Course:ENVS 3991/Topic 2

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Key Terms


Scale is a measurement that demonstrates relative difference. In environmental management, we generally focus most on spatial and temporal scales. The selection of the appropriate scale for research questions is important for determining the validity and usefulness of study results. A smaller, more focused scale (e.g., local vs. regional or larger) may offer greater validity than larger scale questions or projects. It may also be valid to aggregate the results of smaller scale projects and then apply these findings to answer questions that relate to large scales. During the project design phase, a key concern is to select the appropriate scale for the question or hypothesis posed.

In planning for a sustainable future, temporal scale may consider parameters like “rate of use.” However, the rate that a resource is replenished relative to our personal and societal values will determine the relevancy of rate of use; for example, oil and gas are renewable only in relation to geologic scales while other resources like forests or topsoil can be managed differently, since they likely will renew during a period relative to human lifespan (Cartwright, 1991; Liu & Taylor, 2002; Lovell et al., 2002; Peterson et al., 1998).

Nikon has produced an interesting app called Universcale that allows you to explore the relative scale of different objects.

In addition, have a look at the YouTube video from the Eames Office called the Powers of Ten. This video also demonstrates and explains relative scale.

Real-world Example: A forest will naturally sustain itself at spatial and temporal scales appropriate for its natural cycles. When human activity, such as harvesting, is carried out at spatial and temporal scales that do not relate to natural processes, the human use of the forest will be unsustainable (Voller & Harrison, 1998).


Cartwright, T. J. (1991). Planning and chaos theory. Journal of the American Planning Association, 57(l), 44–56. Available Online through the TRU Library Journal Database.

Liu, J., & Taylor, W. W. (Eds.). (2002). Integrating landscape ecology into natural resource management. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Lovell, C., Mandondo, A, & Moriarty, P. (2002). The question of scale in integrated natural resource management. Conservation Ecology, 5(2), 25. Retrieved July 3, 2012 from

Peterson, G., Allen, C. R., & Holling, C. S. (1998). Ecological resilience, biodiversity, and scale. Ecosystems, 1(1), 6–18. Available online through the TRU Library Journal Database.

Voller, J., & Harrison, S. (1998). Conservation biology principles for forested landscapes. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Keystone and Umbrella Species

A keystone species is defined as a species that contributes so much to their ecosystem that other species rely on it for survival; the disappearance of the keystone species would start a domino effect of concurrent species disappearing and becoming extinct (“Keystone Species”, 2013). An example of a keystone species are prairie dogs. Their foraging aids soil and water quality in the plains, which in turn supports the growth of new grass from which bison and elk gather nutrients (“Keystone Species”, 2013). Keystone species are often predators (“Keystone Species”, 2013).

Zoologist Robert T. Paine coined the term in 1969 when working with starfish in intertidal ecosystems, describing them as “the keystone of the community’s structure, and the integrity of the community and its unaltered persistence through time” (Mills et al. 1993). Criteria needed for a species to be considered ‘keystone’ include the top-down influence on lower trophic levels and the prevention of lower trophic level species monopolizing critical resources (Mills et al. 1993).

An umbrella species is similar to a keystone species, except that they are generally migratory animals that require a large habitat (“Keystone Species”, 2013). The large tracts of land required by the large animals making up the umbrella species generally mean that protecting them protects many other animals that the habitat also encompasses (Simberloff, 1998). Due to the difficulty of monitoring and managing aspects of biodiversity, actions like this are often used (Simberloff, 1998). An example of an umbrella species are tigers in India; their protection is thought to also save leopards, boars, hares, antelopes and monkeys (“Keystone Species”, 2013).


1. Encyclopedic Entry Keystone Species. Retrieved November 10, 2013, from

2. Mills, L. S. et al. (1993). The keystone-species concept in ecology and conservation. BioScience 43, 219–224.

3. Simberloff, D. (1993) Flagships, umbrellas, and keystones: Is single-species management passé in the landscape era? Biological Conservation (83)3: 247–257.

Keystone Species

A Keystone Species is defined as any vital species without which a certain ecosystem would likely collapse or not exist. Often apex predators or at the top of food chains these species tend to have a disproportionately large effect on their habitat relative to their abundance (Wikipedia, 2013) Keystone species play a critical role in maintaining the types and numbers of other various species in the community (ibid) As such, they are strong indicators of the resiliency and resistance of a given ecosystem. The removal of keystone species has a domino effect on its ecological community (National Geographic, 2013).

Real World Example:
Sea Otters in the Pacific Northwest feed on sea urchins. If sea otters were removed from the ecosystem, the sea urchin population would explode and decimate the area’s kelp forests which are the major food source and shelter for the entire ecosystem (ibid).

National Geographic. Education: Keystone Species. Retrieved on December 8,2013, from
Wikipedia. Keystone Species. Retrieved on December 8, 2013, from

Edge Effect

An “edge” refers to the boundary, or interface, between two biological communities or different landscape elements (Forman, 1995). Examples of edges in the environment would be forested patches of land bordering newly harvested cut blocks, or anywhere that forests verge on grasslands or rock outcrops or different harvest types (Forman, 1995). The zone of transition along the edges of two adjacent ecological communities is known as an ecotone, where environmental conditions usually differ from those of the surrounding areas (Forman, 1995). Edge effect is defined as the changes in microclimate that define a distinct gradient (Voller, 1998).

Edge effects can be major drivers of change in landscapes that are fragmented, but are highly variable in space and time (Laurance et al, 2007). The mechanics of edge effects that alter their intensity and impact in fragmented forests are not well understood, but estimates are necessary in order to improve conservation efforts in these areas (Murcia, 1995).


1. Forman, R.T. (1995). Land mosaics: the ecology of landscapes and regions. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K

2. Voller, J. (1998). Extension Note: Biodiversity and Interior Habitat: The Need to Minimize Edge Effects part 6 of 7. Ministry of Forests Research Program, BC

3. Laurance, W.F.; Nascimento, H.E.M.; Laurance, S.G.; Andrade, A.; Ewers, R.M.; et al. (2007) Habitat Fragmentation, Variable Edge Effects, and the Landscape-Divergence Hypothesis. 2(10): e1017. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001017

4. Murcia, C. (1995) Edge effects in fragmented forests: implications for conservation. 10(2): 58-62.

Edge Effect

In ecology, edge effect describes the juxtaposition of two different habitats and how the border between them changes the population or bio-community structure (Wikipedia, 2013). Most often, it is used to describe the border between a human-altered landscape (e.g. clear cut) and a neighbouring natural landscape (e.g. old growth forest). Analyzing edge effect can give insight into how borders affect different plant and animal species specifically and biodiversity generally. For example, edge effect may positively or negatively influence animal territory for grazing, hunting, breeding or migrating. In terms of sustainability, it is an important area of study because human-made edge effects may hinder one species while encouraging another to proliferate.

Real World Example:
On Vancouver Island the edge effect of hydro pipelines, highways and clear-cuts have allowed for the invasive plant species Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) to dominate large tracts of land to the detriment of native plant species (Ussary, 1998).

Wikipedia. Edge Effect. Retrieved on December 8, 2013, from
Ussery, Joel G., and Krannitz, Pam G. (1998). Northwest Science. Vol.72, No.4. “Control of Scot’s Broom (Cytisus scoparius (L.) Link.): The Relative Conservation Merits of Pulling versus Cutting.” Retrieved from


Adaptation in biology is also known as an adaptive trait, one that is inherited through the parent leading to different rates of survival and reproduction. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is one idea that helps describe how a population adapts in order to survive and reproduce and that adaptation is the survival of a species through natural selection process. According to Schemske (2010) Darwin’s theory described adaptation to a habitat as an evolution that would cause a population to diverge or change its ecological traits but was criticized for neglect of reproductive isolation and other such barriers. Cropp and Gabric further explain how adaptation occurs within the constraints of the external environment, and the ecosystems resilience is the result of the interactions between environmental conditions and the biota (the total collection of organisms over space and time) (2002).

According to, the definition of Adaption is:
The ability of a species to survive in a particular ecological niche, especially because of alterations of form or behaviour brought about through natural selection.

Real example:
The United Nations has placed importance and strategy to address climate change through the Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Convention, addressing a range of issues, recognizes that in order to reduce the negative effects of climate change, adaptation to the adverse effects will be necessary in order to reduce the impacts and increase resilience to future impacts. The United Nations Convention states that in order to see successful adaptation it will depend not only on government, but also public and private sectors as well as civil society and the engagement of stakeholders.

Chameleons in rain forests, changing their appearance to suit environment.


Adaptation. Wikipedia Web site. Retrieved June 22, 2013,

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Web site. Retrieved June 22, 2013, from

Schemske, D. W. (December, 2010). Adaptation and the Origin of Species. The American Naturalist, Vol. 176, No. S1, pp. S4-S25. doi: 10.1086/657060

Cropp, R. & and Gabric, A. (Jul., 2002). Ecosystem adaptation: Do ecosystems maximize resilience? Ecology, Vol. 83, No. 7, pp. 2019-2026. Retrieved from

1. Adaptation. In, Based on the Random House Dictionary. Retrieved October 15, 2013, from


Connectivity is defined by The Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, 2006 as, “The structural links between habitat patches in a landscape” (as cited in Ministry of Forests and Range, 2008, p.3). The ecological processes operate over large and multiple scales and as a result require approaches that will maintain and restore connectivity. Connectivity is the extent to which movement of species are facilitated by structure and composition of the landscape thereby causing connectivity dependent upon both species and context (Rutnick et al., 2012). The Great Eastern Ranges Initiatives of Australia helps to further define the concept of conservation connectivity. Their strategic response recognizes that continuous habitat may not always be available, and planning must respond to create conditions best to preserve and restore the environment. In the past it was thought that nature could be conserved adequately by establishing national parks and reserves, however they have become isolated ‘islands’ of vegetation. Plant and animals do not adhere to human boundaries. Rehabilitating and reconnecting islands of vegetation on a large scale is necessary so that ecosystems, and the functional links within it, can function more effectively.

Real example:
1) The woodland caribou relies on large and healthy areas of mature and old forest habitat. This species may be considered an indicator of forest connectivity as they experience disturbances and pressures such as illegal hunting, disease and predation, industrial development, and forest fires. (Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, 2006).
2) Most birds need a variety of habitats—across a range of ecosystems within a wide geographical area—in order to thrive. It is also known that some species will not move between habitat fragments. This increases competition for food and reduces opportunities to breed. (Great Eastern Ranges, nd).


Ministry of Forests and Range Forestry, Terms in British Columbia (March, 2008). Retrieved June 22, 2013, from

Canadian Council of Forest Ministers (2006). Criteria and indicators of sustainable forest management in Canada. Retrieved June 22, 2013 from

Great Eastern Ranges Web site (nd). Conservation connectivity. Retrieved June 22, 2013, from

Rutnick, D., Ryan, S., Beier, P., Cushman, S., Dieffenbach, F., Epps, C., … Trombulak, S., (Fall, 2012). The role of landscape connectivity in planning and implementing conservation and restoration priorities. Issues in Ecology, Vol 16, pp.1-2. Retrieved from

Feedback Mechanisms

Systems must regulate to maintain their state. For example, our body’s normal temperature is 98.6 degrees F. So, to maintain its temperature, your body has two main feedback mechanisms. When you feel cold, you shiver, your muscles shake (contract and expand), and you warm up. Conversely, when you are too hot, you sweat, and water evaporates from your skin, cooling you down.

Feedback loops operate to either exaggerate or minimize effects. Positive feedback loops exaggerate or amplify initial effects, whereas negative feedback loops counteract or dampen initial effects. So, taking the example of your body’s temperature, shivering and sweating are ways that it returns to its ideal temperature—negative feedback mechanisms counteract any initial effects. Typically, systems have both positive and negative feedback mechanisms (Pidwirny, 2006).

