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ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE SEMINAR TOPIC 1: DESERT ECOSYSTEM ECOSYSTEM: An ecosystem is defined as a biological community of interacting organisms and their

physical environment. In other words it is a network of plants, animals and microbes which work together as a unit in a particular area, and the abiotic factors of that area such as location, climate and soil. DESERT: In geography, desert is defined as a region, which receives an annual precipitation of less than, 10 inches on an average and where the amount of water lost to evaporation is more than the amount of water gained. Other than low precipitation deserts are characterized by scarce vegetation and extreme temperature oscillating between 115 or more during day time and 32 or less at night. WHERE ARE THE DESERTS? Symmetrical clusters of deserts are found around the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn - the two latitudes that define the area where the sun's angle at solar noon is closest to ninety degrees overhead at the Equinox. SOME FAMOUS DESERTS: Gobi and Taklamakan deserts Asia The Sahara -northern Africa The Great Sandy and Simpson deserts - Australia. KEY CHARACTERISTICS OF DESERTS: 1) Deserts receive less than 25 cm of rainfall each year and rainfall is very irregular. Parts of the Sahara can go years without any rain at all. 2) Deserts experience a wide range of temperature from day to night. There is little to absorb the sun's radiation, so it all goes to the soil or sand. Similarly, there is nothing -- cloud cover, vegetation, water -- to hold the warmth, so it quickly goes away. 3) The soil is very dry (sand) and is low in organic nutrients, as few plants live, die and decay there. 4) Desert animals and plants are adapted to reproduce quickly during the brief moist period. TYPES OF DESERT: Deserts are one of the major ecosystems in the world and constitute one fifth of the earths land. There are four major types of deserts:

Hot and dry deserts Semiarid deserts Coastal deserts Cold deserts

HOT AND DRY DESERTS: The hot and dry deserts are present around the equator and have a warm and hot temperature through out the year. Examples: Sahara desert, Sandy Desert of Australia and Sonoran Desert. The Temperature

The temperature of these deserts remains hot through out the year. There is almost no or very little rainfall in these deserts hence the sun in these deserts is scorching hot. The Soil Due to no sub surface water the soil of these deserts is shallow, coarse, rocky and gravely. Life The plants found in these deserts are highly specialized plants which have reduced leaves and thick cuticles to prevent water loss. Common plant species of these deserts are: cacti, turpentine bush, brittle bush, prickly pears, yuccas and ocotillo. The animals found here are mostly nocturnal and get out at night when the desert is cooler. There is a majority of reptiles, arachnids and insects while animals such as kangaroo rats are also found in majority. These animals tend to remain buried under the ground during the hot days. SEMIARID DESERT: The semiarid deserts can be called the moderate versions of hot and dry deserts. Examples: Sagebrush desert and some deserts of North America, Greenland, Russia, Europe and Northern Asia, Thar Desert Temperature The summers of these deserts are pretty much like the hot and dry deserts and are long and dry, but the only difference is that the temperature does not exceed beyond 38o C. The winters here are better as low concentrations of rainfall are observed. The Soil The soil in these deserts varies from sandy, to coarse, to shallow and gravely. Around the mountain slopes the soil is shallow and rocky; around lower slopes it is coarse while around the bottom land its fine and sandy. The soil has a very low salt concentration. Life Like the hot and dry deserts, the plants here are highly specialized in conserving water. They have reduced leaved known as spines and thick cuticles. Common plants found here are: white thorn, cat claw, brittle bushes, mesquite and jujube. Animals include both nocturnal and day time animals. Non mammals are reptiles and insects while mammals include: kangaroo rats, rabbits and skunks. Some birds such as borrowing owls are also found here. COASTAL DESERT: Coastal deserts are moderate deserts where the temperature is normal throughout the year. Example: The Atacama Desert of Chile. Temperature The winter in these deserts is cool while summers are warm. The average temperature during summers is 13-24o C and is around 5o C during the winters. The rainfall is not very abundant, but on an average 8-13 cm rain falls every year. The Soil The soil in these deserts is fine textured, porous and has a moderate salt content.

