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Ecology Sample Questions

by Mohd Tajuddin Abdullah, PhD, FASc


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Temperate reefs are superb tractable systems for testing hypotheses in ecology and evolutionary biology. Accordingly there is a rich history of research stretching back over 100 years, which has made major contributions to general ecological and evolutionary theory as well as providing better understanding of how littoral systems work by linking pattern with process. A brief resumé of the history of temperate reef ecology is provided to celebrate this rich heritage. As a community, temperate reef ecologists generally do well designed experiments and test well formulated hypotheses. Increasingly large datasets are being collected, collated and subjected to complex meta-analyses and used for modelling. These datasets do not happen spontaneously – the burgeoning subject of macroecology is possible only because of the efforts of dedicated natural historians whether it be observing birds, butterflies, or barnacles. High-quality natural history and old-fashioned field craft enable surveys or experiments to be stratified (i.e. replicates are replicates and not a random bit of rock) and lead to the generation of more insightful hypotheses. Modern molecular approaches have led to the discovery of cryptic species and provided phylogeographical insights, but natural history is still required to identify species in the field. We advocate a blend of modern approaches with old school skills and a fondness for temperate reefs in all their splendour.

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  • 1. 1 | P a g e IMPORTANT ESSAY QUESTIONS-SET 2 1. (a) Describe the methods that may be used to record changes in a named ecosystem as a result of human activities. For full credit, response must include a named ecosystem eg Alpine Pine Forest in Swiss Alps. Award [1 mark] for establishing control/baseline and repetition: Make a baseline study before human activity begins and repeat at regular intervals over time after the human activity / or at different distances from human activity; Award marks as follows for methods to record changes due to human activities [3 max] Use appropriate biotic sampling method eg randomised quadrats/water samples/kick samples/mark-release-recapture/Lincoln Index to establish abundance of species; And to use Simpson’s diversity index to establish species present/diversity; use relevant/standardised/sampling method of measuring abiotic data eg light meter/ anemometer/thermometer/pH meter/Secchi disk; 2. Explain human effects on the nitrogen cycle and predict the impact of these changes on an ecosystem Effect on nitrogen cycle (no credit to be given for simply describing N cycle): [3 max] Production of nitrogen based fertilizers has converted large amounts of N2 into NO3; Agriculture/use of fertilisers/biomass burning has added large amounts of NO3 to ecosystems; Fossil fuel based cars/power plants release large amounts of NOx into atmosphere; Over harvesting/irrigation has reduced mineral N in soils; Release of sewage/livestock effluent has increased N content in waterways;
  • 2. 2 | P a g e Impact on ecosystem: [4 max] General: NOx enters atmosphere and combines with H2O to form acid rain; NOx is a powerful greenhouse gas which leads to global warming/climate change; Specific: Acid rain causes needle loss in pine forests; Acidified soil can lead to leaching of cations/essential minerals/ Ca++ out of soil; Excess NO3 in soil may change species composition in the ecosystem; Loss of nitrates through harvesting/irrigation lowers productivity; NO3 leach into water and can lead to eutrophication of water bodies; Acid rain can lead to acidified water/death of pH sensitive species; And increase in heavy metals/aluminium ions in water, damaging fish; These abiotic changes may reduce biodiversity/stability of systems; Climate change may lead to destruction/flooding of ecosystems / shifting biomes; 3. Evaluate the role and possible outcomes of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) in two different societal structures. Description of EIA [2 max]: An evaluation of current ecosystem/environment and likely impacts from the development; Often it is a legal requirement and ideally independent of (but funded by) the developer; Involving a baseline study and subsequent monitoring of a variety of environmental aspects including eg ecological, social, economic, aesthetic