Free Essay

Ecosystem Structure, Function, and Change Paper (Great Lakes)


Submitted By bshantera
Words 1411
Pages 6
Ecosystem Structure, Function, and Change Paper

(Great Lakes)

Shantera Bell

October 26, 2015



The Great Lakes region is rich with life and full of native species well adapted to survival. However, since the early 1800s, many non-native plants, animals and microscopic organisms have been introduced into the Great Lakes, either accidentally or intentionally. Great Lakes native species are diverse and interesting and contribute to a healthy ecosystem. There are many unique and interesting birds, fish and plants found in Michigan and throughout the region that are integral to the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem. More than 140 species of birds depend on Michigan’s coastal habitat during their life cycle. Coastal wetlands, beaches, sand dunes and remote islands provide food and shelter for both resident and migratory species.

Waterfowl such as Canvasback and Scaup are among the many species that use coastal wetlands as stopover sites to rest and refuel. Shorebirds including the endangered piping plover fly thousands of miles to nest on undisturbed beaches and remote Great Lakes islands.

Because of their use of the coastal lands, there are thousands of great locations to see both resident and migratory bird species throughout Michigan and the Great Lakes region. State parks, national parks, wildlife refuges and sanctuaries throughout the state all provide good bird-watching opportunities. Some sites along Michigan’s Great Lakes shoreline are even considered birding “hotspots” due to the number of species that pass through each spring and fall. More than 160 species of freshwater fish inhabit the waters of the Great Lakes.

Ancient fish, such as Lake Sturgeon and Longnose Gar also inhabit waters of the Great Lakes region. These fish have unique attributes that have allowed them to survive for millions of years. Each family of fishes in the Great Lakes region has physical traits that set it apart from others, called distinguishing characteristics.

As far as the plants goes, from wildflowers to cattails to dune grasses — plants provide pleasing backdrops and picturesque panoramas. However, they also contribute much more than beauty to a landscape. For example, in the Great Lakes, native shoreline plants help hold surface sands in place and provide food and shelter for wildlife.

Many coastal Great Lakes plants are well adjusted to hard living, managing to survive the threat of invasive species, harsh beach climates and fluctuating water levels.

The major structural and functional dynamics of your selected ecosystem:

GLERL’s Ecosystem Dynamics research program is building a strong base of understanding for the structure of the Great Lakes ecosystem and how its ecosystem processes function and respond to changing environmental conditions. An important goal of the Ecosystem Dynamics research is to study human-generated factors threatening the health and services of the Great Lakes. For example, long-term research in lakes Michigan and Huron focuses on how invasive species disrupt ecosystem processes affecting food webs, such as the decline of zooplankton populations or shifts in their migratory patterns, which can affect recreational and commercial fishing in the lakes.

In Lake Erie, the scientists are investigating the effect of harmful algal blooms (HABs) on the Great Lakes ecosystem and human health. They are particularly interested in the role played by invasive mussels and nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen contained in fertilizers) in promoting the growth of HABs as well as year to year weather related factors that can affect the intensity of the HABs. Results from this research will provide valuable information for managing services that are threatened by HABs such as drinking water supplies, swimming and other recreational activities. To meet NOAA’s goal of a healthy Great Lakes, we must take a proactive approach in the conduct of our research to keep pace with the rapidly changing ecosystem conditions of the lakes. To improve our ability to predict these changes, Ecosystem Dynamics research supports the development and use of physical and ecological modeling at GLERL. The forecasts generated by these models provide resource managers with valuable information on future ecosystem conditions, supporting timely decision-making in managing our Great Lakes. Outcomes from Ecosystem Dynamic research play a critical role in preparing our region to more effectively restore and protect the Great Lakes and their ecosystem services.

Recognizing the value of a long-term perspective on how ecosystems change over time, GLERL has invested in researching the southern basin of Lake Michigan since the 1970s. GLERL's focus on Lake Michigan has led to the establishment of the Long-Term Research (LTR) program. GLERL's LTR approach integrates a core set of long-term observations on biological, chemical, and physical variables, with short-term process-based studies for understanding ecosystem change. Such information is essential for the development of new concepts, models, and forecasting tools to explore impacts of various stressors on the ecosystem.

