaby grass, alpine plantain, alpine trachymene, white purslane , rock health , chionohebe, spreading coprosma, hard cushion plant , etc. are a few names of the species of herbs, shrubs found in Alps. Thus, in this area majorly dry type of vegetation is found. Results The data that has been collected suggest that the most common species of in area one are summer, one can find yellow Billy buttons, white snow, pink trigger plants and silver daisies. The most common species in area 2 are Yellow box, River red gum, red stringybark, broad-leaved peppermint, white gum, narrow –leaved pepper-mint, white purslane, rock health, chionohebe, spreading coprosma.  A total of 5 plants species have been identified in the area 1 and a total of 5 plants species have been identified in the area 2 (See figure 1 and table 1). The two most common trees in terms of their percentage are Alpine and Eucalyptus and two most common shrubs are Rutaceae and fragrant boronia (table 2, figure 2). Table 3 : Species Richness in area 1 and area 2 Table 4: percentage covers of the two most common species in area 1 and area 2 Area 1 : Lower Elevation Area 2: Montane land Discussion In this manner the above analysis of Alps and the two areas suggest that there are a number of differences in the number and types of primary procedures that were present in the ecosystems.  These differences in primary procedures between the two ecosystems are affected by biotic as well as abiotic factors. The biotic factors are human beings and weeds. The abiotic factors are soil and water. These factors have significant influences on primary procedures in the ecosystems mentioned above. The abiotic components that are soil and water are affecting the growth of plants. For an instance in one area which is montane the growth of plants is very fast because the soil is very deep and water is abundant and there is precipitation as well. On the other hand in lower elevation the soil is shallow and the water is scanty and this is why the growth of plants and trees is slower than that of montane. Moreover, the abiotic factors are also affected by biotic factors. The density of forest in lower elevation has reduced to a great extent due to the intervention of human beings. At the same time there are chances of fire in forest because of man-made activities. Other than feeding there have been other types of interactions among heterotrophs. The heterotrophs have potential to destroy and spoil the plants. The primary producers in these ecosystems are Alpines and Eucalyptus. This can be recalled from the fact that these two trees were nearly seen everywhere in the ecosystem (Barlow, 2010).These species are more common than other primary producers in the ecosystems because a number of shrubs, heterotrophs and plants are dependent on these two producers for their needs. There might be some other primary producers like pine trees and apple trees which couldn’t be noticed. The two most common primary consumers in each of the two eco-systems are lichens and green algae. At the time these heterotrophs were observed they were consuming leaves of the trees. The two most common secondary consumers were frog and snake.No tertiary consumer can be identified in the ecosystem. The probable tertiary consumers that can be present in the ecosystem are birds because some feathers have been traced on the grass. The tertiary consumers are not found in high density in ecosystems because they do not get much energy there. These creatures need more energy to survive and this is why they prefer to be at a place where energy availability is in abundance (Service, 2010). In this manner the food chain that can be identified in this area is: Eucalyptus leaves—lichens ---Birds Alpine leaves ---green algae --- Birds There has not been observed any kind of detritivores, scavengers or decomposers in this ecosystem. Conclusion In this manner the report has helped in identifying the components of ecosystems and its relevance. There are a number of herbs, shrubs, plant and trees identified in the report. After that a list of primary producers, primary consumers and secondary consumers has been presented. This helped in understanding the flow of energy in an ecosystem and how biotic and abiotic factors affect each other.

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