during and after the development; Evaluations of the role and outcomes of EIA in two different societal structures [8 max]: Societal structures should be allowed a very broad interpretation ie candidates may compare or describe eg MEDCs and LEDCs; two countries; or two societal structures within one country eg western capitalist society and first generation Americans; two socioeconomic groups; two different societal institutions. Time-consuming so may effectively prevent valuable development / or not be completed in time to prevent development; Wide variety of skills needed to collect appropriate data which implies extensive recruitment/education/cooperation; Conflicts of interest as developer pays for the EIA which may bias findings;
  • 3. 3 | P a g e Raises awareness of local viewpoints so promotes community ownership; Allows the local community an input into the development of their area / empowers minorities; Monitoring post development is often not completed so usefulness is limited; EIA have proved to be a very useful in MEDCs where environmental and economic priorities are more equal WTTE; Cost of EIA may be too high to be carried out effectively in less wealthy societies; In LEDCs economic development may be higher priority than environmental concerns; Allow credit for different approaches to this question eg a “case-study” approach: EIA manifesting the ecological significance of redwood (for temperate forests' ecology) would allow American Indians to continue their traditional way of life; EIA manifesting the ecological significance of redwood would cause an increased concern for loggers losing their major source of income; An EIA allowing timbering of redwood forest would offer economic benefit to timber industry/ would promote economic development of region / would offer jobs to loggers; an EIA allowing timbering of redwood forest may cause relocation of local Amerindians; 4. Discuss why societies have different perspectives on the issue of Global Warming Reasons for different perspectives: Religious/cultural imperatives: eg some societies have cultural beliefs that hold the natural environment in high regard; So will be opposed to human activity that leads to global warming; Or may value national happiness over economic growth; May believe global warming stems from western capitalist greed; eg perspective of Buddhist cultures/first generation Americans; Some are more pragmatic/consumer-oriented/pro-economic development eg Western capitalism; So may be less concerned with global warming issues / less willing to compromise lifestyles
  • 4. 4 | P a g e Political ideology: More capitalist societies may rely heavily upon market forces to drive solutions to global warming; And will value marketable goods over non-marketable services affected by global warming; So may see global warming as a negative but necessary result of economic growth / be less concerned with addressing the issue; State of development: MEDCs can better afford to address global warming issues through more expensive alternative technologies/resources; MEDCs have more extensive media availability/education and so may have more informed perspectives on global warming Imminence of impacts; Societies already experiencing possible impacts of global warming (eg flooding/severe weather patterns/drought) may be more sensitive to global warming issues;
  • 5. 5 | P a g e 5.Distinguish between anthropocentrism and technocentrism. (a) Anthropocentrism is people centred/attitude changing (value system) while technocentrism is technology centred (value system); [1 max] Anthropocentrism: [2 max] People can manage environment in a sustainable manner; Regulation/policies can be used to manage use of natural resources/restrict environmental damage; Economic/educational tools can be used to encourage sustainable behaviour; Population control seen as important as resource use; Problems solved via a wider consensus/ community participation; Technocentrism: [2 max] Trust in science/technology to provide solutions to environmental problems; Seeks for scientific analyses/understanding of issues (rather than more political/socio- economic); Technological evaluations/solutions need to be limited to experts (so exclude the wider community);