Real-world Example: The increase of the gas methane in our atmosphere is contributing to climate change. As the planet warms, the oceans release more methane, and due to the positive feedback mechanism, the initial effect is amplified.
The short video Positive and Negative Feedback Loops provides some examples of positive and negative feedback loops.


Pidwirny, M. (2006). Equilibrium concepts and feedbacks. Fundamentals of physical geography (2nd ed.). Retrieved July 3, 2012 from

Resilience and Resistance

Resiliency and resistance are related concepts. Resilience is the ability of an ecosystem to return to normal after a disturbance. Ecosystems that have short-term disturbance patterns typically have greater resilience than systems that have longer intervals between disturbances. For example, grasslands that have frequent fires are characterized by plant species that are adapted to this type of disturbance. “Characteristics” include species that rapidly reproduce and have long-distance dispersal mechanisms (Folke et al., 2004; Walker et al., 2004). Resilient systems “bounce back” and evolve over time.

Resistance is the ability of a system to be stable, or not change function, after a disturbance. An individual or population that survives a force of change is more resistant than those that are not. Systems with high levels of biodiversity are thought to be relatively stable and thus resistant because even if one species is removed, it is possible that another will be present to fill the niche occupied by the missing species (Folke et al., 2004; Walker et al., 2004).

When humans interact with natural systems and extract resources, they can alter both resiliency and resistance. These alterations may make an ecosystem more vulnerable than it was prior to human interaction. An unintended consequence may be that natural systems are no longer able to produce the services that society values (Folke et al., 2004). Trying to balance the needs of society and its use of resources from natural systems in the present and for the future is a challenging management issue.


Folke, C., Carpenter, S., Walker, B., Scheffer, M., Elmqvist, T., Gunderson, L., & Holling, C. S. (2004). Regime shifts, resilience, and biodiversity in ecosystem management. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 35, 557–581.

Walker, B., Holling, C. S., Carpenter, S. R., & Kinzig, A. (2004). Resilience, adaptability and transformability in social–ecological systems. Ecology and Society, 9(2), 5. Retrieved July 3, 2012 from

Real-world Example: Folke et al. (2004, p. 574) provide this example:

  • A current major problem in this context is the large-scale salinization of land and rivers in Australia. About 5.7 million hectares are currently at risk for dryland salinity, and the amount of land at risk could rise to over 17 million hectares by 2050. Extensive land clearing during the past 200 years has removed native woody vegetation to make way for agricultural crops and pasture grasses that transpire much less water. Thus, more water is infiltrating the soils and causing groundwater tables to rise. The rising water mobilizes salts and causes problems with salinity both in rivers and in the soils, which severely reduces the capacity for plant growth. Increased vulnerability, as a consequence of loss of resilience, places a region on a trajectory of greater risk of the panoply of stresses and shocks that occur over time.

The short film Resilience illustrates the concepts of resistance and resiliency.

Pioneer Species

Pioneer species are plants (such as moss and lichen, pine and birch trees) that grow relatively fast with short lifespans. These plants are important because they contribute to the overall health for forests, farms and grasslands.

(Author, A) states when pioneer plants die, they decompose and begin to form soil in which other, more complex plants can begin to grow. Featherstone (2000) comments that one of the important functions which birch trees fulfil in ecosystems is that of improving soils. They are deep-rooted, and their roots draw up nutrients into their branches and leaves, which the trees use for their growth. Some of these nutrients are returned to the surface of the soil each year when the leaves fall in the autumn, thereby becoming available for other organisms in the forest community. Author (n.d.) adds that Ponderosa Pine is a "pioneer" species in the life cycle of the forest, meaning that its tolerance to drought and to heat make it one of the first conifers to reforest a burn or to come in after a harvest.

Real world example:

Pioneer species are an important consideration for people interested in establishing a sustainable farm. Pioneer species correct the soil for dry land situations. Author (n.d.) suggest that pioneer species selected to perform many functions in a sustainable farm: fire retardant barrier, nitrogen fixing, soil stabilizing, orchard tree supportive guild member, bee fodder, livestock and poultry fodder, wind break or diverter, privacy screen, frost barrier.


Author, A (n.d), Succession. Viewed Feb. 9, 2013. Featherstone, A.W (n.d), Specifies Profile - Birch. Viewed Feb 9, 2013.

Author, A (n.d), "60 Second Forester," developed by the Northern California Society of American Foresters and the California Licensed Foresters Association. Viewed Feb. 9, 2013

Author, A (n.d.), "How to Implement Your Permaculture Landscape Design", viewed Feb. 9, 2013.

Edge Effects

Author (n.d) states the “edge effect” refers to those physical and biological changes that occur along the transition between two different ecosystems or habitats. Author (1998) mentions the creation of edge effects depends on numerous factors including the type of edge present. Edges are either “inherent” or “induced”. An inherent edge is a natural, usually long-lasting, feature of the landscape, which may be related to:

  • topographic differences (e.g., the so-called tree line, the boundary where tree growth gives way to alpine conditions on mountains or to grasslands in low-elevation dry valleys);
  • soil type (e.g., the shift from boggy, peat soils to upland humus soils);
  • presence of open water (e.g., lake or river margins); or
  • geomorphic, or landform, factors (e.g., divides, peaks, and ridge crests)

Induced edges are caused by both natural and human disturbances including fire, flooding, erosion, timber harvest, planting, or grazing.

Author (n.d) continues to state that the forest border adjacent to a clearcut, for example, represents a boundary between two very different environments that differ in minimum and maximum temperature, relative humidity, soil moisture, amount of solar radiation that reaches the surface, wind velocity, plant and animal species, among others. Along edges, there may be profound influences of one habitat upon the other often in rather complex ways. There are a number of practical applications of the edge effect, especially in forest and wildlife management. Effective sizes of old growth islands, for example, may be significantly less than actual acreage due to the edge effect. This reduces the amount of habitat available for wildlife species associated with old growth forests. Harvesting patterns at the landscape level may be modified to take this into account."

Edge effect is a global concept. Asner et. al (2008) suggests that forest fragmentation and edge effects from deforestation have been identified as one of the most pervasive and deleterious processes occurring in the tropical rain forests today. Forest fragmentation results from the simultaneous reduction of forest area, increase in forest edge, and the sub-division of large forest areas into smaller non-contiguous fragments. The detrimental effects of forest fragmentation from deforestation include increases in wildfire susceptibility and tree mortality, changes in plant and animal species composition, and seed dispersion and predation and easier access to interior forest, leading to increased hunting and resource extraction. The negative impacts of edge effects on ecosystems include shifts in plant and animal community composition and changes in diversity, increased rates of tree mortality, and fire susceptibility, altered microclimates, and increased carbon emissions.

Real world example:

Asner et. al (2008, p.5-6) It is now recognized that minimizing the impact of edge effect should be considered. Past timber harvesting techniques have increased the amount of edge habitat in the British Columbia landscape. These techniques broke up formerly contiguous late successional or old-growth forests into smaller patches. This fragmentation has affected the species, ecosystems, and processes associated with forest interiors by:

  • increasing edge effects (e.g., drier, warmer conditions created, with increased risk of windthrow, fire, and disease), which diminishes interior habitat quality;
  • reducing the overall quantity of interior habitat available; and
  • isolating the remaining interior habitat, which can restrict the exchange of genetic material.

Many planning and management options exist that will minimize edge effects at both the stand and landscape levels. At the landscape level, careful design will ensure that forest patches contain the maximum amount of viable interior habitat.


Author, A (1998) Biodiversity and Interior Habitats: The Need to Minimize Edge Effects (pgs. 2-3, 5-6). viewed Feb. 9, 2013.

Author, A (n.d.), Environmental Science I, Education for Sustainable Future p. 9. Viewed Feb. 9, 2013,

Asner, Gregory P., Broadbent, Eden P., Keller, M., Knapp, David E., Oliveira, P., Silva, J (2008). Forest fragmentation and edge effects from deforestation and selective logging in the Brazilian Amazon. Viewed Feb. 9, 2013

Alien and Invasive Species

Alien species are species of plants, animals, fish and micro-organisms introduced by human action deliberately or by accident; they are also known as exotic or non-native. The introduction of alien species can be beneficial. An example of a positive alien species is the honey bee; the honey bee is not native to North America and was introduced to North America by European settlers. The honey bee has proven itself to have a positive impact by helping to pollinate fruit, vegetable and wild plants.

Invasive alien species are alien species whose introduction or spread threatens the environment, the economy, society or even human health. Alien bacteria, viruses, fungi, aquatic and terrestrial plants, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates can all become invaders. Invasive alien species can create unexpected shifts or changes to ecosystems which can cause permanent damage to native species. Some island and tropical ecosystems can be more sensitive to alien species than others. An example of an invasive alien species is the black rat, the black rat is native to tropical Asia but spread across Europe and North America by hitching rides on ships.

Real-world Example: With the change in climates it can be expected that non native species will be able to thrive in new ecosystems, some animals may even immigrate to new ecosystems. The increase in world trade and world travel can even be linked to the spread of invasive alien species. Research on the positive effects of alien species is still in the elementary stages. As consumers and global travellers we have to be aware of how our activities can impact ecosystems. Canada has developed an Invasive Alien Species Strategyon how to manage the alien species concerns, other countries that are more sensitive to alien species like Australia have strict import rules and regulations on food, animal and plant life.


Global Invasive Species Database, viewed February 12, 2013.

Zimmer, C. (February 24, 2011), Alien Species Reconsidered: Finding a Value in Non-Natives, Yale Environment 360, viewed February 12, 2013.

Government of Canada. (September 2004), An Invasive Alien Species Strategy for Canada, viewed February 12, 2013.

The Canadian Press. (January 19, 2012), Climate change brings alien species to Canada: study, viewed February 12, 2013.

Secriat of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). (April 2000), Sustaining Life on Earth, viewed February 12, 2013.


Deforestation refers to the intentional or non-intentional permanent clearing of forests. Intentionally, trees are cut and cleared for three broad reasons: agricultural expansion, wood extraction, and infrastructure extension (Geist & Lambin, 2001). Non-intentionally, human or natural factors, such as forest fires, can cause deforestation (Cuff & Goudie, 2008).

Laurence (1999) documented four factors that promote deforestation:

  • Population pressure
  • Week institutions and poor policies
  • Trade liberalization
  • Tropical logging

Deforestation has many negative impacts on the environment:

  • Removing large areas of forest disrupts entire ecosystems and can lead to a decrease in biodiversity (Martin & Hine, 2008).
  • Since forests play a vital role in stabilizing carbon emissions, deforestation plays a major role in climate change (Bonan, 2008).
  • By leaving the ground surface bare, soil loses its protective cover, resulting in soil erosion (Ataroff & Rada, 2000).
  • Trees are responsible for drawing up ground water through their roots and releasing it into the environment; therefore, deforestation affects the water cycle (Ataroff & Rada, 2000).

Furthermore, deforestation has displaced indigenous forest dwelling communities and forced them to change their way of life (Sponsel et al., 1996). The film Plight of Malaysia’s Penan People demonstrates how an indigenous forest community is suffering from deforestation.

Real-world Example: Deforestation in Madagascar has been documented ever since its colonization by the French in 1896 leading to a devastating loss of unique biodiversity. The film Deforestation:Saving Madagascar’s Forests identifies that only 7% of Madagascar’s forests remain as a result of deforestation.

Deforestation refers to the permanent conversion of an intact forest into land used for another purpose. Deforestation is threatening the health and quality of our planet as trees and forest ecosystems are vital for a healthy earth. Ecolife, A guide to green living. Retrieved November 30th, 2013


Ataroff, M. & Rada, F. (2000). Deforestation Impact on Water Dynamics in a Venezuelan Andean Cloud Forest. A Journal of the Human Environment 29(7):440-444.

