Learning Objectives
Ecosystem Overview:
- Abiotic/ biotic
- Closed/open systems
- Different organisms interacting with each other and the environment
- Biomes
- Biodiversity
Ecosystem Resources:
-Energy (plants, sugar, etc)
-Water (precipitation, other sources)
-Recycling (aka decomposition)
Potential Factors Influencing Ecosystem Changes:
- Humans
- Parasites
- Natural disaster
The Food Web:
-Closed/open systems
-Complex interactions
-Energy pyramid
Carbon Cycle:
-Closed system relation
Water Cycle:
-Closed/open systems
State Standards: NJ Core Curriculum Standards
STANDARD 5.5 (Characteristics of Life) All students will gain an understanding of the structure, characteristics, and basic needs of organisms and will investigate the diversity of life.
A. Matter, Energy, and Organization in Living Systems
2. Explain how plants convert light energy to chemical energy.
3. Describe how plants produce substances high in energy content that become the primary source of energy for life.
4. Relate disease in humans and other organisms to infections or intrinsic failures of system.
STANDARD 5.10 (Environmental Studies) All students will develop an understanding of the environment as a system of interdependent components affected by human activity and natural phenomena.
B. Human Interactions and Impact
1. Assess the impact of human activities on the cycling of matter and the flow of energy through ecosystems.
2. Use scientific, economic, and other data to assess environmental risks and benefits associated with societal activity.
National Standards:
5. The Living Environment
D. Interdependence of life:
By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that
* Ecosystems can be reasonably stable over hundreds or thousands of years. As any population of organisms grows, it is held in check by one or more environmental factors: depletion of food or nesting sites, increased loss to increased numbers of predators, or parasites. If a disaster such as flood or fire occurs, the damaged ecosystem is likely to recover in stages that eventually result in a system similar to the original one.
* Like many complex systems, ecosystems tend to have cyclic fluctuations around a state of rough equilibrium. In the long run, however, ecosystems always change when climate changes or when one or more new species appear as a result of migration or local evolution.
* Human beings are part of the earth's ecosystems. Human activities can, deliberately or inadvertently, alter the equilibrium in ecosystems.
E. Flow of matter and energy
By the end of the 12th grade, students should know that
* At times, environmental conditions are such that plants and marine organisms grow faster than decomposers can recycle them back to the environment. Layers of energy-rich organic material have been gradually turned into great coal beds and oil pools by the pressure of the overlying earth. By burning these fossil fuels, people are passing most of the stored energy back into the environment as heat and releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide.
* The amount of life any environment can support is limited by the available energy, water, oxygen, and minerals, and by the ability of ecosystems to recycle the residue of dead organic materials. Human activities and technology can change the flow and reduce the fertility of the land.
* The chemical elements that make up the molecules of living things pass through food webs and are combined and recombined in different ways. At each link in a food web, some energy is stored in newly made structures but much is dissipated into the environment as heat. Continual input of energy from sunlight keeps the process going.
Ecosystem overview:
When studying an ecosystem one needs to understand the underlying components that create the system. We feel that the sub-ideas listed are necessary to teach in order to have students grasp other concepts taught later in the unit.
Ecosystem resources:
The fluctuation of resources directly impacts the stability of an ecosystem. Resources of an ecosystem (e.g. water, oxygen, minerals) also relate to the closed and open systems within an ecosystem itself.
Potential Factors Influencing Ecosystem Changes:
Understanding how and what things can affect an ecosystem is very important because it demonstrates the dynamics of working parts within an ecosystem. Our lesson will reinforce the idea of stability in an ecosystem, but we need to also reflect on the fact that they are not stable at all times.
Food Web:
Everything on earth is a working component within the food web. By discussing the food web we can easily transition into energy flow. Understanding what producers are, what consumers are, what there role is and their relevance to each other is a crucial part of the ecosystem.
Carbon is one of the building blocks of life which plays a vital role in ecological systems. We are focusing on this cycle because it is most related to humans, and it is also an excellent way to segue into current events. We choose to discuss the water cycle because students can be directly affected by it (e.g. thunder storms, walking to school in the rain, roofs leaking during a storm). By having a direct connection it may be more interesting to learn. Water is a major natural resource and is the basis of life. Most school systems do teach the Water cycle and it should be fully understood.
1. Phosphorous and Nitrogen Cycles: These cycles are very complex and do not relate as well to humans as the carbon cycle does. Not to say these cycles are not important but these cycles are more relevant when one is specifically talking about certain ecosystems (e.g. aquatic ecosystems/phosphorous cycle)
2. By mentioning humans as a potential influence on ecosystems, we will not be going into detail regarding individual topics (e.g. deforestation, global warming, ozone depletion).

Back to Ecosystems & Cycles