Life The plants here apart from having thick leaves and stems, have an extensive root system which draws maximum water whenever there is a rainfall. The stems of these plants can store a large amount of water for later use. Examples are: salt bush, buck wheat bush, rice grass, and black sage and little leaf horse bush. Animals in this desert are highly specialized in storing waters and are well adapted to the conditions of the desert. A part from reptiles such as lizards and snakes, amphibians like toads and mammals like coyote and badger are also found here. Insects and birds like golden eagle are also present. COLD DESERTS: Cold deserts are exceptional deserts where the temperature is extremely cold. Examples: The deserts of Antarctic and Green land. Temperature The winters in these deserts are extremely cold and are very long. The summers are relatively warmer and moist with abundant rainfall. The temperature may reach up to 26o C during the summers. The Soil The soil of these deserts is silty, having a high salt content and is heavy. The soil is also porous at places. Life There is a large population of plants found here. Most plants are deciduous, tall and have spikes instead of leaves. Animals include: kangaroo rats, pocket mice, jack rabbits, kit fox, deer and coyote. Because of extreme cold there are very few reptiles and amphibians. DESERT ECOSYSTEM:

As with any given ecosystem, the plants play the role of producers in deserts. They capture sunlight (solar energy) and convert it into chemical energy by restoring to photosynthesis. This energy is eventually transferred to primary consumers (i.e. the herbivores and omnivores), when they feed on plants, and eventually to the secondary consumers (i.e. the carnivores), when they feed on plant eating animals. In this manner the energy transfers from one member of the food chain to another. When either of these animals or plants dies, the decomposers (i.e. bacteria, fungi and different types of worms ) come into the picture. As these microbes work on dead animals, the energy is returned to the environment through soil and air.

EXAMPLE: The desert cottontail-a primary consumer in the desert food chain, feeds on cacti- the producer and derives energy from it. The red-tailed hawk-the secondary consumer in the food chain, feeds on the cottontail and derives energy from it. Interlinked food chains like these form a desert food web. Approximately 90% of the energy is lost in the course of being transferred from one tropic level to the next; this is called progressive loss of energy. It is because of this that the number of carnivores in any given ecosystem is less than the number of prey. ADAPTATIONS: In a desert, water is all-important. Adaptations to the scarce rainfall typical of deserts include: - Annual plants have seeds that are able to stay dormant until there is sufficient rainfall to support the young plant. - Succulent plants, like cacti, store water in residual leaves that are spines. Photosynthesis takes place on the stem and there are pleats on the stem that can quickly expand when a torrent of rare water hits the desert. - Shrubs have sunken stomata and evergreens waxy cuticles that keep water from escaping. The holly plant holds its leaves at seventy degrees so that the sun hits only its sides. When the sun is low, it hits the full leaf. It also has a covering of fine salt to reflect heat away from the plant. The creosote bush lives on dew, using a fine network of rootlets to obtain water. It grows in expanding rings and nothing next to it can compete for water. - Many animals live in burrows, only go out at night, and generally try to avoid the heat. Even lizards, which hunt in the day, avoid the heat of noon. Some desert animals have large ears (desert fox, jack rabbit, hedgehog, and bandicoot) to radiate heat away from their body. The desert squirrel holds its tail over its head like an umbrella to stay cool.

TOPIC2: AQUATIC ECOSYSTEM AQUATIC ECOSYSTEM: An ecosystem is a community of organisms that live and interact within a particular environment. In an aquatic ecosystem, that environment is water, and all the systems plants and animals live either in or on that water. The specific setting and type of water, such as a freshwater lake or saltwater marsh, determines which animals and plants live there. TYPES OF AQUATIC ECOSYSTEM: (1) FRESH WATER ECOSYSTEM:

Freshwater--water that is either drinkable or has little or no salt content--supports its own aquatic ecosystems. These include rivers and streams, lakes and ponds, wetlands and even groundwater. Each of these systems is unique, and even within categories, any specific habitat is affected by altitude, temperature and humidity. For instance, a plant native to a warm shallow lake in the tropics could not survive on the steep banks of a cold, fast-moving mountain stream It includes: Standing Water- lakes & ponds and Moving Water- rivers & streams.