Bonan, G.B. (2008). Forests and Climate Change: Forcings, Feedbacks, and the Climate Benefits of Forests. Science 13(320):1444-1449.

Cuff, D. & Goudie, A. (2008). Deforestation. In The Oxford Companion to Global Change. Retrieved from

Geist, H.J. & Lambin, E.F. (2001). What Drives Tropical Deforestation?: A meta-analysis of proximate and underlying causes of deforestation based on subnational case study evidence. LUCC Report Series No. 4.

Laurence, W.F. (1999). Reflections on the Tropical Deforestation Crisis. Biological Conservation 91(2):109-117.

Martin, E. & Hine, R. (2008). Deforestation. In A Dictionary of Biology (6 ed.). Retrieved from

Sponsel, L.E, Headland, T.N., and Bailey, R.C. (1996). Tropical deforestation: The Human Dimension. New York: Columbia University Press.

Ecolife, A guide to green living. Retrieved November 30th, 2013


Fragmentation, also known as habitat fragmentation, forest fragmentation or landscape fragmentation, is the process of dividing a large, continuous habitat into smaller habitat fragments (Harrison & Bruna, 1999). The remaining smaller fragments, sometimes referred to as “habitat islands,” are left surrounded by different types of habitat (Templeton et al., 1990). Fahrig (2003) suggests that fragmentation changes the habitat in four ways:

  • Reduction in amount of habitat
  • Increase in number of habitat patches
  • Decrease in sizes of habitat patches
  • Increase in isolation of patches.

Fragmentation can occur by natural geological processes, or by human activity. Human activities causing fragmentation include logging, land conversion, road construction and forest fires (Wade et al., 2003). The habitat loss and isolation resulting from fragmentation has negative implications for biodiversity. Research has shown that fragmentation affects species richness, population abundance and distribution, and genetic diversity (Fahrig, 2003).

Real-world Example: The Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) is a critically endangered ape found on both sides of the border connecting Cameroon and Nigeria. Today, there are fewer than 300 Cross River gorillas remaining. Their habitat is fragmented by human settlements, land converted for agricultural purposes and roads, resulting in three scattered subpopulations, found at eleven localities. Recent genetic analysis has shown that there is still migration occurring between the localities through corridors; however, this migration is rare (Bergl & Vigilant, 2007). Read The Regional Action Plan for the Conservation of the Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) for more information on the status of the Cross River gorilla.


Bergl, R.A. & Vigilant, L. (2007). Genetic Analysis Reveals Population Structure and Recent Migration within the Highly Fragmented Range of the Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli). Molecular Ecology 16(3):501-516.

Harrison, S. & Bruna, E. (2006). Habitat Fragmentation and Large-Scale Conservation: What do we know for sure? Ecography 22(3):225-232.

Templeton, A.R., Shaw, K., Routman, E. and Davis, S.K. (1990). The Genetic Consequences of Habitat Fragmentation. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 77(1): 13-27.

Wade, T.G., Riitters, K.H., Wickham, J.D., and Jones, K.B. (2003). Distribution and Causes of Global Forest Fragmentation. Conservation Ecology 7(2): 7-22.


Biomass is a renewable energy resource derived from living and non-living things. Biomass can either be used via combustion or conversion. Conversion Methods: (Wikipedia, 2013)

1.	thermal
2.	chemical
3.	biochemical

The sources of biomass: (ORACLE ThinkQuest Education Foundation, n.d)

1. Wood ( the largest energy source of biomass) The main contributors are:

 a.	the timber industry
b.	agricultural crops
c.	raw materials from the forest

2. Waste ( the second largest source of biomass) The main contributors are:

 a.	municipal solid waste
b.	manufacturing waste

3. Alcohol fuels ( the third largest source of biomass) The main contributor is corn.

Any wastes can be used to create biomass energy. For example:

1.	Rubbish
2.	Animal manure
3.	Woodchips
4.	Seaweed
5.	Corn stalks
6.	dead trees

Biomass can be used to create electricity.

Real World Example: (ORACLE ThinkQuest Education Foundation, n.d) There is more than 60 million tons of energy sources of biomass energy are collected each year in California, USA. California could make up to 2000 megawatts of electricity, which is enough for the usage of about 2 million homes per year

Applications of Biomass Energy (ORACLE ThinkQuest Education Foundation, n.d)

1.	In rural India, biomass is used for cooking and agricultural growth. Cattle dung is used to produce a gas for cooking. The surplus dung is used as manure.
2.	Indian sugar mills are using sugarcane to produce electricity. This is being done to cut down energy cost.

Advantages of using biomass energy (ORACLE ThinkQuest Education Foundation, n.d)

1. Biomass fuel generally tends to be cheap.

2. Using more biomass sources place less demand on the fossil fuels and has the potential to greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Disadvantage of using biomass energy

1. Collecting sufficient waste can be difficult


Alternative Energy Resources (n.d.).Retrieved from

Wikimedia Foundation Inc.(2013). Article. Biomass. Retrieved from


Biomass refers to biological material that comes from organic matter such as living or recently living plants including trees. Biomass gathers material from the root, trunks, branches, leaves, and fruit of the tree. The organic matter of the biomass can be converted into a renewable energy source such as heat and electricity, basically replacing fossil fuel based products. Some other examples of biomass include food crops, crop residues, wood waste and animal manure.

According to, the definition of Bio-mass is:
1.Ecology. The amount of living matter in a given habitat, expressed either as the weight of organisms per unit area or as the volume of organisms per unit volume of habitat.
2.Energy. Organic matter, especially plant matter, that can be converted to fuel and is therefore regarded as a potential energy source. [1]

Real World Example: Biomass heating system was invented in which heat would be generated by biomass. This system would create clean burning, maximizing the efficiency of the burning method and creating a more economically and environmentally friendly heating source.

A good example of Biomass is how the Vancouver Landfill converts garbage to methane gas to power the BC Hot houses.


Biomass, Bioenergy and Bioproducts. (2013). Natural Resources Canada. Retrieved from
Bracmort, K. (2012). Biomass: Comparison of Definitions in Legislation Through the 112th Congress. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved from

The Profile Series. (2007, July 30). Biomass Energy [Video File]. Retrieved from

1. Biomass. In, Based on the Random House Dictionary. Retrieved October 15, 2013, from 

Photochemical smog

Photochemical smog is a unique type of air pollution produced when sunlight and pollutants, such as industrial pollutants, exhaust from vehicles, and gases like nitrogen dioxide, react together and form harmful substances. Due to the mixture of the combined gases, photochemical smog can lead to irritations of the respiratory tract and eyes, sore throats and inflammation in the nasal passages. Photochemical smog is often invisible, but it can also harm plants, vegetables especially during grown season, and can even damage buildings, degrading rubber. In regions of the world where there are high concentrations of photochemical smog, researchers have noted that the rates of death and respiratory illnesses have increased.

Real-World Example: During the Beijing Olympics, the government shut down most industries around the city and limited the amount of cars used by the population due to extremely noticeable photochemical smog. Many athletes stated and had their concerns about how bad the air was during the Olympics and wanted to ensure that their health and wellbeing was not in harm.


Canadian Council Of Ministers of the Environment. (n.d.). Reducing Smog. Retrieved from

Effects of photochemical smog. (n.d.). ECOS science for sustainability. Retrieved from


Any organic material is considered biomass. Biomass is used in the production of bioenergy which is used to provide electricity, heat, or other fuel-types (solid, gas, or liquid state) and is critical in achieving BC’s greenhouse gas reduction goals and in reaching economic objectives (BC Bioenergy Strategy, 2013; Demirbas, 2005). The production of “one tonne of dry biomass can displace between 1.5-3 barrels of oil, depending on the application, technology and process efficiency applied” (Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources, 2008b, p. 5). Half of BC’s fossil fuel energy use could be replaced by the 32 million dry tonnes of biomass available in BC (Ralevic, 2006; Demirbas, 2005). The biomass available for use by BioEnergy technologies is the by-products of natural resource industrial operations, trees affected Mountain Pine Beetle infestation (approximately 11 million dry tonnes of biomass), and agricultural and municipal waste streams (Ralevic, 2006). The BC BioEnergy Strategy (2013) states that the province plans to expand upon biomass use in six distinct ways summarized in table one.

Table 1. Summary of British Columbia’s BioEnergy Strategies adapted from BC Biomass Energy Primer (Adapted from Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources, 2013)

  • Strategy One “Collaborate with the Western Climate Initiative and the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region”
  • Strategy Two “Create First Nations bioenergy opportunities”
  • Strategy Three “Require methane capture from our largest landfills”
  • Strategy Four “Utilize waste wood from phased-out beehive burners to produce clean energy”
  • Strategy Five “Provide energy providers with information to develop new opportunities”
  • Strategy Six “Support wood gasification research, development and commercialization”

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations in BC states that BC houses half of Canada’s biomass electricity-generating capacity. Because of this the BC BioEnergy strategy was implemented in 2008 and includes 25 million dollars in funding and an additional 10 million for biodiesel production (2008). This commitment by the provincial government to the development of biomass energy shows that they are in alignment with international calls for investment in local renewable energy sources and that it is feasible for BC to replace fossil fuel energy and meet any energy demand increases (IPCC, 2012).


BC Bioenergy Strategy. (2013). Growing Our Natural Energy Advantage. Accessed November 8th, 2013 from:

BC Hydro. (2013). Meeting BC’s Future Energy Needs. Accessed on November 8th from bc-future-energy-needs-infographic.jpg

Demirbas, A. (2005). Potential applications of renewable energy sources, biomass combustion problems in boiler power systems and combustion related environmental issues. Progress in Energy and Combustion Science. 31, 171-192. doi: 10.1016/j.pecs.2005.02.002

IPCC. (2012). IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation. Prepared by Working Group III of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [O. Edenhofer, R. Pichs-Madruga, Y. Sokona, K. Seyboth, P. Matschoss, S. Kadner, T. Zwickel, P. Eickemeier, G. Hansen, S. Schlömer, C. von Stechow (eds)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1075 pp.

Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Petroleum Resources (MEM). (2013a). What is Hydroelectric Power? Accessed November 10th, 2013 from:

Ralevic, P. D.B. Layzell. (2006). BIOCAP Canada - An Inventory of the Bioenergy Potential of British Columbia. 8 pp.

Ecosystem management

Link title Ecosystem management is a process that aims to conserve major ecological services and restore natural resources while meeting the socioeconomic, political and cultural needs of current and future generations. (Ecosystem management). Using the Natural Resource Management as one of its resources, Ecosystem management utilizes various stakeholders perspectives to ensure that they are meeting the needs of the above mentioned criteria of needs to ensure the conservation and restoration of natural resources for future generations. Real life: The Pembina Institute offers communities interested in addressing environmental issues the guidance, research expertise and technical support to address these issues. One community in particular is the Gitga’at First Nation, in particular to this project is the Energy Use/Consumption. This initiative is not only going to affect this small community on a micro-level but also at a macro-level because it is setting precedence and more than likely other communities are monitoring for outcome. This initiative hits all points of the Ecosystem management that will help their community for generations to come. Carbon Cycle

The Carbon Cycle


All living things are made of carbon.

Carbon exists in the atmosphere, the element is attached to the other element called oxygen. They are usually presented in the form of carbon dioxide. Plants breathe carbon dioxide to survive. Therefore, carbon is a part of the plant. After millions of years, dead, buried in the ground plants may turn into fossil fuels. When people burn fossil fuels, carbon element will again enter the atmosphere and form carbon dioxide.