  • 6. 6 | P a g e 6 Compare and contrast the role and activities of a named intergovernmental organization and a named non-governmental organization in conserving and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity. Award [1 max] for a named intergovernmental organization and a named non-governmental organization. eg United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)/Greenpeace; Eg use of media: Non-governmental organization (NGO) can mobilize public protest to put pressure on governments (d); Intergovernmental organization Control /works with media (at least one TV channel propagates the official policy in even the most democratic regimes) so communicates its decision/attitudes/policies more effectively to the public (d); Non-governmental organization (NGO) gain media coverage through variety of protests (eg protest on frontlines /sabotage) sometimes access to mass media is hindered (especially in non-democratic regimes) (d); Intergovernmental organization and NGOs provide environmental information to the public of global trends, publishing official scientific documents and technical reports gathering data from plethora of sources (s); Eg speed of response: Intergovernmental organization slow to respond – agreements require consensus from members (d); Non-governmental organization (NGO) fast to respond – usually its members already have reached consensus (or else they wouldn’t have joined in the first place) (d); Intergovernmental organization directed by governments, so sometimes may be against public opinion (d); Intergovernmental organization can be bureaucratic and take time to act (d);
  • 7. 7 | P a g e Eg diplomatic constraints/ political influence: Intergovernmental organization decisions can be politically driven rather than by best conservation strategy (d); NGOs can be idealistic/driven by best conservation strategy / often hold the high moral ground over other organizations/may be extreme in actions or views (d); Eg public image: Non-governmental organization (NGO) are organized as businesses with concrete allocation of duties (d); Both lead and encourage partnership between nations and organizations to conserve and restore ecosystems and biodiversity (s); NGOs can be confrontational/radical approach to an environmental issue like biodiversity (d); Intergovernmental organizations like to cultivate a sober/upright/measured image based on scientific/businesslike approach (d); Eg Legislation Intergovernmental organization Enforce their decisions via legislation (may even be authoritarian sometimes) (d); Non-governmental organization (NGO)serving as watchdogs (suing government agencies/businesses who violate environmental law) (d); Both seek to ensure that decisions be applied (s); Eg Agenda: Intergovernmental organization provide guidelines and implement international treaties (d); Non-governmental organization (NGO)use public pressure to influence national governments / lobby governments over policy/legislation (d); Both may collaborate in global, transnational scientific research projects (s) ; NGOs buy and manage land to protect habitats, wildlife etc. (d); both may provide forum for discussion (s)
  • 8. 8 | P a g e Eg funding: Intergovernmental organization fund environmental projects by monies coming from national budget (d); Intergovernmental organization usually manage publicly owned lands (d); NGOs fund environmental projects by monies coming from private donations (d); Eg extent of influence geographically: Intergovernmental organization monitor regional and global trends (s) NGOs also monitor/research species and conservation areas at a variety of levels (s); NGOs focus more on local and/or national information, aiming at education – produce learning materials and opportunities for schools and public (d); 7.With reference to examples, distinguish between the terms succession and zonation. succession is change over time/temporal change in an ecosystem; whereas zonation is change over distance/spatial change; Succession is caused by changing conditions through biotic influences of (seral) communities; Zonation is caused by environmental gradients/changes in abiotic factors; Zonation can be caused by the process of succession but not always; e.g. (sand dune ecosystem) from bare inorganic substrate to climatic climax community/fully grown forest; e.g. (the main biomes/ecosystem show) zonation in relation to latitude/climate; (a) e.g. zonation with altitude on a mountain Award [1 max] for an example which illustrates succession and [1 max] for an example which illustrates zonation. The example does not need to be tied to a specific location but must be an example of a type of succession/zonation (e.g. succession of plants on the slopes of a volcano which has erupted.
