Introduction to ecosystems
Introduction to ecosystems

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Introduction to ecosystems

6.5 Conclusion

Dr David Robinson, Lead Educator and Senior Lecturer in Biological Science at The Open University, discusses and summarises the contents of this course, and the skills and knowledge you will have gained from it.

Your journey has taken you to a variety of places, from Wicken Fen in Britain to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Africa; from the Loess Plateau in China to the Pacific Islands of the Galápagos. These places have shown you a variety of different ecosystems, but there are two common themes: conservation and restoration. Neither of these activities can be undertaken without a very clear understanding of the ecosystems themselves.

At the start of this course three over-arching questions were posed. You should now be able to answer those questions.

‘What is the importance of understanding ecosystems, how do they work and how crucial is their conservation?’

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Conclusion

DR. DAVID ROBINSON
The natural world has been a continuing fascination for me throughout my professional life. And when I was a student, my ecology notes started with a quotation. "Ecological research of the most basic kind is vital to solving our environmental problems." And that's still very apposite today. Ecology, the scientific study of ecosystems, will be hugely important for the 21st century. Your journey has taken you to a variety of places, from Wicken Fen in Britain, to Africa to the Bwindi National Park, to the lowest plateau in China and finally, the Pacific Islands of the Galápagos. These places have shown you a variety of different ecosystems, but there are two common themes, conservation and restoration. Now, neither of these activities can be undertaken without a very clear understanding of the ecosystems themselves. You'll now appreciate the complex and beautiful relationships between the organisms in these ecosystems. The Galápagos Islands illustrate only too well how fragile ecosystems are. One change, such as the introduction of the alien red quinine tree can totally alter relationships within an ecosystem and hence, the whole system itself. Some events, like this one, are a result of human activities, but natural events can also potentially produce big changes. Every few years in Galápagos, the cool ocean currents from the south reverse and warm water from the north bathes the islands. The seaweed that the marine iguanas eat does not thrive in warm water and the plants die back. The result, no food for the iguanas and they die in large numbers. A prolonged reversal of the ocean currents might wipe out all the iguana populations. You might like to think about how this would affect the ecosystem as a whole. Unless we understand the links between species, we cannot limit damage, conserve, or restore, which emphasises that the study of ecosystems is a core part of biological science. This brings us back to the question that I posed for you at the start of your journey. What is the importance of understanding ecosystems, what they're comprised of, and how they work? Well, now you can answer that question.
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