1. University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (n.d.). Carbon. The Carbon Cycle. Retrieved from

The Carbon Cycle

The carbon cycle comprises a sequence of events that are key to making the Earth capable of sustaining life; it describes the movement of carbon as it is recycled and reused throughout the biosphere. (Carbon Cycle) The definition was actually hard to find aside from Wikipedia. Most commonly referred to in the GHG (Green house gas), mainly because the “Carbon in the earth's atmosphere exists in two main forms: carbon dioxide and methane. Both of these gases absorb and retain heat in the atmosphere and are partially responsible for the greenhouse effect” Carbon_cycle.jpg Real life example: provides you with the province of BC’s Climate action plan, which outlines the challenges of greenhouse gas, the stakeholders involved and who are affected by the end results and a plan to minimize the effects of greenhouse gas drawing on the expertise of scientists, etc. “The changes already set in motion in the earth’s atmosphere will affect every “the longer we wait before taking action, the higher the economic, environmental and social cost will be”

Works Cited Carbon Cycle. (n.d.). Retrieved March 9, 2013, from Wikipedia: Ecosystem management. (n.d.). Retrieved March 9, 2013, from WIkipedia:

The carbon cycle is the biogeochemical cycle by which carbon is exchanged among the biosphere, pedosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere of the Earth. the carbon cycle comprises a sequence of events that are key to making the Earth capable of sustaining life; it describes the movement of carbon as it is recycled and reused throughout the biosphere.
The global carbon cycle is now usually divided into the following major reservoirs of carbon interconnected by pathways of exchange:
· The atmosphere
· The terrestrial biosphere
· The oceans, including dissolved inorganic carbon and living and non-living marine biota
· The sediments, including fossil fuels, fresh water systems and non-living organic material, such as soil carbon
· The Earth's interior, carbon from the Earth's mantle and crust. These carbon stores interact with the other components through geological processes
The carbon exchanges between reservoirs occur as the result of various chemical, physical, geological, and biological processes.

Example: The ocean contains the largest active pool of carbon near the surface of the Earth.[2] The natural flows of carbon between the atmosphere, ocean, and sediments is fairly balanced, so that carbon levels would be roughly stable without human influence.[4]
2.Falkowski, P.; Scholes, R. J.; Boyle, E.; Canadell, J.; Canfield, D.; Elser, J.; Gruber, N.; Hibbard, K.; Högberg, P.; Linder, S.; MacKenzie, F. T.; Moore b, 3.; Pedersen, T.; Rosenthal, Y.; Seitzinger, S.; Smetacek, V.; Steffen, W. (2000). "The Global Carbon Cycle: A Test of Our Knowledge of Earth as a System". Science 290 (5490): 291–296. doi:10.1126/science.290.5490.291. PMID 11030643
4. Prentice, I.C. (2001). "The carbon cycle and atmospheric carbon dioxide". Climate change 2001: the scientific basis: contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergouvernmental Panel on Climate Change / Houghton, J.T. [edit.] Retrieved 31 May 2012.

Keystone Species and Umbrella Species

The Keystone term was created 25 years ago by Robert T Paine to define those species that play an important role in their ecosystem and managing other species (National Geographic, 2013). “Further ecological research has lead to the understanding that certain organisms play a more vital role in the creation, modification and maintenance of habitats” (Abele Ecology, 2012). These Keystone species may be something as small as an earth worm that changes the soil into a more usable for other organisms or larger like the tortoise Gopherus poluphemus which digs burrows that are then used by 332 other species (Abele Ecology, 2012). In some cases there may be a link between more than one species that are playing a key role in their ecosystem. Using historical information can play an important role in defining a Keystone species as the impact of their removal can be studied (Abele Ecology, 2012).
Umbrella Species are very similar to the Keystone Species but are larger animals that may move from one habitat to another and impact the other species and ecosystems that they encounter. "Umbrella species" is a term generally used to describe an animal whose habitat needs are broad and varied enough that the habitat needs of all other populations around it are reflected by the one species' (the umbrella species) needs. Therefore, by protecting one animal, the entire community around the one animal is also protected. The concept of "umbrella species" is not without controversy however, as many scientists cannot agree on the criteria, or do not believe that the needs of any one species can successfully encompass the needs of all other populations around it. It is important to note that a species could be considered both a Keystone Species and an Umbrella Species (National Wildlife Federation).
When trying to create a management plan for an eco-system it is important to identify the Keystone species and the Umbrella Species. Both are important and need to be integrated within the management plan. It is always important to remember that if these species are removed there are far reaching consequences to the ecosystem and the other species within it. Using the results found in areas where these species have been removed can help determine decisions made in the present regarding new areas (Abele Ecology, 2012).

Real-World Example: The sea otters that live in the Pacific North West are a real world example of a keystone species. They play an important role in controlling the sea urchin population. Without the sea otters the sea urchin would eat up all the kelp and thereby eliminate the much needed food and shelter that it provides for other creatures. The loss of kelp could then lead to a collapse of the ecosystem on the Pacific Northwest (National Geographic, 2013).
There are many real world examples of Keystone Species and Umbrella Species that can be found on the National Wildlife Federation’s website titled Species at Risk on,%20Umbrella,%20and%20Indicator%20Species.pdf.   

Real-World Example:<u> In Northern Canada, among other animals listed as potential umbrella species, the wolf is the most legible to be considered. Authors of the article 'Large Carnivores as Umbrellas for Reserve Design and Selection in the North,' Dean Cluff and Paul Paquet ranked three animals (wolves, grizzly bears and wolverines)according to a variety of guidelines including measurement characteristics, life history traits, ecological characteristics, abundance characteristics, and environmental change sensitivity.


Abele Ecology (2012). Umbrella, Icon and Keystone Species. Retrieved from:

National Geographic (2013). Keystone Species. Retrieved from:

National Wildlife Federation. Species at Risk. Retrieved from:,%20Umbrella,%20and%20Indicator%20Species.pdf.

Filion, Nathaly Augosto; Hoffman, Kim, 'Umbrella Species,' (August 6th, 2009), , (accessed October 19th, 2013).

Dean Cluff and Paul Paquet, 'Large Carnivores as Umbrellas for Reserve Design and Selection in the North,' (September, 2003), , (accessed October 19th, 2013).

Ecosystem Management

Ecosystem Management is when a plan is developed to manage a certain geographical area. There are many considerations that are included in each Ecosystem Management Plan. All levels of biodiversity should be considered and their interconnectedness (Grumbine, 1994). Ecological diversity of the natural species and the human relationship need to be studied and monitored as the Ecosystem Management plan is developed. Data collection then plays an important role as future decisions can be made for the best results. Large organizations and corporations working within Ecosystem Management plans can accommodate human use while protecting the native species and ecosystems that they inhabit (Grumbine, 1994).

<u>Real-World Example: In Canada there is an Ecosystem Management Plan in place to protect the National Parks (Parks Canada, 2010). The focus is on preserving the ecosystems that are naturally occurring and the native species. Where the focus is on the natural species the human use of the parks is linked to the plans developed. To find more information on Parks Canada’s management planning process go to their website at


Grumbine, R.E. (1994). What is Ecosystem Management? Retrieved from:

Parks Canada (2010). Ecosystem Management. Retrieved from:

Parks Canada (2006). Management Planning. Retrieved from:

Biotic and Abiotic

Biotic: meaning of or related to life, are living factors. Example: Plants, animals, fungi, protist and bacteria are all biotic or living factors.

Abiotic: meaning not alive, are nonliving factors that affect living organisms. Example: Environmental factors such habitat (pond, lake, ocean, desert, mountain) or weather such as temperature, cloud cover, rain, snow, hurricanes, etc. are abiotic factors.

This is a video produced by the Discovery Channel that puts Biotic and Abiotic terms into relative context.

Biotic and abiotic factors vary in the environment and determine the types and numbers of organisms that exist in that environment. They become known as limiting factors

Real World Example: Ecosystem structure and function are controlled by abiotic and biotic factors. A biotic plant’s need to grow is based on abiotic factors such as levels of light, soil moisture, and nutrients to grow.

References [1]


Seral Stage

A sere is a natural succession of plant or animal communities in an ecosystem advancing towards its climax communities. To monitor the stages in which the community’s progress, Dr. Daniel Uresk, Senior Research Biologist for the U.S. Forest Service, developed the ecological method of seral stages during the 1990’s that has become standard practice for scientists and analysts working with seral communities. The seral stage method can be used to collect and analyze data for just about anything: bugs, plants, water, rocks, animals, etc.

Real world example: In published reports outlining seral stage classification types and key variables, the U.S. Forest Service provides detailed information about a number of different woodland, shrubland, and grassland seral assignments. For example, statistical analysis of field-collected data indicates the presence of four seral stages of the Cottonwood ecological type: late, late intermediate, early intermediate, and early. For the Cottonwood ecological type the key variables are the average diameter (DBH) and the number of Populus deltoides trees 1 inch and greater (TREES), and the number of P. deltoides trees less than 1 inch in diameter (STEMS) within a 800m2 plot.

Another example also comes from a similar publication from the U.S Forest Service which analyzes Bur Oak-Prunus-Snowberry ecological type. It has been classified into three different stages as opposed to four: late, intermediate, and early. For the Bur oak-Prunus-Snowberry ecological type the key variables are the basal area of trees in square feet per acre for Quercus macrocarpa (QUMA), and the percent canopy cover of Prunus spp. (PRUN) and Symphoricarpos occidentalis (SYOC).

For detailed reports on both of these ecological types, see the following articles respectively: and

  • Climax Communities: An ecological community in which populations of plants or animals remain stable and exist in balance with each other and their environment. A climax community is the final stage of succession, remaining relatively unchanged until destroyed by an event such as fire or human interference.


"Ecological Classification and Monitoring." Ecological Classification and Monitoring. US Forest Service, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <>.
"Google." Google. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <>.
Monitoring Seral Stages in Bur Oak-Prunus-Snowberry Ecological Type. U.S. Forest Service, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <>.
"Monitoring Seral Stages in Cottonwood Ecological Type." US Forest Service, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <>.
"Climax Communities." The Free Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <>.

Renewable/Non-Renewable Resources

Renewable resources are resources that we are able to replenish, either naturally or with some assistance. Biomass, water, wind, solar, and geothermal are the most frequently used renewable resources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Resources are considered to be non-renewable if their quantities are limited, cannot be reproduced, or cannot be replaced as quickly as they are consumed. Petroleum, coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy are all examples of non-renewable resources. Fossil fuels are of the most damaging effects of non-renewable resources.

Real world example: Hydrogen can be found in many organic compounds; it is the most abundant element on Earth, but it does not occur naturally as a gas. It is always combined with other elements; however once it has separated from another element, hydrogen can be burned as a fuel or converted into electricity. (Ex., combining hydrogen with oxygen creates water; H2O.) Hydrogen is a renewable resource.
There are other renewable resources that need some assistance to be reproduced. By creating solar panels, we are able to harness energy from the sun to use in place of harmful non-renewable resources like coal plants that produce our electricity. Even when the sun goes down, solar panels can hold so much charge that it can keep a home warm throughout the night with ease. Windmill farms are another amazing example of how human ingenuity can harness a natural resource that will, essentially, never run out.
Nuclear energy does not produce fossil fuels, but is not a renewable resource. Nuclear power requires uranium, a radioactive metallic element that must be mined from the earth and it not quickly replenished. It produces biohazard-waste that must be disposed of, and leaks from nuclear plants can have immense effects on humans and ecosystems for thousands of years.

"What Are Examples of Non-Renewable Resources? | National Geographic." Green Living on National Geographic. National Geographic, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <>.
"Definition & Examples of Renewable Resources | National Geographic." Green Living on National Geographic. National Geographic, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <>.
"Types of Renewable Energy." RE News RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <>.
"" Westplainsenergycom. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2013. <>.


Desertification is a gradual degradation of arid, semi-arid or dryland regions that reduce soil productivity and plant cover due to natural climatic changes over long periods of time or human activity. Modern day desertification is almost universally attributed to the latter, with “over-cultivation, overgrazing, deforestation, and poor irrigation practices” being the primary causes.

