3.5 Chapter Resources


Ecosystems exist underground, on land, at sea, and in the air. Organisms in an ecosystem acquire energy in a variety of ways, which is transferred between trophic levels as the energy flows from the base to the top of the food web, with energy being lost at each transfer. Mineral nutrients are cycled through ecosystems and their environment. Of particular importance are water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur. All of these cycles have major impacts on ecosystem structure and function. Ecosystems have been damaged by a variety of human activities that alter the natural biogeochemical cycles due to pollution, oil spills, and events causing global climate change. The health of the biosphere depends on understanding these cycles and how to protect the environment from irreversible damage. Earth has terrestrial and aquatic biomes. There are eight major terrestrial biomes: tropical rainforests, savannas, subtropical deserts, chaparral, temperate grasslands, temperate forests, boreal forests, and Arctic tundra. Temperature and precipitation, and variations in both, are key abiotic factors that shape the composition of animal and plant communities in terrestrial biomes. Sunlight is an important factor in bodies of water, especially those that are very deep, because of the role of photosynthesis in sustaining certain organisms. Other important factors include temperature, water movement, and salt content. Aquatic biomes include both freshwater and marine environments. Like terrestrial biomes, aquatic biomes are influenced by abiotic factors. In the case of aquatic biomes the abiotic factors include light, temperature, flow regime, and dissolved solids.

Review Questions

  1. Describe the basic types of ecosystems on Earth.
  2. Explain how the efficiency of energy transfers between trophic levels effects ecosystem.
  3. Describe how organisms acquire energy in a food web and in associated food chains.
  4. Explain how human activities have impacted biogeochemical cycles and the resulting potential consequences for Earth.
  5. Compare grazing and detrital food webs. Why would they both be present in the same ecosystem?
  6. The extremely low precipitation of subtropical desert biomes might lead one to expect fire to be a major disturbance factor; however, fire is more common in the temperate grassland biome than in the subtropical desert biome. Why is this?
  7. In what ways are the subtropical desert and the Arctic tundra similar?


OpenStax College. (2013). Concepts of biology. Retrieved from http://cnx.org/contents/b3c1e1d2-839c-42b0-a314-e119a8aafbdd@8.10. OpenStax CNX. Available under Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0 (CC BY 3.0).  Modified from Original.

Essentials of Environmental Science by Kamala Doršner is licensed under CC BY 4.0