  • 9. 9 | P a g e 8. Explain why an understanding of how ecosystems work can help people to manage resources effectively. Candidates must show an understanding of ecosystem function. Key ideas must have a valid link to effective resource management. Interdependence/interconnectedness/ecosystems as systems: [3 max] The role of one component/species in an ecosystem affects many others / species are parts of food webs; all components have significance to overall stability of system, and need to be valued by management; particularly keystone species; Rates of replenishment/natural income/sustainable harvesting: [3 max] The natural income of any component is the rate at which it can be replenished; resource exploitation must be managed within these limits to allow for long-term availability; Exceeding such limits will lead to reduced stock/future replenishment; Laws of thermodynamics/pyramidic structure of trophic levels: [3 max] Energy/biomass is lost as it is passed along food chains/trophic levels; so top predators are most vulnerable and need large areas of plant communities to be maintained for their support; Harvesting resources at higher trophic levels is less efficient use of available areas; Management using pesticides/herbicides/inorganic compounds/chemicals will lead to build up (biomagnification) along food chains so should be avoided; cycling of matter: [3 max] Ecosystems depend on recycling of nutrients; and effective decomposer communities; So decomposer communities need to be valued/protected by management; and nutrients lost through harvesting need replacement; Succession: [3 max] Ecosystems tend to develop into climax communities; management of plagioclimax/cultivations will require management/intervention (which uses energy); So it is more efficient to get natural income from a climax community than to interrupt succession; Feedback mechanisms: [3 max] Negative feedback mechanisms are essential for stability of ecosystems; positive feedback mechanisms lead to the loss/shift of equilibrium; so negative feedback mechanisms need to be protected/valued by management strategies; Causing a disturbance to equilibrium may initiate positive feedback mechanisms leading to further and further deviation from equilibrium; e.g. heavy cultivation of soils may lead to loss of soil fertility requiring even heavier cultivation and furthe r loss of fertility etc.; diversity: [3 max]
  • 10. 10 | P a g e Diversity is the key to stability of ecosystems; which highlights the dangers of e.g. monocropping; and the advantages of polycultures/hedgerows etc.; [8 max] Award [3 max] if no link is made between resource management and key ideas. 9.Outline two reasons for the extinction of a named species and suggest how intervention measures can improve the conservation status of a species Low species number could lead to non-viable population/reduced successful breeding/small gene pool; Habitat degradation/fragmentation/loss eg logging could lead to loss of food and shelter; Increased competition/predation/disease due to human interference (eg invasive/non-native species) or environmental change (eg natural disasters); Natural hazards eg volcanoes/wildfires can reduce species numbers and habitat; Pollution can degrade the habitat eg greenhouse gas and global warming could reduce habitat range in Arctic regions for polar bears; Pollutants can bioaccumulate eg some pesticides can biomagnify up the food chain especially affecting successful breeding of species high in the food chain; Hunting/overfishing by humans can reduce breeding numbers; If no named extinct species or an incorrect species do NOT award mark for this part. [4 max] for the extinct species and reasons. Interventions to improve conservation status (these need not be linked to the named species above): eg legislation to stop/reduce hunting; International agreements to control trade in endangered species eg CITES; Policing and enforcement of legislation/controls (eg hunting ban); Legislation to reduce pollution; Community involvement/education/awareness could improve value placed on species; Improved land management/restoration could reduce habitat degradation/fragmentation/loss; Captive breeding/re-introduction programmes could increase numbers; Gene/seed bank to store genetic material to allow for later reintroduction; Setting up a national park/nature reserve; Effective reserve/national park design/management (includes corridors/size/shape/edge effects etc);
  • 11. 11 | P a g e 10. Discuss the potential ecological services and goods provided by a named ecosystem. Range of goods (G) and services (S) provided should be discussed in the context of the named ecosystem. eg in a tropical forest in Amazonia (no mark awarded for the named ecosystem) Mahogany provides building materials but this must be sustainably done (G); Brazil nuts provide food but only in a natural forest (G); Plants and animals provide medicines eg Rosy Periwinkle but potential medicines will be lost with deforestation (G); Natural forests help prevent soil erosion (S); Evapotranspiration in the tropical rainforest creates a local water cycle/is a climate stabiliser Forest trees replenish oxygen and absorb the CO2 moderating global warming (S); Amazon provides amenity value/ecotourism