1)In environmental science, what is the difference between a positive feedback loop and a negative feedback loop?
2)Why is understanding the cycling of matter and energy in ecosystems important to environmental science? Provide an example.
3)Why can it be difficult to identify the boundaries of an ecosystem? How can environmental scientists resolve this boundary issue when studying an ecosystem?
4)Think about food chains and food webs. Describe a simple food chain that has at least five components. If you were the animal at the top of that food chain, how might having a food web instead of a simple food chain benefit you?
Environmental science is the interdisciplinary academic field that seeks to integrate physical, biological and information sciences.
The positive feedback loop is that push of a system to a new state of equilibrium. It is a process that occurs in a feedback loop in which the effects of a small disturbance ion a system include an increase in the magnitude of its change in a system. On the other hand, a negative feedback loop is a push on a system back to its original equilibrium position (Botkin, 2012). It occurs when some function of the output system is fed back in a manner that tends to reduce the changes in production.
Understanding the cycling of matter and energy in an ecosystem helps one to understand how nature is balanced thus giving favorable environment and atmosphere for both animals and plants to co-exist in peace. For the balance of the energy to occur, we need both living and nonliving organisms. Usually, the energy is moved through an ecosystem through a food web. An example: the plants on the earth’s surface can absorb abiotic chemical from the earth surface for their growth, them the animals feed on these plants, and when these animals die, they are eaten by decomposers and they decompose to become the abiotic chemicals (Carlquist, 2013). All this process happens in the presence of heat from the sunlight. A biogeochemical cycle occurs where this energy is stored in pools and later on transferred to the right party when the need occurs.
Ecosystem boundaries are the locations and points showing gradients changes in the environmental conditions and a correlated shift in the composition of plant or animals. Naturally triggered ecosystem boundaries represent unique habitats to which most spices are specifically adapted (Botkin, 2012). These boundaries form zones of transitions between two adjacent habitats. It is always difficult to tell these boundaries because many ecosystems are interconnected and thus, many organisms move across different ecosystems throughout their lifespan. Thus making it difficult to know where the boundary lies. In an attempt to reduce these boundaries environmental scientists are trying to separate these animals to live in separate ecosystems to try to reduce the confusion they bring about.
A food chain is a linear network of links in a food web while a food web is a system of interlocking and interdependent food chains. An example of a food chain with five components includes:
Dandelions – snails – frogs – birds – fox
Dandelions are widely spread weeds in the daisy family that provides food to the snails. After the snails feed on these weeds they grow to become preys of frogs which are in turn hunted by birds and finally the foxes enjoy eating the birds. This is a simple food chain that shows how dandelions help to feed the foxes. If I were the animal at the top of the of the food chain, a food web would do more good than a food chain because a food web is more accurate than a food chain considering that animals do not survive on one predator only and thus they feed on different preys (Carlquist, 2013). The food web stabilizes the ecosystem and more energy is transferred, and it helps us to know the topmost predator of an ecosystem in all levels. A food web will always display a better correlation between various organisms than a food chain.
Botkin, D. B. (2012). Environmental science. Wiley.
Carlquist, S. (2013). Comparative wood anatomy: systematic, ecological, and evolutionary aspects of dicotyledon wood. Springer Science & Business Media.