Introduction to ecosystems
Introduction to ecosystems

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Introduction to ecosystems

4.5 Summary of Week 4

Dr David Robinson, Senior Lecturer in Biological Science at The Open University, discusses what you have learned so far and what's coming next.

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Summary of weeks 3 and 4

NARRATOR
The examples of different environments around the world have raised questions about how organisms function within different ecosystems and explored how organisms and ecosystems function at microlevel. The next section explores another significant influencing factor on ecosystems.
DR. DAVID ROBINSON
Early humans were an integral part of the ecosystems in which they evolved. Modern humans range across the globe and have impacts on a wide variety of ecosystems to which they are not adapted. Sometimes, human intervention disrupts ecosystems that have been refined over long time periods on a short time scale that limits the ability of the system to respond. We have developed new ways of living, which can disrupt or destroy natural environments. But at the same time, our understanding of biology and nature is enabling us to make decisions which help to protect the natural environment. On the next part of this journey, you're going to face up to the effects that humans have on a variety of different ecosystems. Now, it isn't all bad news, but it pays us to take a long, hard look at human impacts if we are to minimise their disruptive potential.
NARRATOR
This section investigates how human activity affects the delicate energy balance in an ecosystem, often with adverse consequences.
SPEAKER 1
In 1997, satellite data shows there's 1,116 million hectares of rainforest. That's a fall of 50% in just 22 years. And most of that loss is due to human activity.
NARRATOR
This video examines different challenges conservationists face from human activity around Wicken Fen in the UK.
SPEAKER 2
Really, somewhere like Wicken Fen, at the moment, can almost be described as a paper handkerchief, a tiny little area now in a sea of different types of landscape.
SPEAKER 3
Potential threats, like encroachment, could have a devastating impact on Wicken Fen because it is so small. Even contained disasters may wipe out a significant proportion of the reserve.
NARRATOR
This video investigates how locals and gorillas can inhabit the forest in harmony through the example of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda.
SPEAKER 4
For gorillas to have a sustainable future, local people needed to be involved in their conservation rather than excluded from the forest.
SPEAKER 5
A question had come, say, oh, conserving for whom? And therefore, we had to make a shift from that fortress approach to an integrated conservation work mate approach.
NARRATOR
This video looks at the way that, as part of a restoration project, farmers were paid to keep their cattle off the hillsides of China's Loess Plateau.
SPEAKER 6
What eventually convinced the local people was the assurance that they would have tenure of their land. That they would directly benefit from the effort they invested in the new project.
NARRATOR
This video examines three generations of a family in China who, since harvesting peanuts, have seen their income rise fourfold.
SPEAKER 7
[SPEAKING CHINESE]
DR. DAVID ROBINSON
We humans occupy many different ecosystems and our impact is felt worldwide. We won't be able to conserve and restore everything, so with an understanding of ecosystems comes a responsibility to make hard decisions.
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In Weeks 3 and 4 we have considered ecosystems in three very different areas of the globe – deserts, the polar regions and the seas. Each area raised questions for you about how organisms function in different ecosystems and how they are adapted to the physical properties of their environment. You also learned about the need to identify organisms so that the nature of relationships within ecosystems can be evaluated.

In the next two weeks you will examine the impact that humans have on ecosystems, using examples from around the world.

If you would like a short break, or to find out more about studying with The Open University, take alook at our online prospectus [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

You can now go to Week 5.

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