attraction which is used to fund conservation efforts/ to provide a sustainable income to local communities (S); The Amazon is home to many indigenous peoples providing cultural/spiritual value to them eg in a coral reef in Australia/Mozambique. Coral rubble provides building materials but this must be sustainably done (G); Curios/jewellery/live fish and plants for the aquarium trade must be carefully taken to ensure sustainability (S); Reef fish provide food to local communities but only grow in a thriving coral reef (G); Plants and animals provide medicines like cancer cures but potential medicines will be lost with coral destruction (G); Coral reefs help protect the shore from erosion (S); Coral reefs are a nursery for many ocean species helping maintain global biodiversity (S); Coral reefs provides amenity value/ecotourism attraction which is used to fund conservation efforts/ to provide a sustainable income to local communities (S); Coral reefs surround many small island nations/indigenous peoples providing cultural/spiritual value to them (S);
  • 12. 12 | P a g e 11. Explain whether or not you believe it is justified to place an economic value on natural systems. Without economic valuation, services provided may be ignored by decision makers; Valuation allows for a comparative measure eg value against income generated from building roads through woodlands; Difficult/impossible to objectively quantify aesthetic/intrinsic value; Ideologically, need to move away from economic/monetary value and be guided by intrinsic value in nature; Organisms have rights like humans and no price is attached to human life; Award marks for argument for either case or both cases. 8.Outline the Gaia hypothesis and suggest how it differs from more traditional ideas abouthow the Earth works. (a) Award [2 max] for an outline of Gaia hypothesis: Compares Earth to a living organism; in which feedback mechanisms maintain equilibrium/homeostatic state; an approach which sees the Earth as a global ecosystem (Daisyworld); Award [2 max] for suggestions on how traditional views differ. Traditional views: Tend to break up/fragment the Earth into smaller systems/ecosystems; or see the Earth in a more static way; or see the Earth as something which just supplies us with resources; give more significance/centrality to the role of humans; allow for possibility that humanity could irreversibly destroy life-supporting conditions of the planet (Gaia suggests Earth will continue despite us); it is possible to have a systems approach to the Earth without believing that the Earth is alive;
  • 13. 13 | P a g e 12. Distinguish between the terms sustainability and sustainable development. Sustainability is the use of global resources at a rate that allows natural regeneration and minimizes damage to the environment; e.g. harvesting renewable resources at a rate that will be replaced by natural growth demonstrates sustainability; Sustainable development is development that meets current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs; sustainable development is a harder concept to define because different groups emphasize different aspects of it; Sustainability focuses on the rate of resource use, whereas sustainable development is more about a general approach to development; sustainability suggests maintaining a balance/equilibrium, whereas development suggests progress/improvement/change for the better; sustainability has a wider application, possibly including, but going beyond “development” as such (e.g. personal lifestyles, a particular farm etc.); [4 max] Award [2 max] for responses that define but do not distinguish between the terms.
  • 14. 14 | P a g e 13 Define the terms gross primary productivity (GPP) and net primary productivity (NPP). Explain, with reference to two contrasting biomes, why one biome will be more productive than the other Award [2 max] for definition of GPP and NPP. Gross primary productivity/GPP is the (total) gain in energy or biomass (per unit area per unit time) by photosynthesis/plants/primary producers; Net primary productivity/NPP is the amount available to consumers in an ecosystem; that is, the gain in energy or biomass after allowing for respiratory losses/ NPP = GPP – R where R = respiratory loss; Award [5 max] for explanation of productivity in biomes. e.g. tropical rainforests: Light/insolation/sunlight and rainfall/precipitation (2500mm per annum) are not limiting/optimal; and temperatures are high throughout the year; e.g. deserts: Do not have enough rainfall/precipitation (250mm per annum); light is not limiting/have high temperatures (in the day); distribution of rainfall throughout the year is as important as the total amount; Award [1] for correctly identifying difference in productivity between two biomes. e.g. tropical rainforests have higher rates of productivity than deserts; other limiting factors e.g. availability of nutrients/plant diversity play a part; 14. Justify which criteria you think should be used to judge the success of a conservation area. Evaluate the success of a named protected area using the criteria you have identified. Award [4 max] for appropriate criteria together with justification. Sustainability of approach, because the reserve needs to be successful in the long term; Local involvement/ownership, because if local people are involved they will be more likely to cooperate with efforts to preserve species/habitats; Habitat preservation/restoration of degraded habitats/management (in situ), because species cannot survive unless their habitats are also preserved;