The most vulnerable regions are those closest to the equator where the natural climate tends towards arid conditions and natural defenses to soil erosion are minimal. In many cases this vulnerability extends to the often impoverished populations of these regions who rely on the land for their sustenance. Africa is the most affected region due to approximately two thirds of the continent being desert or drylands. The problem exists in all regions, however, with almost 70% of drylands currently being used for agriculture worldwide under threat of desertification.

Desertification map.png

There are a number of preventative measures that can reduce desertification including improved agricultural practices, water and livestock management and reforestation. In 1977 the UN held the first conference to discuss desertification but it wasn’t until 1994 that a now 180 country United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was adopted.

In 2013, Canada withdrew from the convention, issuing the statement that “only 18% of the roughly CAD$350,000 per year that Canada contributed to the U.N. initiative is "actually spent on programming,"”. Critics condemned the move as evidence that the Conservative Government led by Stephen Harper is “an enabler of Canadian mining companies destroying local water systems” and“that the withdrawal amounts to a "departure from global citizenship."”

Real world example:The "dust bowl" of the 1930's in the United States occurred largely due to the combination of a drought period following a boom of destructive agricultural activity often referred to as the "great plow up". Millions of acres of grassland was plowed to take advantage of high wheat prices but most farmers at the time had no knowledge of conservation practices such as wind breaks, contour patterning and field rotation that could prevented topsoil loss due to wind and water erosion. In 1935 the Soil Conservation Service was created to promote such practices and the government purchased large tracts of marginal land to keep it out of production. The US government continues to provide financial incentives to farmers under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to protect more than 40 million acres of lands with a high risk of erosion.


United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

Canada Pulls Out of U.N. Treaty to Combat Desertification

The Dust Bowl

Conservation Biology

Conservation Biology is a relatively new interdisciplinary scientific subject that studies biodiversity, the effects of human activity on it and ways to protect endangered species and their habitats.

The field of study first emerged as a recognized discipline in the 1980’s by bringing together conservation practice with theoretical ecological and population studies. The development was driven by concern among scientists over the growing evidence of species decline and increasing rates of extinction and the gaps in the then separate areas of science and policy. It is estimated that there have been 5 mass extinction events over the past 540 million years and current steep declines in many species suggest that the Earth is entering into a sixth mass extinction, this time due to human activity. The consequences of this extend far beyond any specific species due to the interconnectedness of all elements the biosphere, and include all aspect of human survival.

Real world example:

One of the greatest threats to endangered species is the illegal trade of plants and animals and in one example the USAID-funded Afghanistan Biodiversity Project found that US military personnel were among the top buyers of illegal species trade in the country.

To combat this problem, the Wildlife Conservation Society has implemented a program to educate military personnel on the issue as well as military police and customs official on how to identify illegal activity and products amongst the troops.


  Keystone Species and Umbrella Species

Keystone and Umbrella species are groups in the ecosystem that are needed for continued existence and survival.  If preserved these species will save other groups in the ecosystem.  With the focus on the keystone and umbrella species the design is working to save all of the ecosystem at once.  We really dont know how many keystone and umbrella species there are and will never know.  However, it is important to understand which species make the biggest impact on the environment and preserve them.

The argument that arises around the discussion of keystone and umbrella species is that these designations are suggestive.  Without the actual knowledge what would happen if one group was to cease existence, we have to work off of assumptions and comparisons.  Research has been done in certain ecosystems with the removal and introduction of certain species, this has helped us make comparisons for other ecosystems.

Real world example-  A mountain lion is a very important keystone species.  They continue to keep the rabbit and deer population to a certain level.  Without that predator monitoring the populations of its prey, the prey would be larger than the ecosystem could afford to feed it.  This would bring the ecosystem to an end.


Author Daniel Simberloff,  1997,  Flagships, Umbrellas, and Keystones,

Keystone species are usually noticed when they are removed or they disappear from an ecosystem, resulting in dramatic changes to the rest of the community.
An ecosystem may experience a dramatic shift if a keystone species is removed, even though that species was a small part of the ecosystem by measures of biomass or productivity.
As was described by Dr. Robert Paine in his classic 1966 paper, some sea stars (e.g., Pisaster ochraceus) may prey on sea urchins, mussels, and other shellfish that have no other natural predators. Paine (1969) originally postulated that a species is considered keystone to a community if it holds the system in check and preferentially consumes species that would otherwise dominate the system(Power et al. 1996).

Example - The sea star is a Keystone Species, if it is removed from the ecosystem, the mussel population explodes uncontrollably, driving out most other species, while the urchin population annihilates the coral reefs.

Cultural Keystone Species: Implications for Ecological Conservation and Restoration
Ann Garibaldi and Nancy Turner
Paine, R.T. (1995). "A Conversation on Refining the Concept of Keystone Species". Conservation Biology 9 (4): 962–964. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.1995.09040962.x

Coarse vs. Fine Filter

Coarse vs. Fine Filter management of forest and ecosystems is the difference between micromanaging certain species with a fine filter, to macro-management of an entire forest to protect several ecosystems.  When a coarse approach doesnt work than a fine approach would be the next logical step.   The fine filter system helps meet the needs of a specific species or unique vegetation community.  When working with a fine filter, we may need to consult with a regional biologist and review existing management plans. The coarse filter system provides a broad range of habitants and species protection.  It is an umbrella style approach managing the habitants at the landscape level and not suitable for individual species for protection.

When determining whether to use a fine or coarse filter we need to investigate the following:

  • Are we working with endangered or a rare species?
  • Does the species have special values?
  • What is the ecosystem function of the species involved?
  • What are the needs of the species, what are the conflicts to other species if we meet the other ones needs?

Overall, we need to remember that some things that work for one species may not work for another.  Therefore, we need to make the best decision for the overall health of the ecosystem.

Real world example-  Utilizing the fine filter approach, forestry in one region had to maintian a large diameter of ponderosa pine as habitat for the white headed woodpecker.  In the coarse approach, managing an aging forest protects habitants, communities and life forms at a macro level.


Ecosystem-Based Management

Ecosystem-based management is an environmental management approach that recognizes the full array of interactions within an ecosystem, including humans, rather than considering single issues, species, or ecosystem services in isolation

Following are a few key tools to consider in Ecosystem-based management:
• Integration of ecological, social, and economic goals and recognition of humans as key components of the ecosystem.
• Consideration of ecological- not just political- boundaries.
• Accounting for the complexity of natural processes and social systems and using an adaptive management approach in the face of resulting uncertainties.
• Engaging multiple stakeholders in a collaborative process to define problems and find solutions.
• Incorporating understanding of ecosystem processes and how ecosystems respond to environmental perturbations.

Concerned with the ecological integrity of coastal-marine systems and the sustainability of both human and ecological systems.

Achieving sustainability in our economies, communities, and natural environment requires rethinking traditional, fragmented approaches to managing complex and interrelated problems. Ecosystem-Based Management is an emerging, integrated approach that considers the entire ecosystem, including humans, to achieve improved environmental conditions and sustained ecosystem services that support human needs and social goals. (STC Regional Planning & Development Board, 2013)

Real world example:
The Land and Resource Management Planning was implemented by the British Columbia Government in the mid-1990s in the Great Bear Rainforest in order to establish a multiparty land-use planning system. The aim was to maintain the ecological integrity of terrestrial, marine and freshwater ecosystems and achieve high levels of human well-being (Wikipedia, 2013).


Christensen, N. L., A. Bartuska, J. H. Brown, S. Carpenter, C. D'Antonio, R. Francis, J. F. Franklin, J. A. MacMahon, R. F. Noss, D. J. Parsons, C. H. Peterson, M. G. Turner, and R. G. Moodmansee. 1996. The report of the Ecological Society of America Committee on the scientific basis for ecosystem management. Ecological Applications. 6:665-691.

STC Regional Planning & Development Board. (2013). Ecosystem-Based Management. Retrieved 2013, from Southern Tier Central Regional Planning and Development Board:

Wikipedia. (2013, Februart 07). Ecosystem-based management. Retrieved June 09, 2013, from Wikipedia:


Agroforestry is an integrated and intensive agricultural production system that includes trees and shrubs as an essential component to achieve environmental, economic and social goals. This means that trees are not incidental to the farm operation but rather contribute to improved productivity, yield, profitability and sustainability (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 2012).

There are numerous benefits to agroforestry as it encourages the adaptation of natural ecological processes within the commercial system. It helps farmers in terms of controlling land degradation, sheltering crop and livestock, improving their landscape, and enhancing wildlife habitat while making the most out of commercial opportunities (Benefits of Recycling, 2013).

Agroforestry practices may also realize a number of other associated environmental goals, such as:
• Carbon sequestration
• Odour, dust, and noise reduction
• Green space and visual aesthetics
• Enhancement or maintenance of wildlife habitat

There are five main agroforestry systems, which are practical for use in BC.
1. Silvopasture, which blends management of trees, forages, and livestock. The intentionally integrated system known as silvopasture, can diversify revenue, enhance environmental benefits, and boost aesthetics of agricultural or forestry operations.
2. Windbreaks/Shelterbelts, which are buffers and designed to perform specific jobs. Site conditions and desired function affect design and application, and help to determine the key features of the planting.
3. Alley cropping, which is broadly defined as the planting of single or multiple rows of trees and/or shrubs at wide spacings to create alley-ways within which crops are cultivated.

4. Forest farming, which is the integrated management of both timber and understory crops; it focuses on managing a stand to benefit both the trees and the understory (plants growing under the tree canopy).

5. Integrated riparian management, which is an integrated management of areas adjacent to aquatic zones to enhance or protect habitat and selectively provide for other resources and values.

Source: (Ministry of Agriculture, 2012)

Real world Examples: Agroforestry is used in developing countries as a way to alleviate poverty and increase crop yield and production. There are also agriculture practices throughout BC which integrate one of the five systems named above.


Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. (2012, October 30). Agroforestry. Retrieved June 10, 2013, from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada:
Benefits of Recycling. (2013). Sustainability Agroforestry. Retrieved June 10, 2013, from Benefits of Recycling:
Ministry of Agriculture. (2012). Agroforestry. Retrieved June 10, 2013, from Ministry of Agriculture:


Permaculture is an ecological design concept applied to agriculture which capitalizes on and works around beneficial and synergistic relationships in humans systems with natural systems. According to Nelson, “Permaculture is a creative design response to a world of declining energy and resources availability” (2012).

“Permaculture is a science based ethical design system. Used to answer the all encompassing question ‘How do we live sustainably?’ Founded in three ethics - Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share practitioners of permaculture use nature inspired design with tools and methods based in science, engineering, agriculture, finances, community building to create sustainable regenerative human habitat. This design system uses organic agriculture, urban farming, regenerative design, and many other ways of knowing to teach and provide a practical framework for individuals to take responsibility for themselves, their children and their community.” (Permaculture BC Website, 2013).

The term itself combines “permanent” and “agriculture” or “culture” to imply the most basic goal of the concept, which is to improve sustainability in human systems (Brown, 2012).

Real World Example:

Check out “O.U.R. Ecovillage” in Shawnigan Lake BC where a whole community lives, works and is organized around permaculture design and teach permaculture course design to others.


Also check out Permaculture BC:


Brown, J. (2012). Permaculture Design. Natural Life, 14-17.

Permaculture BC. (2013). Home Page. Retrieved July 2013, from:

Nelson, L. (2012). Ecological Literacy through Permaculture. Green Teacher, 98: 34-37.

Key Species Management

Keystone species play a unique and crucial role in ecosystem health and functioning. “A keystone species' disappearance would start a domino effect. Other species in the habitat would also disappear and become extinct.” (National Geographic, 2013). In addition, when keystone species decline significantly or become extinct, invasive species may to rapidly take over and damage an ecosystem. As a result, conservation and natural resource management must carefully manage keystone species in an ecosystem for the over management of ecosystem health and resilience.


