NAU Biology BIO 326
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BIO326 : Ecosystem


The ecological system is made up of various components interacting with one another and influenced by the environment. While the goal of studying ecosystems is to understand populations and communities, emphasis is placed on various "currencies" which are critical to life. For instance, focus is on energy contained in prey rather than on the number of prey individuals, or on the nitrogen in leaves rather than on the number of trees. Moreover, assessing inorganic forms of these currencies is also necessary, e.g. energy in sunlight and inorganic nutrients in the soil.

The primary objective of studying ecosystems is to understand their function. Therefore, rates of flow of energy and rates of movement of nutrients are measured. Ecosystem ecologists study turnover of resources as well as conditions for steady-state and transient changes. Graphical and mathematical models representing natural systems are built to describe natural communities, to summarize their characteristics, and to predict their changes under changing environmental conditions.

Barren land caribou (Rangifer tarandus); US Fish & Wildlife Service: Photo by Dean Biggens

In this section we will learn how energy flow and nutrient cycling can provide insight into ecological systems and provide tools to manage our world.

After completing this module, you should be able to:

To complete this module, you should:

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