  • 15. 15 | P a g e Enforcement/maintenance/physical barriers, because unless rules are enforced people may continue to poach/degrade habitats; Maximizing natural income, because it will provide an incentive for local people to preserve the area; Minimizing change to traditional activities, because these may be an integral part of the maintenance of the ecosystem; Minimizing cost, because funds will always be limited, especially in LEDCs; maintenance of ecological services, because these are a useful measure of the health of an ecosystem; Promoting environmental education/awareness because it is a good way to change behaviour; using “optimum” design features for the reserve/minimize edge effects/sufficient size/corridors/core and buffer zones, because this means more species are likely to survive; Preservation of biodiversity/biodiversity hotspots because this ensures system stability; maintenance/restoration of species' population sizes because this ensures system stability/diversity; Accept other equally significant and valid criteria and justifications to those above. Award [4 max] for an evaluation of a named protected area based on the candidates’ criteria. Award [1] mark for a sufficiently specific named example. e.g. in the Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National park off the coast of Kenya; 15. Describe one other system where human activities have created environmental problems through a positive feedback system and explain how the system can be brought back to balance. Description of system: For example: global warming Global warming is a rise in global temperature due to increased greenhouse gases retaining more heat in atmosphere; some greenhouse gases come from human activities e.g. CO2 from burning fossil fuels/methane from cattle/rice farming / deforestation reducing carbon fixation/carbon sinks; This causes many environmental problems e.g. shifting biomes / raise of ocean level / flooding / climate change / loss of habitats/biodiversity;
  • 16. 16 | P a g e Award [2 max] for the description Explain: Explanation of positive feedback [4 max] Global warming causes melting of permafrost releasing trapped methane gas; which further increases temperature as it is a greenhouse gas i.e. positive feedback; global warming increases ocean temperatures which reduces coral distribution/abundance; this reduces their ability to fix carbon leading to more CO2 and further global warming i.e. positive feedback; changes in ocean temperatures decrease amount of dissolved CO2 in water; leads to further increase in CO2 in atmosphere (as less dissolves) i.e. positive feedback; Global warming causes increased rates of evaporation / more water vapour; water vapour is greenhouse gas, so more global warming i.e. positive feedback; Global warming creates drier areas which are susceptible to fire; Fires release more CO2 into the atmosphere, so more global warming; Suggested solutions [4 max] Could reduce burning fossil fuels/use alternatives renewable energy/so reducing the CO2 in atmosphere; or increase carbon sinks/forests/artificial sinks to take up and store the CO2; change in lifestyle to reduce personal transport/use more public transport/use carbon-neutral technology (biofuels)/reduce electricity use; Further pollution could cause global dimming with increased cloud cover/aerosol particles; Increased evaporation due to warmer air could increase cloud cover and albedo/reflection of sun’s energy increases; Mechanisms may take a long time to start to work/geological history shows change is slow to reduce positive feedback on a global scale;
  • 17. 17 | P a g e 16. Compare and contrast general trends in the carbon footprint for less economically developed countries (LEDCs) and more economically developed countries (MEDCs) over the past 100 years. Both have increased their carbon footprints over the last 100 years; Increase linked to increase in world population/country populations; The spread of the internal combustion engine technology worldwide; The spread of electricity and electric products worldwide; LEDCs: Generally very little change in carbon footprint over past hundred years with fossil fuels per capita/person; Except possibly in last twenty years some increases as new sources of fossil fuel available/found/manufacturing increased/more electricity consumption/LEDC industrialisation; As LEDC population increases/rapid population increase so does carbon footprint for country but not per person; Diets increasing in meat/higher processed foods means footprint increasing; MEDCs: Sudden increases in fossil fuels and so carbon footprints electricity became widely available; Steady increase over past 50+ years as technology and energy usage increases as costs are low; Per person/capita carbon footprint very high; Consumer society encourages more goods/services so increasing carbon footprint; Public pressure for green goods/services is making companies reduce carbon footprints/become carbon neutral; Governments working towards carbon targets are putting into place policies to Reduce carbon footprint; At least one comparison must be made for 5 marks Accept any other reasonable response