How humans may have affected the cycling of matter in ecosystems, including effects to the nitrogen, phosphorus, or carbon cycle?

The most significant change in the structure of ecosystems has been the transformation of approximately one quarter (24%) of Earth’s terrestrial surface to cultivated systems. More land was converted to cropland in the 30 years after 1950 than in the 150 years between 1700 and 1850.

Between 1960 and 2000, reservoir storage capacity quadrupled; as a result, the amount of water stored behind large dams is estimated to be three to six times the amount held by natural river channels this excludes natural lakes. Since 1750, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has increased by about 34% (from about 280 parts per million to 376 parts in 2003). Approximately 60% of that increase (60 parts per million) has taken place since 1959. The effect of changes in terrestrial ecosystems on the carbon cycle reversed during the last 50 years. Those ecosystems were on average a net source of CO2 during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (primarily due to deforestation, but with contributions from degradation of agricultural, pasture, and forestlands) and became a net sink sometime around the middle of the last century (although carbon losses from land use change continue at high levels) (high certainty). Factors contributing to the growth of the role of ecosystems in carbon sequestration include afforestation, reforestation, and forest management in North America, Europe, China, and other regions; changed agriculture practices; and the fertilizing effects of nitrogen deposition and increasing atmospheric CO2 (high certainty).

The total amount of reactive, or biologically available, nitrogen created by human activities increased ninefold between 1890 and 1990, with most of that increase taking place in the second half of the century in association with increased use of fertilizers. (See Figures 1.5 and 1.6.) A recent study of global human contributions to reactive nitrogen flows projected that flows will increase from approximately 165 teragrams of reactive nitrogen in 1999 to 270 teragrams in 2050, an increase of 64%. More than half of all the synthetic nitrogen fertilizer (which was first produced in 1913) ever used on the planet has been used since 1985.

The use of phosphorus fertilizers and the rate of phosphorus accumulation in agricultural soils increased nearly threefold between 1960 and 1990, although the rate has declined somewhat since that time. The current flux of phosphorus to the oceans is now triple that of background rates (approximately 22 tera grams of phosphorus per year versus the natural flux of 8 tera grams).

How knowledge about that ecosystem’s structure and function can help or has helped to develop plans for its restoration or management?

River mouth ecosystems, or freshwater estuaries, are the focus of human and wildlife interactions with the Great Lakes. They are highly valued as the region’s urban, industrial, shipping and recreational centers; and home to recreational harbors, wildlife viewing and production, beaches and urban riverfronts. River mouths are also both the mixing zones where nutrients from upstream watersheds are incorporated into the Great Lakes ecosystem and important sites for fish nursery and passage to upstream spawning grounds. These estuarine processes have been broadly altered through watershed land use, floodplain development, harbor channel dredging, wetland filling, urban storm water, shoreline hardening, road and bridge construction, pier construction and the introduction of non-indigenous species. Despite the importance of river mouth ecosystems to humans, fish and wildlife, very little is known about how these ecosystems function or how anthropogenic changes have altered those natural processes. Our lack of understanding severely limits our ability to manage or restore these ecosystems effectively and efficiently.


Similar Documents

Premium Essay

Fresh Water Ecosystem

...Sustaining Healthy Freshwater Ecosystems Issues in Ecology Number 10 Winter 2003 Sustaining Healthy Freshwater Ecosystems SUMMARY Fresh water is vital to human life and economic well-being, and societies extract vast quantities of water from rivers, lakes, wetlands, and underground aquifers to supply the requirements of cities, farms, and industries. Our need for fresh water has long caused us to overlook equally vital benefits of water that remains in stream to sustain healthy aquatic ecosystems. There is growing recognition, however, that functionally intact and biologically complex freshwater ecosystems provide many economically valuable commodities and services to society. These services include flood control, transportation, recreation, purification of human and industrial wastes, habitat for plants and animals, and production of fish and other foods and marketable goods. Over the long term, intact ecosystems are more likely to retain the adaptive capacity to sustain production of these goods and services in the face of future environmental disruptions such as climate change. These ecosystem benefits are costly and often impossible to replace when aquatic systems are degraded. For this reason, deliberations about water allocation should always include provisions for maintaining the integrity of freshwater ecosystems. Scientific evidence indicates that aquatic ecosystems can be protected or restored by recognizing the following: • Rivers, lakes, wetlands, and their connecting...