Quantitative research methods are used to identify keystone species and their unique influence on a given ecosystem (Ferenc, 2009). It is very difficult for researchers, scientists and conservationists to manage every single aspect of an ecosystem to maintain health and biodiversity. One approach to monitoring and managing key species and ecosystem health is to identify keystone species and use single-species ecosystem management where the keystone species is focused on in terms of study, health and management with the hope that if the keystone species is managing well, then its health will be reflected through the entire ecosystem (Simberloff, 1998).

Turner and Garibaldi strongly suggest that any and all keystone and key species management strategies include the integration and consideration of “cultural keystone species”, meaning “the culturally salient species that shape in a major way the cultural identity of a people, as reflected in the fundamental roles these species have in diet, materials, medicine, and/or spiritual practices” (Turner and Garibaldi, 2004). For example, certain species of salmon play a disproportionately large role in the culture and lifestyle of many west coast First Nations. In this way, key species management requires both scientific approaches and social science approaches and concepts.


Ferenc, J. (2009). Keystone Species and Food Webs. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences. 364, 1524: 1733–1741.

National Geographic Education. (2013). Encyclopedia Entry: Key Stone Species. Retrieved July 2013, from:

Simberloff, D. (1998). Biological Conservation. Conservation Biology and Biodiversity Strategies. 83, 3: 247–257.

Turner, N and Garibaldi, A. (2004). Cultural Keystone Species: Implications for Ecological Conservation and Restoration. Ecology and Society. 9, 3: 1.

Stochastic and Deterministic

When studying probability theory, a stochastic system is non-deterministic.  A Stochastic System is driven by both predictable actions and by random events.  In Artificial Intelligence computer models use stochastic programs to solve problems.  The Artificial Intelligence takes into account probability as well as change and flocculation in part of its Stochastic Program.

Deterministic thinking is the belief  that both methaphysical and philosophical positions result from unwavering conditions.  Deterministic systems relying on the premises to remain true down to the lowest common denominator in order to render data to achieve a Deterministic Result.  Deterministic thinking commands the field of Physics.  Newtons Law, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction can be found at the inception of Deterministic thinking, using data from known and consistant observations to render data to find a Deterministic result.


Wikipedia, 2013, Stochastic,

Wikipedia, 2013, Deterministic,

The Physics Classroom, 2013, Newtons Law,,

Britinnica, 2012, Determinism

Stochastic and Deterministic

A stochastic process, or random process, is used to represent the evolution of a value/system over time accounting for both known and random effecting variables. One of the simplest stochastic processes is Brownian Motion which is the random motion of particles suspended in a fluid. It was first defined by botanist Robert Brown after observing pollen grains suspended in water through a microscope. This system is the basis for particle physics.

A deterministic process is a system with no randomness involved in the evolution of the system and therefore the systems end-point will always be the same. Random number generators utilize deterministic algorithms. Many systems are considered deterministic although their observable properties are non-deterministic, for example, wave functions, chaos theory, and Markov chains.


Ladde, G.S. 1982. Stochastic versus deterministic. Mathematics and Computers in Simulaition, 24(6), 507-514.

Wikipedia, 2013, Stochastic,

Wikipedia, 2013, Brownian motion,

Wikipedia, 2013, Deterministic System,

Food Chain and Food Web

Food chain follows the single path of food, typically how a predatory animal will eat its prey, and their connection up and down the food chain; where as, a Food Web shows how both plants and animals are interconnected.

Understanding the food chain is knowing the elements of the chain and how they came to be.A food chain is composed of 4 major parts, the Sun, Producers (ie. Grass), Consumers (ie.carnivores, herbavores, and omnivores), and Decompsures, typically Fungi. 

An example of a Food Chain is how the sun provides food for grass, the grass is eaten by the grasshopper and the grasshoper is eaten by a lizard.  The connections are seen up and down.  

An example of a Food Web however would be that a tree produces nuts which act as food for rodents and insects.  As a result of the plentiful nuts, more weasels and snakes are found.  Each member on a Food Web is connected like a spiders web with no one thing depending solely on one thing but depending on a number of variables that contribute to balance the system.

The main simularity between Food Chain and Food Web is the acknowledgement of dependencies.  The main difference however is that a Food Web describes in more detail the interdependiencies and relations of its members.


Science Bob,2013,Food Chain, Food Web,

Wikipedia, 2013, Food Chain,

Oracle, Think Quest, 2013, Food Chain,

Food Chain and Food Web

A food chain is a linear consequence of links in a food web starting from a species that eats no other species in the web and ends at a species that is eaten by no other species in the web. A food web (or food cycle) depicts feeding connections (what-eats-what) in an ecological community and hence is also referred to as a consumer-resource system. A food chain differs from a food web, because the complex polyphagous network of feeding relations are aggregated into trophic species and the chain only follows linear monophagous pathways.

Real World Example

The trophic level of an organism is the position it holds in a food chain. A network of many food chains is called a food web.
1. Primary producers (organisms that make their own food from sunlight and/or chemical energy from deep sea vents) are the base of every food chain - these organisms are called autotrophs.
2. Primary consumers are animals that eat primary producers; they are also called herbivores (plant-eaters).
3. Secondary consumers eat primary consumers. They are carnivores (meat-eaters) and omnivores (animals that eat both animals and plants).
4. Tertiary consumers eat secondary consumers.
5. Quaternary consumers eat tertiary consumers.
6. Food chains "end" with top predators, animals that have little or no natural enemies.

References Wikipedia (2013). Food Chain.
Wikipedia (2013). Food Web.
Enchanted Learning (2006-2010). Food Chain and Food Web.

Edge Effects

In ecology, edge effects refer to the changes in the population or community structure that occur at the point where two habitat types meet. 780 Edge effects are especially pronounced in small habitat fragments where the edge effects may extend throughout the patch. Increasing edge effects allows more habitat structure to increase biodiversity within the area.
Following are types of edge effects:

1. Inherent- long term natural features underline adjoining vegetation, they are stable and permanent
2. Induced- from natural disturbances or human related activities, they are subject to successional changes over time
3. Narrow- straight, sharp, abrupt (forest and agricultural field)
4. Wide (ecotone)- distance between border and point where physical conditions and vegetation do not differ from interior of patch
5. Convoluted- has curves, not a straight line
6. Perforated- not a solid border, has gaps
7. Height can create borders between patches as well.

Real World Examples

It has been estimated that the amount of Amazonian area modified by edge effects exceeded the area that had been cleared. Forest fires are more common close to edges as a consequence of increased desiccation at edges and increased understory growth present because of increased light availability. Increased understory biomass provides fuel that allows pasture fires to spread into the forests. Increased fire frequency since the 1990s are among the edge effects which are slowly transforming Amazonian forests.

Wikipedia (2013). Edge Effects.

Key Species Management

A key or keystone species is the central supporting species with a functioning role of an ecosystem. The removal or interference of a keystone species dramatically alters the present ecosystem. Most often the keystone species is a predator where they control population sizes or potential dominates. Management of the Key species causes measurable effects through the ecosystem. Using key species as the management point means that small changes can have drastic implications.

Real world example: Using a stone to create ripples on a lake. Sited July 9, 2013
Payton, I.J; Fenner, M; Lee, W.G. 2002: Keystone species: the concept and its relevance for conservation management in New Zealand. Science for Conservation 203. P.29 Sited July 10, 2013

Spatial and Temporal Scale Variation

The study and analysis of interactions between species in relation to space and distribution levels and the changes that occur over time. Topics of study are complex and varied and may include species richness, material existence, distribution, structure, and interaction. The changes that occur can be studied to gain greater insight into possible cause and effects on population levels.

Real word Example: Comparing multiple years of family portraits to track the growth rate of a family.

Rahbek, Carsten, The role of spatial scale and the perception of large-scale species-richness patterns,, Viewed July 12, 2013 416, 427-430 (28 March 2002) | doi:10.1038/416427a; Received 25 September 2001; Accepted 3 January 2002 Viewed July 11, 2013 viewed July 13, 2013


The word biotic describes all components within an ecosystem that are living or that were once living, for example organisms, such as plants, animals, and insects are considered biotic. These organisms can grow, reproduce, maintain homeostasis, adapt, and evolve as well as interact with each other through various relationships.  These interrelationships between organisms are considered biotic factors and can consist of predation, competition for food resources, and symbiotic relationships, which ultimately create a life cycle. These relationships are predicated by the biotic components of an ecosystem, which can be categorized as producers, consumers, and decomposers. The producers capture solar energy, and use available nutrients in order to produce energy. For example, grasses, trees, lichens, and cyanobacteria are producers. As consumers do not have the ability to produce their own energy they are dependent on producers   to obtain energy in the form of food. Consumers can be categorized as carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores such as wolves, deer, and humans. Next, decomposers such as certain insects, fungi, and bacteria break down organic matter, which is turned back into nutrients that will be uses by producers to continue the cycle.


As the term abiotic means non-living, it refers to all of the non-living physical aspects of the environment such as rock, soil, and water as well as all of the abiotic factors such as temperature, climate, soil composition, water clarity, and many other factors. Abiotic factors of the ecosystem affect the biotic organisms; as they are the components that facilitate how well the organisms will prosper.

Real world example

In recent years, the invasions of large amounts of zebra mussels have caused significant abiotic and biotic impacts to many of the inland waterways of North America. Zebra mussels filter suspended clay, silt, bacteria, phytoplankton, and small zooplankton from the water, which has a significant impact on many biotic organisms. As many native fish, mollusks and other species of mussels feed off of the same types of organisms as the zebra mussels, their food supply becomes diminished. The filtration of the water also affects abiotic factors such as the clarity of the water. Clear water phases associated with excessive grazing by the zebra mussels increase light transmittance and growth of benthic plants, which ultimately cause major shifts in the marine ecosystem. Research has shown that shallow lakes and ponds may divert production and biomass from pelagic to benthic foodwebs, shifting ecosystems to an alternate state.


Difference Between Abiotic and Biotic. (n.d.). Retrieved June 1, 2013, from

Macisaac, H. J. (1996). Potential Abiotic and Biotic Impacts of Zebra Mussels on the Inland Waters of North America. Oxford Journals, 36(3), 287-299.

Richmond, Elliot. "Biotic Factors." Animal Sciences. 2002. 3 Jun. 2013

Natural Disturbance

Natural disturbance is highly important in maintaining the ecological resilience and biodiversity of ecosystems. Examples of natural disturbance include: forest fires, avalanches, landslides / rockfall, pest outbreaks (e.g. mountain pine beetle) and windthrow / blowdown. Many of these types of events were historically viewed as destructive / negative in natural resource management, but are increasingly being recognized as critical elements of long-term ecosystem health. In fact, in forest harvesting, some practices attempt to emulate natural disturbance. For example, rather than being perfectly square, the shape of a cutblock may be irregular to best try and exemplify the shape that a fire may have burned into the landscape. It is important to consider that anthropogenic influences are in some cases exacerbating what we may consider to be ‘natural’ disturbance. For example, fossil fuel emissions leading to climate change and warmer winters, in conjunction with forest management practices, likely lead to increased magnitude of mountain pine beetle infestation. And today’s forest fires are often a greater than natural intensity given increased fuel (e.g. dead wood) loading as a remnant of decades of forest fire suppression. The BC Ministry of Forests offers some site specific considerations here for meeting biodiversity objectives and emulating natural disturbance here: Here is a useful video about natural disturbances in Canada’s forest ecosystems:

Statistical Significance

Statistical significance is a highly important concept in the biological (& other) sciences. If something is calculated to be statistically significant, it is unlikely to have occurred by chance alone. In statistical testing, one must first approximate the probability of the null hypothesis being true (p-value). The alpha level, the probability of falsely rejecting a null hypothesis (Type 1 error), is usually set to point 0.05, which means that if the p-value is less than 0.05, the null hypothesis is rejected and there is likely an effect in the experiment which is of greater magnitude than that attributed only to natural variation (i.e. statistically significant). It is interesting to note that 0.05 is usually chosen as the alpha level for no reason other than that is the most widely accepted value to utilize in statistical testing. For more rigorous statistical testing, 0.01 is often utilized. When using 0.05 as alpha, it effectively means that the true population value will fall within the 95% confidence interval nineteen times out of twenty. Confused? Don’t worry, I am too. Statistical significance should not be confused with biological significance. Here is a good read if you with to learn more about the limitations of statistical testing and relationships with the biological sciences:‎ Here is a rather boring video that does a decent job of explaining the concept of statistical significance:

Habitat Fragmentation

The state of habitat fragmentation as the discontinuity, resulting from a given set of mechanisms, in the spatial distribution of resources and conditions present in an area at a given scale that affects occupancy, reproduction or survival of a particular species (Alan B. Franklin, 2002). Empirical studies to date suggest that habitat loss has large, consistently negative effects on biodiversity (Fahrig, 2003). Fragmentation involves reduction of available habitat area and increased distances between remaining habitat patches, and makes it more difficult for species to colonize new areas and maintain viable populations (Lewis, n.d.).

