Discussion: Ecosystems and Ecosystem Services
Focus on Ecosystems: Challenges and Solutions
There is dizzying array of life on our planet. From single celled creatures like yeast, plankton, and amoeba to giant sequoias, coral reefs, and whales. A wonderful variety of life forms share the planet. Have you ever wondered about your relationship with these creatures? How are we connected? How do the actions of other life forms affect us and how do our actions affect them?
Ecologists have devised a way to help make sense of the vast diversity of relationships between the many life forms that live on Earth. An ecosystem refers to the network of relationships that embody the interplay between the variety of living forms that inhabit a given area, the physical substrate of that area, and the region’s climate. For example, forest ecosystems exist in a range of climates and include tropical rain forests, temperate forests which provide a home to broad leaf deciduous trees, and boreal forests which harbor many evergreen trees. Forests and other ecosystems such as deserts, grasslands, wetlands, and aquatic ecosystems not only provide habitat for the life forms that evolved to live within them, but also provide a number of other ecological services, many of which are critical to human life.
Human activity has disrupted and impacted ecosystems around the world. Unfortunately our disruption of ecosystems has had negative consequences for the wellbeing of humans as well as other life forms. As you learn more about human impacts, think about these words from environmentalist and renowned author Rachel Carson: “The human race is challenged more than ever before to demonstrate our mastery, not over nature but of ourselves.”
In this discussion you will describe an ecosystem of your choice, explain the services it provides, how human activity has impacted the ecosystem, and reflect on what we might do to better manage our impact.
To prepare for this Discussion
- Review the Interactive Unit for this week as well as the links posted by your professor, and then conduct your own independent research to better support your post.
- Select a particular ecosystem to focus on in your primary research-based post this week. Consider some of the benefits or services provided by the ecosystem.
- Consider the ways that humans impact the ecosystem of your choice and how this impact challenges the health of humans and other life forms.
- Evaluate existing measures to protect this ecosystem and reflect on what can be done to better manage this ecosystem.
With these thoughts in mind, complete the following:
Spark Response Post (20 points):
By Day 2
Post a two or more paragraph response to the Discussion Spark posted by your professor on Monday (Day 1) in the week 3 discussion forum. Notice that the responses to the Discussion Spark, the primary research-based Discussion Topic, and your colleagues or professor will be graded together.
Primary Research-based Post (35 points):
By Day 4
Post: four or more paragraphs in which you:
- briefly describe the ecosystem of your choice,
- explain at least one way that humans impact this ecosystem; and
- reflect on and evaluate at least one specific measure to better manage this ecosystem and our impact on it. If other people have already presented substantive posts on a given cycle, you might consider treating a different cycle. Cite at least two authoritative reference sources beyond the Interactive Unit for this week to support your presentation in this post.
Read a selection of your colleagues’ and professor’s postings.
Response Posts (15 points):
By Day 5 and 7
Respond by to at least two of your colleagues’ or professor’s postings in a substantive manner, meaning a minimum of 1 full paragraph. Simple “I agree,” “Good post,” or one-line question posts are not enough for full credit. Be substantive as you engage your colleagues.
Return to this Discussion in a few days to read the responses to your initial research- based posting. Note what you have learned and/or any insights you have gained as a result of the comments your colleagues made.
Week #3 – Discussion Spark
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Please select one action that you believe is important and you are able to do in your life to reduce your water foodprint and share it with class in one paragraph.
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