Words: 11042 - Pages: 45

Free Essay


...Although we cannot identify the names of the schools that participated in this study, we want to thank all the teachers and administrators in these 19 schools. Without their cooperation and support, this study would not have been possible. We would also like to thank Dr. Maenette K. P. Benham and the four anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments. Ann Krause, Punya, Mishra, Matthew Koehler, and Gary Cziko offered very helpful comments and suggestions. 1 Abstract Why isn't technology used more in schools? Many researchers have been searching for solutions to this persistent puzzle. In this paper, we extend existing research on technology integration and diffusion of innovations by investigating relationships among the long list of factors that have already been identified to be related to school technology uses. In particular, we use the metaphor of an ecosystem to theoretically integrate and organize sets of factors that affect implementation of computer technology. We also hope that this metaphor will help us better understand other educational innovations. We conducted a study of technology uses in 19 schools in four districts. Findings of this...

Words: 17667 - Pages: 71

Free Essay


...yourself) In ecology, resilience is the capacity of an ecosystem to respond to a perturbation or disturbanceby resisting damage and recovering quickly. Such perturbations and disturbances can include stochastic events such as fires, flooding, windstorms, insect population explosions, and human activities such as deforestation and the introduction of exotic plant or animal species. Disturbances of sufficient magnitudeor duration can profoundly affect an ecosystem and may force an ecosystem to reach a threshold beyond which a different regime of processes and structures predominates.Human activities that adversely affect ecosystem resilience such as reduction of biodiversity, exploitation of natural resources,pollution, land-use, and anthropogenic climate change are increasingly causing regime shifts in ecosystems, often to less desirable and degraded conditions. Interdisciplinary discourse on resilience now includes consideration of the interactions of humans and ecosystems via socio-ecological systems, and the need for shift from the maximum sustainable yield paradigm to environmental management which aims to build ecological resilience through "resilience analysis, adaptive resource management, and adaptive governance". The concept of resilience in ecological systems was first introduced by the Canadian ecologist C.S. Holling  in order to describe the persistence of natural systems in the face of changes in ecosystem variables due to natural or anthropogenic causes. Resilience...

Words: 15264 - Pages: 62

Free Essay

Environmental Studies

...Environmental Studies For Undergraduate Courses Erach Bharucha Textbook for Environmental Studies For Undergraduate Courses of all Branches of Higher Education Erach Bharucha for University Grants Commission Natural Resources i Preliminary Pages.p65 1 4/9/2004, 5:06 PM Credits Principal author and editor – Erach Bharucha Unit 1 – Erach Bharucha Unit 2 – Erach Bharucha, Behafrid Patel Unit 3 – Erach Bharucha Unit 4 – Erach Bharucha Unit 5 – Shamita Kumar Unit 6 – Erach Bharucha, Shalini Nair, Behafrid Patel Unit 7 – Erach Bharucha, Shalini Nair, Behafrid Patel Unit 8 – Erach Bharucha, Shambhvi Joshi Case Studies – Prasanna Kolte Co-ordination and compilation – Behafrid Patel Textbook Design – Narendra Kulkarni (Mudra), Sushma Durve Manuscript review and editing – Chinmaya Dunster, Behafrid Patel Artists – Sushma Durve and Anagha Deshpande CD ROM – Jaya Rai and Prasanna Kolte © Copyright Text – Erach Bharucha/ UGC, 2004. Photographs – Erach Bharucha Drawings – Bharati Vidyapeeth Institute of Environment Education and Research All rights reserved. Distributed by University Grants Commission, New Delhi. 2004. ii Environmental Studies for Undergraduate Courses Preliminary Pages.p65 2 4/9/2004, 5:06 PM Vision The importance of Environmental Studies cannot be disputed. The need for sustainable development is a key to the future of mankind. The degradation of our environment is linked to continuing problems of pollution, loss...

