Every ecosystem, at the end of the day, is governed by the environmental factors that exist there. This, I’ve mentioned time and again. How intricate is this relationship? Take a look!
One single dam can alter the geomorphic (or landscape or environmental) factors of the entire floodplain. These changes are immediately seen in the ecology of the area, eventually leading to endemism or even extinction of the indigenous species!
A short post, but a significant one.
A happy new year! I’ve started posting late this year, but I’m as driven as ever before! Stay tuned for regular environmental updates 🙂
(This is the fifth post in the “feedback loops” series.)
Climate is weather, over a long period of time. Unlike weather, climate is predictable. It has a number of factors like solar insolation, rainfall, temperature and latitude/altitude that controls it in a particular place. Also, climate encompasses a large area.
Because of the spatial and temporal extent of climate, and because of the large scale environmental factors that control it, you would not expect it to change much. Global climate, in fact, does regulate itself in the short period of a few years or decades. You will be hard-pressed to find massive climate shifts in this time period in the geological record. Climate changes are usually seen in the form of cycles; the cycle have a time period of 20,000-40,000 years. It also has smaller cycles, in the range of a few centuries as well.
These cycles are generally positive feedback cycles, with a specific threshold at each end. When that threshold is breached, the environmental factors generally change in a way that allows the cycle to reverse itself. In this, I’m going to explain this phenomenon by taking the example of glacier growth and glacier melting.
Continue reading Positive feedback loops: Controlling global climate
(This is the fourth post in the “feedback loops” series)
Imagine a world where nothing interacted with anything. Each entity, molecule and atom remained in isolation. They could not feel or touch each other, directly or indirectly…….
That would be a dead world.
Continue reading Disturbance: Driving changes in the universe
(This is the third post in the “feedback loops” series)
Ever used a bad eraser in your life? One that has been used so much that it’s become completely black?
What happens when you erase something with that eraser?
Instead of cleanly removing everything you have written on the page, it just makes your page more and more dirty! The harder you rub the eraser, the dirtier it gets!
This, my friends, is a small and significant example of a positive feedback loop.
Continue reading Positive feedback loops: Creating more of what’s already there!
Have you ever wondered why floodplains host such a variety of life? Why fishes tend to congregate in estuaries for spawning? Why humans have thrived for so long along floodplains?
In nature ecosystems transition from one to another gradually as well as abruptly. I have gone into detail about the gradual transition of ecosystems in Across a gradient: How changing environment dictates community composition. Similarly, abrupt transitions also exist.These transition zones are extremely important from an ecological and economic point of view. They are very, very rich in biodiversity. Because of this richness and the fact complex conditions exist in this zone, it is vital for the economy of that region.
In this post, I’ll take a look at the abrupt changes from one ecosystem to another. We’ll also see what these abrupt changes cause and how that is important for life in that region. These regions have faced great damage due to human activities. Understanding their dynamics is important if we are to manage them better in the future.
Continue reading Ecotones and edges: Explaining abrupt changes in ecosystems
This is the second post in the “feedback loops” series.
In the first blog of this series, I started the post by talking about how our body responds to cold and hot conditions. When it gets too cold, we shiver to increase the body temperature. When it gets too hot, we sweat. The sweat evaporates off of our skin and cools our body.
Both these phenomena are the most common examples of a natural process called Homeostasis. Even though temperature regulation in mammals is considered the most common form of homeostasis in the living world, it is not the only one. There are some fascinating examples of homeostasis in our everyday life as well as the ecosystem at large. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of them.
Continue reading Homeostasis: It’s why you tilt bikes, it’s why populations never grow forever
When it gets really cold, what happens to your body? First you start shivering. Then, if you don’t take the hint and get warm, some of your body parts become numb. Keep this up, and soon, it’ll become blue. So will your mood.
Similarly, what happens when it gets really hot? You sweat. You sweat some more. If you don’t get cool, soon you’ll start to feel faint. You might actually faint.
All of this is part of a mechanism in our body. We are warm-blooded creatures, and our body has the ability to maintain its internal temperature. It also maintains the pH of fluids in our body.
Such processes are not restricted to humans, or even specific organisms. Increase the scale, and you will find such regulation of features even within a population or in an ecosystem. This ability to regulate an environmental process is solely because of a concept called feedback mechanism (or feedback loops). Continue reading Feedback loops: Regulating natural processes