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Biotic Components Paper

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Biotic Component Paper

Biotic Components Paper

In this paper I will conduct research on the Bolsa Chica Wetlands that are located in an area of lowlands in Orange County California, adjacent to the city of Huntington Beach. The area is managed by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), whose mission is to” protect and enhance; migratory shorebird, seabird, waterfowl overwintering habitat; protect natural habitat for shorebirds and seabirds; protect nesting and foraging conditions for threatened or endangered species” The Bolsa Chica Conservancy (BCC) is a local volunteer organization that assists in maintaining the area. Its goals are to ensure the preservation, restoration, and enhancement of the area (2010). This dynamic, yet fragile, ecosystem has been preserved since 1965, flourishing under diligent and careful management.

Coastal ecosystems include marshes, coastal waters, estuaries, and lands located at the lower end of drainage basins, where rivers and streams meet the sea or ocean (United States FWS, 2010). These complex ecosystems are composed of biotic communities; plants, animals, birds, and microbes, and the abiotic community; nonliving, chemical, and physical. According to Wright (2008) the type of biotic community found in a given area, is largely determined by the abiotic factors, such as the amount of water, climate, the salinity, or type of soil. Bolsa Chica has a wealth of plant and animal species including Sea Lettuce, Pickleweed, Shoregrass, Jaumea, and many shore birds such as, Ducks, Grebes, Western Sandpipers, and Savannah Sparrows.

According to Wright, (2008), ecosystems have the same structure, regardless of their diversity, consisting of autotrophs, or producers, which produce organic matter that becomes the source of energy for heterotrophs, consumers, detritus feeders, and decomposers. Amigos of Bolsa Chica (ADBC, 2010), suggest that major abiotic parts of the Bolsa Chica ecosystem include the sun, as the major energy source, saltwater, from the ocean, freshwater from streams, air, and mud. The mud and soil contains detritus, or decomposed organic matter. The soil is carried into the marsh and wetlands by rainfall draining off upland slope (ADBC), (2010). The biotic or living parts of the ecosystem are comprised of birds, fish, invertebrates, and plants (including plankton). According to ADBC “plants are the primary producers (autotrophs), and are the most important component of the ecosystem. Plants are considered primary producers because they make their own food from water, carbon dioxide, and the sun as the energy source” (2010).

Consumers (heterotrophs) in this ecosystem are the invertebrates, and animals. The birds feed off some of the invertebrates and animals and are therefore considered secondary consumers. Dead plant material, fecal waste, and dead animal bodies are called detritus. Detritus feeders and decomposers may include worms, crabs, and horn snails. Decomposition of detritus material releases nutrients back into the water and mud.

According to Botkin and Keller (2009), biogeochemical cycles are the complete pathways chemicals take through the four major components of earths systems, atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere. The major biogeochemical cycle at work in the Bolsa Chica wetlands is the hydrologic cycle or earth’s water cycle. The hydrologic cycle is comprised of water rising into the atmosphere because of evaporation and transpiration, returning to the land and sea during condensation and precipitation (Wright, 2008).

The natural ecosystem of Bolsa Chica has been affected on two counts by human interference in biogeochemical cycles. The pathway of fresh water to the wetlands was diverted in the early part of the twentieth century, to irrigate nearby fields, followed by the construction of a small dam, built to prevent sea water flooding. This had devastating effects on the ecosystem. As the fresh water could not mix with the sea water, the salinity rose, profoundly affecting the ecology, causing the ecosystem to fail. A tidal salt marsh is a community of plants and animals that thrive in wet saline conditions (ADBC, 2010), which rely on the tides to bring nutrients, such as oxygen, nitrogen, and phosphorous. As the tide leaves the wetlands, pools are exposed which shorebirds can feed on larvae without competition from fish that was impossible during the time period of water diversion and dam construction. The land became baron; an area of waste land, until 1967, when the water originally diverted for irrigation of fields, was redirected to the lowland area. In 2006, a tidal inlet was successfully opened after 107 years, allowing the tide to flow to various parts of the wetlands which had previously been closed off (ADBC, 2010).

During the process of Bolsa Chica environmental change, much has been learned about ecosystem destruction and restoration. Wetland areas are as Wright states “among the most productive ecosystems on earth, rich in breeding grounds for many species of fish, shellfish, and waterfowl” (2008). Interfering with the natural biogeochemical cycles can have devastating effects, completely wiping out ecosystems. Lessons learned are valuable for other restoration projects, many of which are in progress throughout the United States (U.S.). Major learning’s included, the rise in water salinity when not allowed to mix with fresh water creates a hostile environment, making it inhabitable by the resident community, lack of tidal rhythm reduces nutrient flow, and death of the ecosystem results in a barren landscape. More thought has to be placed into the need for human habitat to balance with the natural environmental needs. Ecosystems are places of natural beauty that can be aesthetically pleasing, Utilizing the scientific method and knowledge of biogeochemical processes can help humans plan how to ensure natural ecosystems remain intact and successful.


Amigos De Bolsa Chica (2010). Birds and science. Retrieved March 2, 2011 from

Bolsa Chica Conservancy (2010). It’s for the birds. Retrieved March 2, 2011 from

Botkin, D. B., & Keller, E. A. (2009). Environmental science-earth as a living planet.

New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons inc.

National Marine Fisheries Service (2010). Bolsa chica wetlands steering committee.

Retrieved March 2, 2011 from

United States Fish and Wildlife Service (2010). What is a coastal ecosystem? Retrived

March 2, 2011 from

Wright, R, T., (2008). Ecosystems. Environmental Science (10th ed). New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall

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