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3- Scientific understandings of
outdoor environments
Part 1: The structure of natural systems
2.1.1- Characteristics of outdoor environments
 Geology
 Climate The type of environmental ‘biome’ that exists in a specific
location is a result of the interaction between these three factors
 Position and aspect

2.1.2- Recreational users understanding of the environment is influenced by the

activities and experiences they have through participating in recreational
Scientific understanding:
Scientific investigations into nature and the environment are responsible for some of the
most important discoveries of our world.
Once we understand how an environment, and the components that make it up, interact
and work with each other it can change how you may choose to interact with it.
To begin with we will look at the structure of natural systems:
All natural systems are made up of similar components and are subject to the same
These consist of, but are not limited to, the following:
Biosphere Respiration
Abiotic Carbon dioxide
Biotic Fossil fuels
Biogeochemical Precipitation
Photosynthesis Transpiration
The Biosphere
The Biosphere is a shell
approximately 20km wide
(from the earths crust through
to the upper reaches of the
outer atmosphere). It
encompasses the areas of the
Earth where life and the
reactions dependant on their
survival are possible from the
deepest ocean trenches to the
highest mountain peaks.

The biosphere consists of three main areas, whose

interaction allow the existence of life on earth.
Components of an ecosystem
• The interaction occurring between organisms and their environment is
referred to as an ecosystem.

• The components can be grouped in various ways:

An organism- one individual living thing

A species- a group of organisms of the same type, capable of breeding and
producing offspring
A population- a group of organisms of the same species living together in
one area
A community- a number of populations of different species living together in
a particular environment
Components of an ecosystem
Within a community the organisms interact with one another and within their surroundings.
It is these surroundings - chemical and physical, living and non-living - that make up an

Biotic: are the living components of the ecosystem- the trees, animals, fungi and

Abiotic: are the non-living components of the ecosystem- the sun, water, rocks and

Habitat: refers to the specific place within an ecosystem that is occupied by an

organism or population.
Biogeochemical cycles
Earths environments have many varied cyclic processes, which enable nutrients to be
reused. These include the biogeochemical cycles that allow elements to move
throughout ecosystems. They include the carbon/oxygen, nitrogen and water cycles.
Each cycle relies upon both biotic and abiotic components of the ecosystem to function
There are three key cycles that all life depends on:
 Carbon-oxygen cycle
 Nitrogen cycle
 Water cycle
Food Chains and Webs
• The living components of an ecosystem cannot maintain themselves without energy.
• Food chains and webs are demonstrate the transfer of energy and nutrients through living things.
• The transfer of food energy begins with the consumption of the producers (plants) by herbivores
and passes through a series of changes or links as herbivores are eaten by carnivores that, in turn,
are then consumed by higher order carnivores.
• Each component obtains energy from the previous
link in the chain.
• The sun, or solar radiation, is the primary source of
energy for nearly all components of the food chain.
• Plants and phototropic organisms (things that can
photosynthesize) are able to produce their own
energy from the sun.
• All other links in the chain rely on that first simple
step- without the sun and photosynthesis, nothing
Each link in a food chain is referred to as a trophic level.

Producers occur at the first level. They use sunlight to produce chemical energy
through photosynthesis. This is referred to as the first trophic level.
Some of this energy is utilised by producers in their growth. It can also be stored
in organic matter and utilised as the organism grows.

Primary Herbivores are referred to as the second trophic level. They rely solely on
Consumers producers for their energy requirements.
Carnivores and Omnivores occupy the third trophic level.
Top order carnivores occupy the forth trophic level.

Detritus and decaying organic matter (stuff that was once living) still contains
Decomposers energy and nutrients which are returned to the ecosystem they are in by
decomposers. Algae, bacteria and fungi are typical decomposer organisms.
A food chain is a simplified, step by step example of how energy transfers from one organism
to the next.
A food web shows the complex way energy is transferred through a number of interlinked
chains from the one ecosystem.
Learning Task:
▪ Working in groups (3-4 people), construct an appropriate food web using the following organisms. Write
these organisms down- you must include all 15!
• Dingo • Wombat • Wedge-tail eagle
• Kookaburra • Frilled neck lizard • Gumtree
• Echidna • Grass • Emu
• Wattle • Blue faced honey eater • Crickets
• Kangaroo • Termites • Magpie

▪ You may need to research some of these organisms so you can

place them in a web- the next slide will help with this.
▪ When you draw your web- the arrows always show which way
energy is travelling in the system. IE: see in the picture 
the mouse eats the grass
You have 20 minutes to make
your web! 10
An example of how
complex food webs
are is the example of
wolves in Yellowstone
National Park (watch
video ).
While this relates to
North America- it is a
fantastic example of
how every step in a
chain or web can be
connected to dozens
of others and have a
variety of effects.
It is important to note
that changing just one
step in the flow of
energy in an
ecosystem can have
consequences- good
and bad.
7/15/2018 11
Interrelationships between biotic and abiotic components:
Scientific understandings highlight just how complex the natural world and the relationships
between the biotic and abiotic components really are.
All outdoor environments contain a number of ecosystems that all interact with each other in order
to function.
A change in one component will result in changes to other elements of the system.
These interactions are complex. Plants compete with each other for light, nutrients and water, while
animals and birds compete for food and habitat.
The non-living components influence the environment itself and all species that exist within it.
All ecosystems have a range of inputs and outputs, along with processes that occur along the way.

Inputs = The matter and elements consumed in biogeochemical processes

Processes = The way the matter is altered
See the diagram on pg. 91
Outputs = The outcome of the different processes