Standing Water- lakes & ponds: Standing water ecosystems are known as Lentic ecosystems such as lakes and ponds. The organisms in lentic ecosystem includs algae, rooted and floating-leaved plants, invertebrates such as crabs, shrimps, crayfish, clams etc, amphibians such as frogs and salamanders; and reptiles like alligators and water snakes. Moving Water- Rivers & streams: flowing-water ecosystems are known as Lotic ecosystems with water flowing in uniform direction and in a unidirectional way. Examples are rivers and streams, which harbor several species of insects and fishes. Crustaceans like crayfish and crabs; and mollusks such as clams and limpets.

FRESH WATER ECOSYSTEM LIFE: Freshwater ecosystems provide homes for a wide variety of animal life including insects, amphibians and fish. One estimate of fish species puts the number that live in freshwater at 40 percent of the Earths total. According to Brian Richter of The Nature Conservancy, at least 45,000 freshwater fish species have been cataloged. Worms, mollusks, algae and bacteria all live in freshwater systems, as do innumerable varieties of plants. In addition, animals such as birds, otters and bears use freshwater ecosystems as a food source. (2) ESTUARINE ECOSYSTEM: Estuarine ecosystems occur in coastal regions at the interface between saltwater and freshwater, such as saltwater marshes, river deltas and mangrove swamps. Ecosystem describes the interaction of organisms with each other and the physical world in which they live. (3) MARINE ECOSYSTEM: Marine, or ocean, systems cover about 70 percent of the Earths surface and are identified by the presence of dissolved salts in the water. The level of salinity averages about 35 parts per thousand g of water, but it can vary in response to climate or a nearby source of freshwater. Marine organisms must adapt to either a constantly changing or stable level of salt content and cannot move successfully from one to the other. Marine ecosystem involves: Shorelines, Coral Reefs, Open Ocean

Shorelines : are where oceans and seas meet land. Since its close to the sea its always prone to hurricanes and erosion.Habitat fo burrowing animals. Coral Reefs: Cover less than 1% of the oceans.Also known as Rainforests of sea. These are clear warm shallow seas.Made up of as a result of accumulation of calcium carbonate deposited by marine organisms like corals and shellfish. Open Ocean: Oceans have a great impact on the biosphere.Its the source of rainfall. ocean temperatures determine climate and wind patterns.

SIGNIFICANCE OF DIFFERENT TYPES OF AQUATIC ECOSYSTEMS: The study of aquatic ecosystem helps to understand the biodiversity (flora and fauna)of the aquatic ecosystem and their interaction with the physical and chemical environment .Aquatic ecosystems are in danger mainly because of human activities like: Overfishing, Transportation, waste disposal , recreation and other activities which might harm the ecosystem.

CHARACTERISTICS OF AQUATIC ECOSYSTEM: ABIOTIC CHARACTERISTICS: An ecosystem is composed of biotic communities and abiotic environmental factors, which form a self-regulating and self-sustaining unit. Abiotic environmental factors of aquatic ecosystems include temperature, salinity, and flow. The amount of dissolved oxygen in a water body is frequently the key substance in determining the extent and kinds of organic life in the water body. Fish need dissolved oxygen to survive. Conversely, oxygen is fatal to many kinds of anaerobic bacteria. The salinity of the water body is also a determining factor in the kinds of species found in the water body. Organisms in marine ecosystems tolerate salinity, while many freshwater organisms are intolerant of salt. Freshwater used for irrigation purposes often absorb levels of salt that are harmful to freshwater organisms. Though some salt can be good for organisms. BIOTIC CHARACTERISTICS: The organisms (also called biota) found in aquatic ecosystems are either autotrophic or heterotrophic. FUNCTIONS OF AQUATIC ECOSYSTEM: Aquatic ecosystems perform many important environmental functions. For example, they recycle nutrients, purify water, attenuate floods, recharge ground water and provide habitats for wildlife. Aquatic ecosystems are also used for human recreation, and are very important to the tourism industry, especially in coastal regions. The health of an aquatic ecosystem is degraded when the ecosystem's ability to absorb a stress has been exceeded. A stress on an aquatic ecosystem can be a result of physical, chemical or biological alterations of the environment. Physical alterations include changes in water temperature, water flow and light availability. Chemical alterations include changes

in the loading rates of biostimulatory nutrients, oxygen consuming materials, and toxins. Biological alterations include the introduction of exotic species. Human populations can impose excessive stresses on aquatic ecosystems.