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Yellowstone in Process

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Yellowstone in Process
Adrienne Rawlins-Wilson
September 9, 2013 Yellowstone in Process Yellowstone is the perfect ecosystem to be used as an example of the assorted biogeochemical systems that govern life. Comprised of an intricate and fluid set of interlocking biogeochemical systems, Yellowstone Park is one of the most vibrant and dynamic regions of the Earth. Naturally occurring fire must be mentioned along with these basic systems. The thermodynamic park has strange and wonderful powers of recovery and rejuvenation. With more than 10,000 hydrothermal features active in assisting life for thousands of plant and animal species, Yellowstone is one of the few remaining unaltered natural ecosystems left in Earth’s temperate zones (National Park Service", 2013). The national park is home to many species of microscopic life perfectly evolved to cope with the high temperatures of the heated mineral-laden water that bubbles and rushes to the surface. Coexisting alongside are hundreds of other easily recognized species. The carbon, phosphorus, and nitrogen cycles are each apparent and active in the park. Carbon is part of every living thing, and cycles through living organisms, air, water, and will fixate in the ground; coal is carbon stored in a solid mineral state. Carbon is stored in several places; it is found in the atmosphere, the biosphere, and the oceans in both living (fish and plants) and non-living (dissolved carbon and carcasses) distributions. It is stored in sediments and the strata, the mantle and the crust of the Earth, where interactions occur as the result of geological processes. This fixed carbon moves between these assorted reservoirs using various chemical, biological, and geologic processes. Without human influences like pollution from the burning of fossil fuels, the reservoirs would be much more stable than they are at present. Phosphorus has the same type of cyclical nature, and has its own system as well: The cycle of nitrogen - fixation, ammonification, nitrification, and dentrification has been studied at Yellowstone in detail ("Observations Concerning Nitrogen Cycling", 2013).
Always cycling in and moving out, nitrogen makes up around 80% of the atmosphere. Though during the process of respiration animals breathe nitrogen in and out back into the atmosphere, most animals fulfill their nitrogen needs through their diet from plant matter. Most plants receive the nitrogen they need to grow from the soil. The larger animals process the nitrogen from plant matter they have consumed, and return it to the cycle as waste. These cycles are continuously active as plant and animal life use and reuse the minerals, processing the minerals through the biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere. The prokaryotes are an exception. The study of the nitrogen cycle may be taken to a deeper level. The "Yellowstone Biogeochemical Cycle" (n.d.) website, The smaller animals like prokaryotes draw nitrogen from the atmosphere, and metabolize it into ammonium and nitrate from within the soil and pools. Both algae and plants can utilize these compounds as fuel. Ammonia can enter the atmosphere directly from the soil in its gaseous form. According to "Yellowstone Biogeochemical Cycle" (n.d.), “Research suggests that autotrophs in Yellowstone are responsible for the oxidation of NH4 in the soil to NH2” (Nitrogen in the Soil). There are particular temperature requirements to the successful completion of these processes. Humans have huge potential to upset the chemical balances of the previously mentioned systems, and every possible measure is taken to keep the human impact from the Yellowstone ecosystem. Mankind’s interventions are highly discouraged in the park, and apart from higher levels of CO2 present in the atmosphere, natural regulation is allowed to work under normal circumstances. According to "Ecological Dynamics on Yellowstone's Northern Range (2002 - 2013), “ described by the National Park Service (NPS), “natural environments evolving through natural processes [are] minimally influenced by human actions”’ (p. 198). Yellowstone has many species of plants and animals dependent on each other. The animal species have been left alone in their natural numbers as much as possible to achieve more of a natural ecosystem balance. The above web diagram presents a good representation of the producers, primary, and secondary consumers. Producers lie at the base of this representation, these plants use photosynthesis to produce their own food. The next level up consists of primary consumers; they are herbivores and feed on the first level plants. Secondary consumers are omnivorous, and eat both plants and primary consumers. Secondary consumers provide energy for the tertiary animals; in the case of Yellowstone, the gray wolf is a tertiary consumer and is found at the top of the Yellowstone food web ("Yellowstone National Park", 2013). Fire in ecosystems can be a natural part of a systems cyclical nature. Often fire occurs as the result of lightening and plays a natural and important role in the life, death, and rebirth of plant and animal life . Yellowstone National Park has an interesting approach to the management of fire. According to "National Park Service" (2013), The Wildland Program has two goals:
1. “To suppress wildfires that are human-caused or that threaten people, property or resource values,
2. To ensure that naturally ignited wildland fires may burn freely as an ecosystem process” (Wildland Fire Program).
When fire appears in the park, park management representatives stand in readiness to assess the fire. Determinations are made swiftly as possible, and value judgments are made. Human caused fires are generally put out as well as those naturally occurring fires that would cause damages to people, their property, and resources. However, in every possible case the fire is left to burn as a natural component of the ecosystem.
Yellowstone is a good example of good human husbandry and management. There are only a few areas left untouched by human influence, and though humans are quite involved with Yellowstone, tremendous effort is given to the park to keep it as close to the natural state as possible. The general health of the park, its many systems, and animal numbers are continuously monitored to ensure the biogeochemical systems remain balanced and consistent. References
Ecological Dynamics on Yellowstone's Northern Range (2002 - 2013). Retrieved from
Google (2013). Three biogeochemical cycles, images [Image]. Retrieved from Google Images website:,+images&rlz=1C1CHFX_enUS476US476 National Park Service (2013). [Image]. Retrieved from Yellowstone's Wildlife website:
National Park Service. (2013). Retrieved from

National Park Service. (2013). Retrieved from
Yellowstone Biogeochemical Cycle. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Yellowstone National Park. (2013). Retrieved from

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