Real world example: Habitat fragmentation occurs when rural landscapes that dependent species rely on, becomes developed into residential and commercial sites.

Alan B. Franklin, B. R. (2002). What Is Habitat Fragmentation? Studies in Avian Biology , 25, pp. 20-29.

Fahrig, L. (2003). Effects of Habitat Fragmentation on Biodiversity. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics , 34, 487-515.

Lewis, M. K. (n.d.). Effects Of Climate Change and Habitat Fragmentation on Trophic Interactions. Tropical Biology and Conservation Management .

Carrying capacity

Environmental carrying capacity is an ecological concept defined generally as the population of organisms that can be sustained at a steady state considering the resources available in the ecosystem in which they reside (Carnegie Mellon University, n.d.). Living within the limits of an ecosystem depends on three factors: the amount of resources available in the ecosystem, the size of the population, and the amount of resources each individual is consuming (Hart, 2010). Fundamental to the environments carrying capacity is food and water. The idea of carrying capacity relates closely to that of sustainable development, because both refer to the need to live off of interest rather than capital. (International Environment Forum, 2013).

Real world example: A forest cleared of vegetation can directly impact the carrying capacity of the environment for dependent species.


Carnegie Mellon University. (n.d.). Environment at CMU. Retrieved 08 08, 2013, from Carnegie Mellon University:

Hart, M. (2010). Sustainability Indicators 101. Retrieved 08 08, 2013, from Sustainable Measures:

International Environment Forum. (2013). Carrying Capacity. Retrieved 08 08, 2013, from International Environment Forum:

Uneconomic Growth

Uneconomic growth in the form of ecological economics costs us more than it benefits. This occurs when there is an increase in production which causes an expense in resources and well-being that costs more than the products made. Uneconomic Growth was summarized by Herman Daly who stated “that which seems to be wealth” does indeed become “a gilded index of far-reaching ruin.” [1]

Real World Example: Peter A. Victor of The Canadian Dimensions magazine provides examples of Uneconomic Growth. Many activities occur on Earth which do more harm than good. Open-pit coal mines are extremely detrimental but provide us short-term benefits. In addition, oil drilling in the ocean causes loss of life as well as the creation of toxic lakes in the Tar Sands.


Daly, H. 2007. Ecological economics: the concept of scale and its relation to allocation, distribution, and uneconomic growth. Pp. 82-103 in H. Daly. Ecological Economics and Sustainable Development: Selected Essays of Herman Daly. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

Canadian Dimension Magazine Web site. Retrieved July 25, 2013.

Daly, H. 1999. Uneconomic Growth: in Theory, in Fact, in History, and in Relation to Globalization. Clemens Lecture Series. Retrieved from:

Pay-By-Weight Systems

Systems designed to manage waste by charging money according to waste amounts. By doing so this may provide incentives to reduce waste created by a generation and to reduce consumption rates.

Real World Example: A Company called Pulse Environment established in London, England has a pay-by-weight system that collects waste and charges its customers on how much it weighs. Landfill taxes can also encourage recycling however, by charging for the amount of waste as opposed to a tax when dumping may greatly entice those to sift through their garbage in order to reduce the payment required.


Pulse Environment. Web Site. Retrieved August 6, 2013,

Sustainability Victoria Web site. Retrieved August 6, 2013.


According to geographer Peter Haggett, biomass is "the total mass of all the living organisms in a defined area or ecological area." Biomass is the organic matter living in an ecosystem; in other words, the 'stuff' ecosystems are made of. Plant or animal biomass can be harvested and measured by humans. The productivity of an ecosystem is measured in biomass. High amounts of biomass represent a highly productive ecosystem.

Real World Example: The biomass of a beach ecosystem consists of fish, mollusks, aquatic plant life, and humans. The productivity of that same beach ecosystem may be measured agriculturally speaking, by measuring the amount of fish, and other organisms edible by humans.


Hagget, P. (2001). Geography: A Global Synthesis (4th ed.). Essex, England: Pearson Education Limited

Glossary of Biomass Research and Development Website. Retrieved August 19, 2013.


Deforestation is "the alteration of arable or pasture land in arid or semi-arid regions to desert-like conditions." (Haggett, 2010) Desertification is an ecological problem of land degradation caused by human activities such as deforestation, and climate change (also associated with human activity). "It is usually caused by a combination of over grazing, soil erosion, prolonged drought, and climate change," (Haggett, 2010) and greatly affects agriculture, as soil gradually becomes unsuitable for plant life.

Currently, "severe land degradation is now affecting 168 countries across the world," according to The UN Desertification Convention. Deforestation is a severe crisis that is affected by human induced global warming, soil erosion, and deforestation. Prevention efforts include replacing soil destructing agricultural techniques with more sustainable irrigation methods.

Real World Example: The current desertification crisis is felt by at least 168 countries worldwide. Eventually, we will all feel the effects of desertification as population continues to rise, and need for food more food will rapidly increase. Our need for adequate food resources are bound to expand, and desertification will prevent agriculture to grow as our soil becomes less desirable.


Hagget, P. (2001). Geography: A Global Synthesis (4th ed.). Essex, England: Pearson Education Limited

desertification. (2013). Google Dictionary. Retrieved August 19, 2013 from

King, Ed. (2013, April 17). Desertification Crisis Affecting 168 Countries World Wide, Study Shows. Retrieved August 19, 2013, from

Roos, Dave. (nd). "Can Desertification be Stopped?". Retrieved August 19, 2013, from

Carbon Cycle

Carbon is found in the earth's atmosphere attached to oxygen molecules, and forms a gas called carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon is the chemical backbone of life on earth. Carbon compounds help to regulate the earth's temperature. It also makes up the food that we eat and the food that sustains us. Carbon also is a major source of energy to fuel our economy. Carbon has a huge impact in our lives and all of out daily activities impact the carbon cycle. The carbon cycle explains how carbon atoms rotate within plants, soil, air, and animals. Plants use CO2 for photosynthesis, turning the CO2 molecules into carbohydrates (sugars). This is the production stage of the plant. Plant respiration emits CO2 back into the atmosphere, at approximately half the rate it absorbed the CO2. When plants die, they release carbon into the soil or bodies of water they are near. Humans and animals inhale oxygen, and exhale carbon dioxide. Carbon is also ingested through eating plants and animals containing their own carbon. When an animal or human dies, they release carbon back into the soil. If left long enough, the carbon can turn into fossil fuels, which are then extracted by humans and burned for energy, emitting more CO2 into the atmosphere. Thus, the carbon molecule can be recycled thousands of times within the atmosphere, and follows a cyclical pattern.

The carbon cycle is affected by many changes on earth. For example the increasing human population and their activities has a big impact on the carbon cycle. Some things that transfer a lot of carbon into the atmosphere is the burning of fossil fuels, changes in land use and the use of limestone to make concrete. With all of these activities as well as many other activities the amount of carbon in the atmosphere increases. The amount of carbon in the atmosphere is already significantly higher than it has been in past years. The ocean is very affected by the increase of carbon. The reason why the ocean is affected is because it absorbs the carbon. This lowers the oceans pH and thus makes it hard for sea life to build their shells and skeletons. The changes on earth that affect the carbon cycle are negatively affecting earth in many ways.

An illustrated example: File:Carboncycle.jpg

"The ocean plays a vital dominant role in the Earth's carbon cycle. The total amount of carbon in the ocean is about 50 times greater than the amount in the atmosphere, and is exchanged with the atmosphere on a time-scale of several hundred years. At least 1/2 of the oxygen we breathe comes from the photosynthesis of marine plants. Currently, 48% of the carbon emitted to the atmosphere by fossil fuel burning is sequestered into the ocean. But the future fate of this important carbon sink is quite uncertain because of potential climate change impacts on ocean circulation, biogeochemical cycling, and ecosystem dynamics. " NASA Science Earth, Retrieved November 30th, 2013,

Illustrated DiagramFile:Global flows carbon.jpg


Harrison, J. (2003). The Carbon Cycle. Vision Learning, vol. EAS-2 (3). Retrieved September 20, 2013

"NOAA Education Resources Website." NOAA Education Resources Website. Web. 28 Sept. 2013. <>.

NASA Science Earth, Retrieved November 30th, 2013,

Conservation Biology

Conservation biology addresses the loss of biological diversity. It has two central goals 1. to evaluate human impacts on biological diversity and 2. to develop practical approaches to prevent the extinction of species (Gerber, 2010). The concept was introduced in the late 1960's, early 1970's by Dasmann and Ehrenfeld (respectively). Factors that contributed to the development of the theory are the loss of habitat, overharvesting, the introduction of alien species and predators, and indirect threats on interaction (2010).

Conservation biology aims to answer questions which can then be applied to management decisions. Conservation biology establishes workable methods that can be applied to accomplish the two main goals. For methods to be successfully created and successfully applied to real life situations there is a need for communication between all sectors of the conservation community. Another necessity for conservation biology methods to be successfully created and applied is to move the transformation of conservation biology from an idea to a discipline. There is little understanding of the community and ecosystem structure and function to make reliable predictions. Because of this uncertainty has stopped scientists from providing concrete answers to managers.

There are many statistical and computational tools used in conservation biology. Some examples of these tools are population viability analysis and minimum viable population

Example: Examining the extinction rate of a species, and making conservation efforts to protect natural hunting and breeding lands, limiting human interference, and studying how to bring population levels back up. Buffalo herd numbers were brought back up through this type of scientific method.


Gerber, L. (2010). Conservation Biology. Nature Education Knowledge 3 (10):14.

Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. (no date). Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Retrieved September 20, 2013

Gerber, Leah. "Conservation Biology | Learn Science at Scitable." Nature Publishing Group : science journals, jobs, and information. Web. 25 Sept. 2013. <>

Edge Effects

The term edge effects refers to the effect, on an ecosystem, of placing two contrasting environments side by side [1]. The edge itself can be either inherent (natural) or induced [2]. An inherent edge occurs naturally and includes examples such as changes in soil types, changes from forested regions to grasslands, and the presence of open water. An induced edge is either man made or natural and includes edges that are created through fires, flooding, timber harvest, and grazing to name a few [2].
Edge effects can have both positive and negative outcomes. Many animals such as deer, moose, and elk thrive in edges. However, negative effects are seen when an edge animal migrates into the forest and potentially depletes resources for forest dwelling animals or disturbs the forest homeostasis in other ways [2].
The edge effects present from human development and deforestation can be damaging to the natural ecosystem; impacts include trails, pollution, erosion, and companion animals acting as predators [1].