  • 18. 18 | P a g e 17. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its findings on global warming. The IPCC stated that the climate was definitely warming and was most likely caused by human activities. Evaluate this point of view. Even if humans are causing climate change, Earth will correct itself (Gaia hypothesis); Yes to warming: Observations/scientific data that climate is warming; Observations/scientific data that carbon dioxide/greenhouse gas levels are increasing; Data from a variety of sources and times indicates warming(evaluation); No to warming: Natural fluctuations occur so this could still be a short-term trend; Only technologically verifiable data from a short period of time collected; Other sources used are not all reliable/fully understood(evaluation); Yes to human caused Human activities /fossil fuel combustion are known to increase carbon dioxide/greenhouse gas levels; Carbon dioxide/greenhouse gas are known to impact global temperatures; Therefore it is likely that human activities are resulting in global climate change (evaluation); Rapid rate of increase in CO2 implies a human link; No to human caused However, climate has changed in the past; Due to natural fluctuations/predicted Milanokovich cycles ; Current carbon dioxide levels/greenhouse gas/global temperatures/fluctuations are Moderate compared to geologic history; Therefore it is not conclusive that humans are causing global climate change(evaluation);
  • 19. 19 | P a g e 18. Outline how culture, economics and technology have influenced the value of a named resource in different regions or in different historical periods. For example, Whales as a resource; How value changed Valuable resource prior to 1920/extensively harvested; Lost value as petroleum products/fossil fuel oil/plastics became cheap and available; Influence of culture: Different regions of the world value them differently e.g. Inuit value them Spiritually and as food/oil resource; Nowadays, generally valued for their biodiversity; Now valued from ethical and moral/aesthetic point of view; Some countries /Japan/Norway still hunt whales for scientific purposes; Influence of economics: In past valued economically as food/oil resource; Now valued economically for tourism; Influence of technology: Pre fossil fuels, technology allowed for oil to be extracted from whales; Now technology in place to exploit fossil fuels, so whales less significant for this purpose; Change in fishing/harvesting technology allowed populations to plummet; For example. uranium as a resource; How value changed Prior to splitting of the atom no known use/value; Increased in value during 20th century as value of nuclear energy became understood Influence of culture: There was a shift in values from acceptance to reluctance as the dangers became clearer; Ethical values regarding uranium have shifted over time depending on historical events e.g. nuclear bombs/tsunami impacts in Japan; Awareness of role of fossil fuels in global warming may have shifted interest in favour of nuclear energy for some societies/countries; Influence of economics: Industrialization/economic development led to increased significance/value of centralised energy supply;
  • 20. 20 | P a g e Initially seen as a clean, cheap source of energy; Influence of technology: As nuclear technology has been developed, uranium value has increased; As technology for producing nuclear energy/nuclear fission/nuclear bomb has developed so value has increased; Shifts in technology to find reserves therefore shifting the value of regions where resource is found; 19.Evaluate the anthropocentric view that it is important for everyone in society to participate in environmental decision-making. Discuss one example of the successful involvement of communities in solving environmental problems. Strengths of view that participation is important: Participation has an important role to help educate people about environmental issues; Participation means that people who may be causing the problems are less likely to do so if they are involved in decisions about their own environments; Sometimes poorer/less powerful/marginal groups in society have the best knowledge about what is right for environment e.g. indigenous groups, and if they participate their knowledge can be shared; People who believe in democracy argue that everyone has a right to have a say in How communal resources/environments are managed; Ecosystems need to be managed holistically so people from all walks of life who have useful skills can contribute; Weaknesses of view that participation is important: Sometimes leadership needs to be taken by political groups to ensure change happens; Too many people being consulted can slow down progress when the need for action is urgent; Many groups in society may not care about the environment or see it as important; Villagers provided with seedlings / individual responsibility for protecting forests given to local community groups; Forests provide fuel wood resources for villagers; Soil also conserved as forests protect from erosion; Communities benefit directly from standing forest reserve and are therefore more likely to participate in protecting trees as they grow;