Words: 125061 - Pages: 501

Premium Essay

Term Paper

...Content Water they say is life, and indeed they were right. With about 70% of the earth’s cover being water; it undeniably becomes one of our greatest resources. Water resources are used in various ways including direct consumption, agricultural irrigation, fisheries, hydropower, industrial production, recreation, navigation, environmental protection, the disposal and treatment of sewage, and industrial effluents. Water has sources and supplies, economic, social, and political characteristics which make it a unique and challenging natural resource to manage. Water resources refer to the supply of groundwater and surface water in a given area. Water resources may also reference the current or potential value of the resource to the community and the environment. The maximum rate that water is potentially available for human use and management is often considered the best measure of the total water resources of a given region. With two thirds of the earth's surface covered by water and the human body consisting of 75 percent of it, it is evidently clear that water is one of the prime elements responsible for life on earth. Water circulates through the land just as it does through the human body, transporting, dissolving, replenishing nutrients and organic matter, while carrying away waste material. Further in the body, it regulates the activities of fluids, tissues, cells, lymph, blood and glandular secretions. An average adult body contains 42 litres of water and with just...

Words: 11852 - Pages: 48

Premium Essay

Ems Plan in Bluemountains Hotel Management School

...Individual Assessment Cover Sheet / Plagiarism Declaration Form This form must be completed and included with each assessment you submit for marking to the School. Although this assessment is submitted electronically, you must still complete and include this form with your assessment. | | | | | | |Student Number: |201413996 | | | | |Unit Code No.: |HOS201 | | | | |Unit Title: |Operation and Environmental Management | | | | |Assessment No.: |Individual essay ...

Words: 3260 - Pages: 14

Premium Essay


...Water pollution Water pollution is the contamination of water bodies (e.g. lakes, rivers, oceans, aquifers and groundwater). Water pollution occurs when pollutants are discharged directly or indirectly into water bodies without adequate treatment to remove harmful compounds. Water pollution affects plants and organisms living in these bodies of water. In almost all cases the effect is damaging not only to individual species and populations, but also to the natural biological communities. Introduction Water pollution is a major global problem which requires ongoing evaluation and revision of water resource policy at all levels (international down to individual aquifers and wells). It has been suggested that it is the leading worldwide cause of deaths and diseases, and that it accounts for the deaths of more than 14,000 people daily. An estimated 700 million Indians have no access to a proper toilet, and 1,000 Indian children die of diarrheal sickness every day. Some 90% of China's cities suffer from some degree of water pollution, and nearly 500 million people lack access to safe drinking water. In addition to the acute problems of water pollution in developing countries, developed countries continue to struggle with pollution problems as well. In the most recent national report on water quality in the United States, 45 percent of assessed stream miles, 47 percent of assessed lake acres, and 32 percent of assessed bays and estuarine square miles were classified as polluted...

Words: 3195 - Pages: 13

Premium Essay


...Report Jonathan W. Moore, Daniel E. Schindler, Mark D. Scheuerell, Danielle Smith and Jonathan Frodge Lake Eutrophication at the Urban Fringe, Seattle Region, USA Nutrient pollution and associated eutrophication of freshwaters threaten the ecological integrity and the services provided to humans by lakes. We examined how human residential development influenced the level of lake eutrophication in the Seattle, WA, USA, region. We surveyed 30 lakes and measured 3 indicators of eutrophication: concentrations of chlorophyll-a and phosphorus, and the proportion of algae that are inedible to zooplankton. We classified lakes based on the waste-treatment method for shoreline homes: septic, sewer, and undeveloped lakes. Septic lakes occurred along the urban-rural fringe while sewer lakes occurred near urban centers. Septic lakes were more eutrophic than sewer lakes and undeveloped lakes, as indicated by higher levels of phosphorus and chlorophyll-a. These results suggest that septic systems contribute to the high levels of eutrophication in lakes at the urbanrural fringe. Lakes at the urban-rural fringe represent an opportunity for proactive management of urban expansion to minimize lake eutrophication. A lake without shoreline development. Undeveloped lakes were less eutrophic than lakes with shoreline houses. Photo: D. Schindler. INTRODUCTION Residential development in the United States has increased substantially over the last 50 years. Much of...