Real life example: The extensive timber cutting in Wisconsin in the 19th century created a great deal of habitat fragmentation, resulting in profound edge effects [3]. The fragmentation created a vast amount of habitable space for edge dwelling animals and resulted in a huge increase in the number of white tailed deer in the area. These deer affected the population structure and abundance of several woody and herbatious plants within the forests [3]. The high deer population also prevented forest regrowth, as populations as low as 4 deer/km2 may prevent regeneration of woody species such as the Canadian ewe, eastern hemlock, and white cedar [3].


1. Unknown. Edge Effects. Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. Retrieved September 29, 2013 from

2. Unknown. (1998). Biodiversity and Interior Habitats: The Need to Minimize Edge Effects. Retrievied September 29, 2013 from

3. Alverson, William S., Waller, Donald M., Solheim, Stephen L.(1988). Forests too Deer: Edge Effects in Northern Wisconsin. Conservation Biology 2 (4): 348-358. Retrieved September 29, 2013 from


Agroforestry, also known as intercropping, is a land-use system that integrates both forestry and agricultural practices [1]. It is often backed up with an environmental science background [1]. This system strives to enhance the production of more than one product at a time, while maximizing environmental benefits. Often it consists of combining traditional crops or animals with trees, vines, shrubs, or other woody perennials [2]. Agroforestry practices attain a more sustainable farming tactic than the prevalent monoculture technique as they help prevent depletion of soil nutrients. Although agroforestry does have many environmental benefits such as soil health and providing habitats for different species of wildlife, especially birds and insects, it is not suited for the mechanized farming techniques used in developed countries. The farming techniques for each site are labour intensive and individualized depending on the crops, which is why Agroforestry is mainly seen in small scale farming applications[2].

Real life example: Many small rubber plantations in tropical counties such as Malaysia and Thailand utilize intercropping/agroforestry. In some cases, this might involve combining fruit trees, peppers, coconuts, bananas, corn, ground nuts and even poultry with the rubber plants [2].

1. Unknown Author. What is Agroforestry. Federation of British Columbia Woodlot Associations. Retrieved September 29, 2013 from

2. Pratt, Douglas C. (2011). Agroforestry. Environmental Encyclopedia Vol. 1. 4th ed. Pp34-35. Detroit: Cengage Learning

Codes of Environmental Conduct

The Codes of Environmental Conduct are a set of ethical principles or codes that aim at the environmental protection of our planet (Dwivedi, 1992). These codes set up fundamental standards by which stakeholders, investors, governments, and the general public evaluate the environmental performance of companies (Lawrence & Weber, 2011). It is important to underline that those companies that embrace and follow the codes of environmental conduct do so voluntarily.

Real World Example: ISO 14000 are environmental codes of conduct developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which is the largest developer of voluntary international standards. The ISO 14000 provides companies with standards to improve environmental management and performance (ISO, 2013).

References: Dwivedi, P. (1992). An Ethical Approach to Environmental Protection: A Code of Conduct and Guiding Principles. Canadian Public Administration [serial online]. Fall92; 35(3):363-380. Available from: GreenFILE, Ipswich, MA. Accessed October 7, 2013.

Lawrence, A., & Weber, J. (2011). Business and Society: Stakeholders, ethics, public policy, (13th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.

International Organization for Standardization Website. (2013). ISO 14000 – Environmental Management. Retrieved October 7, 2013 from

Global Warming

Global warming is the gradual warming of the earth’s climate. Most scientists agree that modern global warming is caused by an increase in carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and other gases in the atmosphere, which is a consequence of human activities such as burning of fossil fuels, cattle farming, deforestation, and other activities. Some of the negative effects of global warming are as follows:

• Species extinction

• Fresh water shortages

• Coastal erosion and flooding

• Glacial melting and reduced snow cover

• Intense tropical cyclone activity (NASA, 2013).

Real World Example: Global warming and its drastic consequences on the health of our planet are skillfully depicted in the documentary film An Inconvenient Truth by Davis Guggenheim about Al Gore’s global warming presentation. The Keeling Curve is key to understanding the role of carbon dioxide in global warming (Wikipedia, 2013).

References: University Of Michigan (2003, August 29). Modern Global Warming More Damaging Than In The Past. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2013, from¬/releases/2003/08/030829072340.htm

Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia. (2013). An Inconvenient Truth – The Keeling Curve. Retrieved October 7, 2013, from

National Aeronautics and Space Administration Website. (2013). Global Climate Change – Vital Signs of the Planet. Retrieved October 7, 2013, from


A Metapopulation (of a species) is often defined as spatially isolated subpopulations connected by dispersal (Hogan 2011 & Hanski and Gipin 1991). This concept is most broadly applied to species found in fragmented habitat (Hogan 2011).

Although individual populations (subpopulation) exhibit finite lifespans, a metapopulation tends to be more stable by virtue of the dynamic process of local extinction of one subpopulation and re-colonization of vacant habitat (left by the extinct subpopulation) by individuals from another, spatially connected subpopulation thereby counterbalancing regional extinction (Hogan 2011 & Hanski and Gilpin 1991).

Real World Example

The theory of metapopulations has practical applications to conservation biology and ecosystem management with respect to providing an understanding of population dynamics and the genetic repercussions in relation to habitat fragmentation and wildlife reserve design (Hanski and Gilpin 1991). Metapopulation theory thus provides a basis for conservation and management recommendations such as those applied to the well known example of the management of the coniferous forest in the north-western United States in attempt to aid the spotted owl population to recover (Hanski and Gilpin 1991). General conservation and management recommendations offered by metapopulation theory are to maintain as much habitat as possible, ensure connectivity to allow for dispersal between habitat patches, and ensure that habitat patches are close enough to allow for re-colonization to occur but far enough apart to avoid synchronous extinction events of subpopulations.


Hogan, C. (2011). Metapopulation. Retrieved from

Hanski, I., and M. Gilpin. 1991. Metapopulation dynamics: brief history and conceptual domain. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 42: 3-16. Retrieved from

Ecosystem Restoration

Ecosystem restoration can be defined as the process of actively managing and assisting in the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged or destroyed to a more stable, healthy, and sustainable state, which includes the recovery of associated ecosystem services (SER 2004).

Ecosystem restoration, in practice, should be a conscious process and interventions should be based on traditional or local knowledge, sound scientific principles and guidelines, and the recognition that ecosystems are precious in that their continued health is inextricably linked to survival of many species, including that humans (CBD 2011).

The impetus for ecosystem restoration can be (Wikipedia):

  • To help threatened and endangered species to recover
  • Aesthetics
  • Cultural value
  • Moral reasons (ie - we are responsible to repair damage we have inflicted)
  • To restore natural capital and ecosystem services
  • To mitigate climate

Real World Example

Case study – Ecosystem restoration project benefits: Lake Hong, China (ten Brinke 2012)

The re-introduction of native fish species and re-planting of native aquatic grasses have transformed the once highly polluted and degraded Lake Hong in China resulting in improved water quality, return of rare birds like the Oriental White Stork and tripling of income for fishermen.


Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). (November 2011) Ways and means to support ecosystem restoration. /UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/15/4. Retrieved from

Society for Ecological Restoration International (SER) Science and Policy Working Group. 2004. The SER International Primer on Ecological Restoration. Retrieved from,

ten Brinke, P. (Ed.). (2012). The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity in National and International Policy Making. Routledge.

Wikipedia. Ecosystem Restoration. Retrieved November 1 2013, from



== Secondary Succession ==

Secondary Succession is a type of ecological succession of plant life. It comes after primary succession and is a process started as a result of an event such as a forest fire , a hurricane , harvesting etc.; which in turn reduces an already established population into a smaller population of species.

Secondary succession can have an impact on soil parameters and carbon stocks in the soil can increase as well in an Imperata grassland ( created by human interference).

Also defined in ecology dictionary as ,

" The orderly and predictable changes that occur over time in the plant and animal communities of an area that has been subjected to the removal of naturally occurring plant cover. This type of succession occurs when agricultural fields are taken out of use or when forested areas are subjected to severe fires that destroy all vegetation. In both cases the top soil remains for the regrowth of natural plant communities. Compare to Primary Succession."

Real World Example:

An example of secondary succession is the development of new inhabitants to replace the previous community of plants and animals that has been disrupted or disturbed by an event (e.g. forest fire, flood, harvesting, epidemic disease, pest attack, etc.). (Biology


Biology online. Secondary Succession. Retrieved on Nov,18th,2013 from

Ecology Dictionary.SECONDARY SUCCESSION.Retrieved November 18th from

Wikipedia.Secondary succession. Retrieved Nov,19th from

Analogue Forestry

Analogue Forestry is an approach to ecological restorations through mimicking natural forests and using them as guidance. This is done by creating ecologically stable and socio-economically productive areas. It also aims at improving degraded agricultural landscapes and works to restore it to its original climax.

"Is a method for restoring ecosystems, developed from local Sri Lankan home gardens by the Neo-Synthesis Research Centre (NSRC), that seeks to bring back what grew there originally."

Real World Example:

"For example, Analog Forestry is often applied to the restoration of degraded agricultural land or pasture, beginning with early colonizer and sun-loving species, before progressing to a more mature forest structure, providing socio-economically valuable products throughout the process."


Craig Chalquist, PhD .A Glossary of Ecological Terms(2007).Analogue Forestry.Retrieved on Nov,19th from

International Analog Forestry Network.What is Analogue Forestry.Retrieved on Nov,19th from

Wikipedia.Analogue Forestry.Retrieved on Nov,19th from

Ecosystem Management

Ecosystem Management is a process in which conservation and rebuilding the worlds natural resources coincides with the socio economic needs of the people and the future generations to come. The idea and main goal is to use these resources wisely and efficiently without wasting them. Far too often our worlds resources are depleted and not managed in such a way that uses them to their utmost potential. Ecosystem Management assures that none of these important natural resources get wasted. Ecosystem management sets goals and precedents that must be met in order to preserve such resources. One of the biggest goals of ecosystem management is to maintain the greatest amount of ecological integrity, but also to utilize management practices that have the ability to change based on new experience and insights (Department of Interior, Holling 1978, Pahl-Wostl 2007).

"Real World Example""

" When forrest are being clear-cut, Ecosystem Management's main goal is to make sure that every bit of wood is used and not wasted. Also , through tracking the declines in demand for the product they can determine how much to clear cut so none gets wasted while also ensuring the environments ability to re grow and replenish.


• Cork, S., Stoneham, G. and Lowe, K. (2007). Ecosystem Service and Australian Natural Resource Management (NRM) Futures. Paper to the Natural Resource Policy and Programs Committee (NRPPC) and the Natural Resource Management Standing Committee (NRMSC). Retrieved Jan 10 from

• Lackey, R.T. 1998. Seven pillars of ecosystem management. Landscape and Urban Planning 40: 21-30. Retrieved Jan 10 from

• Wikipedia. Ecosystem Management .Retrieved on Jan 10th from

Carbon Footprint

Carbon Footprint is a term associated with the amount of emissions associated with human production and consumption. These footprints are often associated and calculated based on individuals, events or products. Reducing our carbon footprints is necessary for the preservation of or world, atmosphere and natural resources. These footprints are calculated based on the amounts of Carbon Dioxide and Methane that are created in the processes.

To give an idea of our day to day amounts of carbon created by the food we eat.


One of the biggest differences in the food we eat and their carbon footprint comes from the way in which it gets to our table. For Example: An orange that is locally grown emits only 1 KG of CO2, while an orange grown internationally and shipped here via plane or boat creates roughly 5.5 KG of CO2.


• Wright, L., Kemp, S., Williams, I. (2011) ‘Carbon footprinting’: towards a universally accepted definition. Carbon Management, 2 (1): 61-72.

• S, Monica , Sustainabledmu week 4 21st – 28th of october 2012, DMU Retrieved Jan 10 from |

• Wikipedia. Carbon Footprint .Retrieved on Jan 10th from