Ecological Footprint, Biomes, Ecotone

ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT

The simplest way to define ecological footprint would be to call it the impact of human activities measured in terms of the area of biologically productive land and water required to produce the goods consumed and to assimilate the wastes generated. More simply, it isthe amount of the environment necessary to produce the goods and services necessary to support a particular lifestyle. The Ecological Footprint is defined as the area of productive land and water ecosystems required for the production of the resources that thepopulation consumes and assimilate the wastes that the population produces, wherever on Earth the land and water is located. It is theenvironmental input of a person or population.

BIOMES

Biomes are very large ecological areas on the earth’s surface, with fauna and flora (animals and plants) having similar climate (weather, temperature). In another words biome is defined as the world’s major communities, classified according to the predominant vegetationand characterized by adaptations of organisms to that particular environment. There are terrestrial biomes (land) and aquatic biomes, both freshwater and marine. There are five major categories of biomes on earth. In these five, there are many sub-biomes, under which are many more well defined ecosystems.  The major types of biomes are; aquatic, desert, forest, grassland, and tundra.  In these Forests are separated into rainforest, temperate forest, chaparral, and taiga; grasslands are divided into savanna and temperate grasslands; and the aquatic biome is split into freshwater and marine.

ECOTONE

An Ecotone is a transitional area of vegetation between two different ecosystems or plant communities, such as forest and grassland.  In landscape ecology, an ecotone is the border areas where two patches meet that have different ecological composition. The ecotone contains elements of both bordering communities as well as organisms which are characteristic and restricted to the ecotone. Ecotones are not limited to terrestrial communities; for example, the transition from soft bottom to hard bottom marine communities is an aquatic ecotone. Or Ecotones also appear where one body of water meets another (e.g., estuaries and lagoons) or at the boundary between the water and the land (e.g., marshes). Ecotones often have a larger number of species and larger population densities than the communities oneither side. This tendency for increased biodiversity within the ecotone is referred to as the “edge effect.” Or the influence of the two bordering communities on each other is known as the edge effect.

An ecotone may be created by natural or man-made factors. Natural factors include abiotic factor transitions in soils compositionpHsoil salinitysoil mineral content as well as topographic and meteorological transition zones. Anthropogenic bases of ecotones can be such acts as forest clearing, pollution within a given soil area, over-drafting of groundwater in a well-defined locale, or controlled burning. Ecotones are also dynamicchanging width and positions with time during succession or environmental changes at various scales.

HOME RANGE

Every animal species needs certain amount of space to survive and thrive. The amount of space an animal uses on a regular basis is called its home range. It is the region that encompasses all the resources the animal requires to survive and reproduce. Competition for food and other resources influences how animals are distributed in space. Home ranges can stretch for many miles or they can be only a few feet. The size of a home range often depends on the size of an animal. Large animals, like the moose, need more space to survive than smaller animals like the chipmunk.

CARRYING CAPACITY

For a given region, carrying capacity is the maximum number of individuals of a given species that an area’s resources can sustainindefinitely without significantly depleting or degrading those resources. Determining the carrying capacities for most organisms is fairly straightforward. For humans carrying capacity is much more complicated. The definition is expanded to include not degrading our cultural and social environments and not harming the physical environment in ways that would adversely affect future generations. Carrying capacity is a measure of sustainability with the changing conditions environment.