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Human impact on ecosystems

Science 20 - Investigation

Human Impact on Ecosystems
1. INTRODUCTION
Human activities alter both the abiotic and the biotic environment in
many ways. For example, energy use increases air temperatures around
cities, mining and effluent disposal release dissolved minerals into
waterways, and farming increased the populations of agricultural and
pest species and decreased the populations of most wildlife. An
understanding of ecological relationships is needed to assess the impact
of human activities on the environment.
2. PLANNING AND DESIGNING
Problem
How do particular human activities have an impact on ecosystems?
Background Information
You will carry out research on one particular human activity that has an
impact on the environment in your province. The goal of your research
is to discover at least two links that connect a particular activity with a
particular consequence, using ecological relationships that you have
learned. For example, certain industries produce wastes containing
mercury, which enter the aquatic environment (Link 1). The mercury is

deposited in the sediments of lakes and streams but is released by the
activity of bacteria (Link 2). The mercury enters the bodies of
organisms and is concentrated in the muscles of carnivorous fish as it
passes up the food chain (Link 3).
Through explorations such as this, you will be able to explain, for
example, how the production of paper might affect the health of fisheating people living downstream from a pulp mill. You will present
your finding, including tables and graphs of data in a report.
Prediction

Experimental Design

Materials
‰
‰

Reference books
Internet searches

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Science 20 - Investigation

Human Impact on Ecosystems
3. PERFORMING AND RECORDING
Procedure
1.

Choose one of the following topics to investigate i.e.;
a.
b.
c.
d.
e.
f.
g.
h.
i.
j.
k.

l.

The impact of human activities on an endangered
ecosystem such as short-grass prairie.
The impact of draining wetlands.
The impact of dam construction.
The impact of releasing heavy metals into the
environment.
The impact of single-crop, or monoculture farming.
The impact of clear-cutting forests.
The impact of building cottages along lake shores.
The impact of urban sprawl development on natural
areas or drainage systems.
The impact of oil and gas exploration in Canada.
The impact of illegal wildlife poaching.
The impact of strip mining.
The impact of underground mining.

2.

Based on your knowledge of ecosystems, list some of the ways in
which the natural environment would be affected. Use concepts
such as abiotic environment, populations, food webs, pyramid of
numbers, prey, decomposers, biodiversity, and adaptation to
describe your ideas.

3.

Organize your ideas into liked steps: A leads to B, B leads to C,
and so on.

4.

Carry out research to obtain information related to your ideas.
Good sources of data are Statistics Canada and various government
departments such as Mining, Forestry, Fisheries, Environment,
Agriculture, and the Canadian Wildlife Service (NOTE: some of
these organizations have home pages on the internet). Know what
you need before you inquire, and be as specific as possible. For
example, figures showing changes in the numbers of prairie ponds
since 1955 are available from Environment Canada (Figure 3.6).
Changes in duck numbers on the western plains are provided by
the Annual Waterfowl Breeding Population Survey, available from
the Canadian Wildlife Service (Figure 3.7). Fisheries and Oceans
Canada has data on mercury concentration in fish in various prairie
lakes, and so on.

5.

Assemble your report, including data and illustrations, as outlined
in the experimental design.

Evidence

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Science 20 - Investigation

Human Impact on Ecosystems
4. ANALYZING AND APPLYING
Analysis
1.

Describe your attempts to obtain information that were successful.
Give reasons for the lack of results.

2.

Did your research provide you with any information that surprised
you? Explain.

Application
1.

Suggest how one or more of the harmful impacts described in your
report might be minimized or eliminated.

2.

Organize a class debate on the topic "Scientific information is of
little value in resolving environmental issues in society."

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