  • 21. 21 | P a g e 20.Discuss, with reference to two contrasting environmental problems, the technocentric belief that technology may provide solutions to environmental problems. e.g. ozone depletion and loss of biodiversity; Discussion: Technocentric responses played a key role in solving ozone depletion; Alternatives to gas-blown plastics/propellants/methyl bromide enabled products to be produced without releasing so many ozone-depleting substances; So technology enabled societies to continue lifestyles they had become accustomed to; However, without the Montreal Protocol international agreement to set limits, There would have been little likelihood of governments taking the necessary steps to produce these alternatives; So a political solution was important as well as a technological one; Technological solutions have played some role in the response to the loss of biodiversity; Web-based monitoring systems have helped to monitor species numbers; Satellite tracking of migrating organisms, e.g. whales / sea birds; ICT systems have been important in enforcing agreements such as CITES; and sophisticated technological solutions like seedbanks enable us to preserve DNA so that valuable genetic diversity is not lost; However some might argue that technologies e.g. GM crops are actually responsible for the loss of species diversity; and many of the causes of species loss e.g. habitat degradation are occurring in societies with little access to technology and it cannot play a role in solving these problems; Technology is a tool which cannot on its own solve any problem, there has to be political will to make changes and then technology can help to provide solutions;
  • 22. 22 | P a g e 21. Discuss, with reference to examples, the influence of cultural, political and economic challenges to pollution management. Cultural: Capitalist societies often consider the profit over the environmental damage of the pollution; Often they would rather follow step three, when caught, than the other steps, as this may seem cheaper; Rural society, with low population density has an “out of sight” mindset, with Pollution not being a problem if you cannot see it; Pollution tolerance levels vary from society to society; Some types of pollution are more tolerated than others by a particular society/culture; e.g. noise or visual pollution in a rapidly urbanising city/area are accepted; cultural/society inertia; Cultural perspective can be altered through education; less developed countries are often willing to allow pollution to encourage local industry; the dumping of toxic waste from MEDCs to LEDCs is sometimes allowed by the governments/as the result of corruption; lower standards for pollution to encourage industry are acceptable in certain countries/areas; a political blind eye is often turned if the industry is profitable/paying taxes/creating jobs; LEDCs often do not have the resources to enforce the laws which they do have in place; Rich countries can have a “throwaway” society and so generate a large amount of wastes/pollution; But they also value a clean and tidy environment so pollution is not tolerated; All three steps of the pollution model are likely to be carried out; The most common step may be the second as the rich society may want to keep the Pollution causing industry/manufacturing/agriculture but regulate it; poorer countries often recycle large amounts of wastes/pollution through informal waste pickers; LEDCs can only afford old polluting equipment; LEDCs have no money for technology to clean up pollution; UN protocols not ratified/signed as countries fear it may slow economy; e.g. USA and Kyoto protocol; as countries develop there is a trend to spend more money on pollution prevention; LEDCs want MEDCs to pay for the costs of the pollution caused by MEDCs which affect whole world; movement to push for transfer of technology from MEDCs to LEDCs to prevent/ reduce pollution;
  • 23. 23 | P a g e 22. Explain the relationship between succession and equilibrium. Succession is the change in the community of an area over time until the climax Community of that biome is reached / OWTTE; The more diverse an ecosystem the more stable it is; Succession increases diversity and so stability increases; Each stage/sere of succession helps create a deeper and more nutrient-rich soil, so allowing larger plants to grow; This increases the habitat diversity which leads to greater species and genetic Diversity and thus greater stability; Climax communities/seres have a more complex system which is more stable; More complex food webs have greater diversity, so more stability if one organism goes extinct; Humans often try to recreate pioneer seres in agriculture, these are less stable and so humans have to constantly monitor/work with the crops; Monocultures in agriculture are more vulnerable to disease and pests and so less stable; Succession can be interrupted naturally and by humans and this also reduces the Stability of the ecosystem;


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Ecology Essay questions

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