Words: 6539 - Pages: 27

Premium Essay


... | | | | | |Atty. Vicente T. Peña | Environmental pollution is “the contamination of the physical and biological components of the earth/atmosphere system to such an extent that normal environmental processes are adversely affected” Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that causes adverse change. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light. Pollutants, the components of pollution, can be either foreign substances/energies or naturally occurring contaminants. Pollution is often classed as point source or nonpoint source pollution. Although pollution...

Words: 13986 - Pages: 56

Premium Essay

Seminole Gas and Electric

...Law Environment and Development Journal LEAD REVIEW OF NESREA ACT 2007 AND REGULATIONS 2009-2011: A NEW DAWN IN ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE AND ENFORCEMENT IN NIGERIA Muhammed Tawfiq Ladan COUNTRY LEGISLATION 8/1 VOLUME LEAD Journal (Law, Environment and Development Journal) is a peer-reviewed academic publication based in New Delhi and London and jointly managed by the School of Law, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) - University of London and the International Environmental Law Research Centre (IELRC). LEAD is published at ISSN 1746-5893 The Managing Editor, LEAD Journal, c/o International Environmental Law Research Centre (IELRC), International Environment House II, 1F, 7 Chemin de Balexert, 1219 Châtelaine-Geneva, Switzerland, Tel/fax: + 41 (0)22 79 72 623, Country Legislation REVIEW OF NESREA ACT 2007 AND REGULATIONS 2009-2011: A NEW DAWN IN ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE AND ENFORCEMENT IN NIGERIA Muhammed Tawfiq Ladan This document can be cited as Muhammed Tawfiq Ladan, ‘Review of NESREA Act 2007 and Regulations 2009-2011: A New Dawn in Environmental Compliance and Enforcement in Nigeria’, 8/1 Law, Environment and Development Journal (2012), p. 116, available at Muhammed Tawfiq Ladan, Professor of Law, Department of Public Law, Faculty of Law, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Nigeria, Email: Published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs...

Words: 14024 - Pages: 57

Free Essay

Colorado River

...Colorado River between Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Mead since the closure of the dam. Old high water line (OHWL) plant species are in decline despite the shift some species have made into new, lower zones of the riparian area. Plants and sediment substrates directly adjacent to the river have been subjected to much less scour and desiccation with the post-dam hydrograph, and many woody species have been able to colonize much larger areas relative to pre-dam conditions. Novel communities such as return current channel marshes have developed in the canyon due to the lack of scour in backwater habitats. Overall, there has been a significant increase in the areal extent of riparian vegetation along this section of the Colorado River. The 1996 test flood was expected to scour existing riparian and marsh vegetation. Monitoring conducted after the flood revealed that vegetation was buried rather than scoured, and was able to recover to pre-flood levels within six months. Flows the size of the test flood, 45,000 cfs (1,274 m3/s), are inadequate to achieve current vegetation management goals, and will thus need to be modified if vegetation management goals are to be met. INTRODUCTION This paper will discuss the characteristics that make riparian zones in general extremely important ecosystems, and more specifically the riparian areas along the Colorado River from Glen Canyon Dam to Lake Mead. I will describe the processes that affect the structure and function of riparian areas, as well as the effects...

