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32: Ecosystems

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    Ecosystem ecology is the integrated study of living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) components of ecosystems and their interactions within an ecosystem framework. This science examines how ecosystems work and relates this to their components such as chemicals, bedrock, soil, plants, and animals.

    • 8.3.1: Introduction
      In 1993, an interesting example of ecosystem dynamics occurred when a rare lung disease struck inhabitants of the southwestern United States. This disease had an alarming rate of fatalities, killing more than half of early patients, many of whom were Native Americans. These formerly healthy young adults died from complete respiratory failure.
    • 8.3.2: Ecology of Ecosystems
      An ecosystem is a community of living organisms and their interactions with their abiotic (non-living) environment. Ecosystems can be small, such as the tide pools found near the rocky shores of many oceans, or large, such as the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil.
    • 8.3.3: Energy Flow through Ecosystems
      All living things require energy in one form or another. Energy is required by most complex metabolic pathways (often in the form of adenosine triphosphate, ATP), especially those responsible for building large molecules from smaller compounds, and life itself is an energy-driven process. Living organisms would not be able to assemble macromolecules (proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, and complex carbohydrates) from their monomeric subunits without a constant energy input.
    • 8.3.4: Biogeochemical Cycles
      The matter that makes up living organisms is conserved and recycled. The six most common elements associated with organic molecules—carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur—take a variety of chemical forms and may exist for long periods in the atmosphere, on land, in water, or beneath the Earth’s surface. Geologic processes, such as weathering, erosion, water drainage, and the subduction of the continental plates, all play a role in this recycling of materials.
    • 8.3.5: Key Terms
    • 8.3.6: Chapter Summary
    • 8.3.7: Visual Connection Questions
    • 8.3.8: Review Questions
    • 8.3.9: Critical Thinking Questions

    Thumbnail: A bumblebee pollinating a flower, one example of an ecosystem service. (CC BY-SA3.0; Roo72).

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