Sierra College Department of Biological Sciences

Discover the Biological Sciences

The introductory information for this site has been contributed as a joint assignment by students in Bio. Sci. 10.

Ecology - Aquatic Ecology

By: Mary Jo Rust

1) Biological field or sub-topic chosen:

The Biological Field that I have chosen is Aquatic Ecology which is a sub-topic of Ecology. This subtopic also has 17 sub-categories, making it one very complex subject.

2) Define field or sub-topic:

The study of Aquatic Ecology is a large and broad topic. A short and sweet description of this topic could say that “Aquatic Ecology is the study of water cycles and water ecology for the purpose of conserving and protecting our water from pollution along with the study of aquatic organisms and how they are affected by their environment”. There are many types of aquatic organisms ranging from single cell organisms to large organisms such as large fish and whales. There are also many types of water habitats or ecosystems that are addressed in this field which include; the two types of aquatic ecosystems, marine ecosystem and freshwater ecosystem. Of these two types of aquatic ecosystems Marine ecosystems can be divided into zones called, oceanic (relatively shallow parts); profundal (bottom or deepwater); benthic (bottom substrates); intertidal (the area between high and low tides); estuaries; salt marshes; coral reefs and hydrothermal vents. The other type of aquatic ecosystem, Freshwater ecosystems have three basic zones called, lentic (slow moving water, including pools, ponds and lakes); Lotic (rapidly moving water, for example streams and rivers) and Wetlands (areas where the soil is saturated or inundated for at least part of the time). Pollutants travel throughout these water ecosystems and can spread pollution by the natural processes of water flow.

As you can see, there are many factors that come into play in this field. I could be so bold as to say that the possibilities are limitless.

3) Describe in more detail the breath and depth of what could be studied or learned within this topic:

The study of these ecosystems and the flow of water takes into consideration many factors including but not limited to; Human influence, chemical influence, energy flow (Sun, temperature, photosynthesis, etc.), animal influence (predators/carnivore, food chain) Nutrient Cycling (oxygen, carbon, nitrogen cycling), Carbon Cycle (movement of carbon through the earth’s ecosystem), Ecosystem Health (changes to the ecosystem), effects of Algae, plankton and bacteria, how water cycles through the earth’s system, and pollutants and how they can be transferred in the water flow.

Scientists work to improve the health of aquatic ecosystems through the use of chemistry, biology and physics to develop methods, processes and assessments for modeling environmental and ecological impacts for the conservation and preservation of all water systems.

4) Focusing on one major concept, principle, or group of organisms (as appropriate within the topic), describe its importance, relationships, functional aspects, or otherwise explain it in more depth as seems important to you and (potentially) the others in class:

As there are so many types of aquatic ecosystems, choosing a single type of ecosystem is not what I would choose to describe. I would like to describe the movement of pollutants within the water flow system and how it can affect all aquatic ecosystems. Many people feel that dumping pollutants within a water body is not too bad because they believe that it will settle within that ecosystem and travel no further. This is a fallacy on many people’s parts and has been proven wrong time and time again.

Water is a non-renewable resource which travels through our system in the form of clouds, precipitation, ground water, streams and rivers, oceans, plants and animals. Water that is coming out of my faucet could have one day in the past been ingested by a dinosaur millions of years ago, or could have been water that lapped at the hull of Columbus’s ship as he crossed the ocean. Once pollutants are introduced into the water system, they follow the natural flow and can be carried within all water sources. Acid rains, polluted groundwater ingested by animals, runoff of chemicals within agricultural areas, and plants that soak up pollutants are but a few ways that pollution can be transferred in the water.

Healthy ecosystems can recycle nutrients, purify water and adapt too many factors. Once an ecosystem is degraded and the ecosystems ability to absorb stress has been exceeded then the health of the ecosystem and the lives that it influences are at risk of permanent damage. It is important to look at the whole movement of water flow as it affects all water systems at one point or another and should really be considered as common to all aquatic systems.

5) In studying and discovering more about this topic, what was the most interesting aspect, fact or some other piece of information that you have learned.

The demand for water all over the world has depleted water resources, damaged ecosystems and created dangerous water habitats. Water management is imperative to the wellness of all life forms and the “Water Flow” process covers so many layers that I was a bit surprised as to the importance to this issue. I have almost always looked at water conservation as a “regional or area thing” instead of as a “world wide thing” and now have more information on this subject and how the transfer of pollutants within the “Water Flow” process can affect the world as a whole.

6) References – provide references used and at least two Web sites with additional information on this topic (or sub-topic) for anyone that would like to learn more:

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