Words: 5067 - Pages: 21

Premium Essay

Advantage and Disadvantages

...National Curriculum Statement (NCS) Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement LIFE SCIENCES Further Education and Training Phase Grades 10-12 basic education Department: Basic Education REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA CurriCulum and assessment PoliCy statement Grades 10-12 life sCienCes CAPS LIFE SCIENCES GRADES 10-12 department of Basic education 222 Struben Street Private Bag X895 Pretoria 0001 South Africa Tel: +27 12 357 3000 Fax: +27 12 323 0601 120 Plein Street Private Bag X9023 Cape Town 8000 South Africa Tel: +27 21 465 1701 Fax: +27 21 461 8110 Website: © 2011 department of Basic education isBn: 978-1-4315-0578-4 Design and Layout by: Ndabase Printing Solution Printed by: Government Printing Works CURRICULUM AND ASSESSMENT POLICY STATEMENT (CAPS) LIFE SCIENCES GRADES 10-12 FOREWORD by thE ministER Our national curriculum is the culmination of our efforts over a period of seventeen years to transform the curriculum bequeathed to us by apartheid. From the start of democracy we have built our curriculum on the values that inspired our Constitution (Act 108 of 1996). the Preamble to the Constitution states that the aims of the Constitution are to: • heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights; improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person; lay the foundations for a democratic and open society in which...

Words: 21816 - Pages: 88

Premium Essay

Case Study

...Sustainable Development and Planetary Boundaries BACKGROUND RESEARCH PAPER Johan Rockström and Jeffrey D. Sachs with Marcus C. Öhman and Guido Schmidt-Traub Submitted to the High Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda This paper reflects the views of the author and does not represent the views of the Panel. It is provided as background research for the HLP Report, one of many inputs to the process. May 2013 Draft for Discussion Sustainable Development and Planetary Boundaries Draft for Discussion Background paper for the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda Prepared by the co-chairs of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Thematic Group on Macroeconomics, Population Dynamics, and Planetary Boundaries: Johan Rockström Executive Director, Stockholm Resilience Centre Professor of Environmental Science, Stockholm University Jeffrey D. Sachs Director, The Earth Institute, Columbia University Director, The Sustainable Development Solutions Network Special Advisor to Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on the Millennium Development Goals with Marcus C. Öhman Associate Professor and Senior Researcher in Ecology and Environmental Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre Guido Schmidt-Traub Executive Director, The Sustainable Development Solutions Network 15 March 2013 1 Draft for Discussion The world faces a serious challenge, indeed one that is unique to our age. Developing countries rightly...

Words: 10566 - Pages: 43

Premium Essay


...continuous movement of water on, above and below the surface of the Earth. Since the water cycle is truly a "cycle," there is no beginning or end. Water can change states among liquid, vapor, and ice at various places in the water cycle. Although the balance of water on Earth remains fairly constant over time, individual water molecules can come and go. Contents Description The sun, which drives the water cycle, heats water in the oceans. Water evaporates as vapor into the air. Ice and snow can sublimate directly into water vapor. Evapotranspiration is water transpired from plants and evaporated from the soil. Rising air currents take the vapor up into the atmosphere where cooler temperatures cause it to condense into clouds. Air currents move clouds around the globe, cloud particles collide, grow, and fall out of the sky as precipitation. Some precipitation falls as snow and can accumulate as ice caps and glaciers, which can store frozen water for thousands of years. Snowpacks can thaw and melt, and the melted water flows over land as snowmelt. Most precipitation falls back into the oceans or onto land, where the precipitation flows over the ground as surface runoff. A portion of runoff enters rivers in valleys in the landscape, with streamflow moving water towards the oceans. Runoff and groundwater are stored as freshwater in lakes. Not all runoff flows into rivers. Much of it soaks into the ground as infiltration. Some water infiltrates deep into the ground and replenishes aquifers...

Words: 15993 - Pages: 64

Free Essay


...Environment and Climate Change Policy Brief – Mozambique Generic outline October 2011 Gunilla Ölund Wingqvist Sida's Helpdesk for Environment and Climate Change Contact: Gunilla Ölund Wingqvist E-mail: Table of Contents 2. 1. 3. Introduction ........................................................................................................................ 1 Country environment and climate change context ............................................................. 1 Key poverty-environment linkages .................................................................................... 3 3.1 Who are the poor? ............................................................................................................ 3 3.2 Poverty as lack of natural resources and ecosystem services ........................................... 3 3.3 Poverty as lack of power .............................................................................................. 4 3.4 Poverty as lack of choice .................................................................................................. 5 4. Key environmental challenges and opportunities for development ................................... 6 4.1 Key environmental challenges and opportunities ............................................................ 6 4.2 External and internal factors influencing environmentally sustainable development .....

Words: 10387 - Pages: 42