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THE WEB OF ECOLOGICAL CONCEPTS: Thirteen Year Old / Eighth Grade

Yogesh Pathak

As said earlier, thirteen year olds are going through a multitude of physical and psychological changes due to the beginning of teenage years. Yet, on the cognitive front, they are challenged with wider perspectives, deeper analysis, and more integration of concepts.

 

Key concepts in the 8th grade strand of EcoUniv’s Web of Ecological Concepts include the following. 

  • Climate (contd.)

    • Humidity

    • Absolute and Relative Humidity

    • Condensation/Densification /Sublimation

    • Adaptation of plants’ respiration to humidity: Lower humidity resulting in increased respiration and reduced diffusion. Higher humidity resulting in decreased respiration and reduced stress.

    • Relationship between climatic temperatures, humidity, animals’ activity and animals’ respiration.

    • Clouds: The 10 types of clouds and their correspondence with altitudes

    • Cloud-Rain-Ecosystems connection: e.g. Cumulus cloud’s conversion to cumulonimbus clouds to rain resulting in downpour that sustain grasslands, rivers, and seasonal blooming of trees. Nimbostratus clouds’ blanket effect and steady, soaking rains, replenishing groundwater and sustaining plant growth. Diffusion of lights due to clouds resulting in a light appropriate for shade-loving plants in forests and providing moisture for wetlands.

    • Sub-blocking effect of Cirrus and Stratus clouds helping to mitigate climate change.

    • Cirrostratus and Altocumulus Clouds’ effect in brining snow, insulating the ground from cold temperatures, protecting plants and animals and creating microclimates.

    • Condensation that forms clouds releases latent heat, warming the atmosphere and driving weather patterns. This influences wind patterns, pollination, and the migration patterns of animals.

  • Oceans (contd.)

    • The various land forms in ocean floors, ocean relief (cross section)

    • The significance of each ocean floor landform to the marine  ecosystem. e.g. Continental shelves have relatively more sunlight and depositions from land, which results in fertile fish nurseries and fishing grounds. Deep sea trenches, hydrothermal vents, and their unique marine biodiversity.

    • Major Ocean Currents in the world and the causes of their formation

    • Types of ocean currents: surface and deep

    • Impact of ocean currents on marine ecosystems: nutrient flow, plankton boom, thermal regulation, dispersal of larvae, impact on migration, impact on habitats

  • Ecology (contd.) and in depth

    • Definition and range of an ecosystem

    • Components: Biotic and abiotic factors in an ecosystems

    • Energy and material flows in an ecosystem, with examples e.g. food and biological waste

    • Key ecosystems in more depth: forest, grassland, wetland, river, mountain, marine, coastal & mangrove

    • Ecosystem parameters: Population (size, density, age structure, reproduction, recruitment), water quality, soil quality, climatic health, primary productivity, decomposition rates, energy flow, biodiversity (see below)

    • Landscape as a mosaic of connected ecosystems, with some land use by humans

    • Landscape connectivity of ecosystem as a health parameter

    • Measures of human impact on ecosystems: Types, intensity, and frequency of human interference, positive relationship aspects between man and ecosystem, socioeconomic understanding of human societies in an ecosystem

  • Biodiversity (contd.) and in more depth, in the context of ecosystems

    • Species diversity/richness and it’s measurement in an ecosystem: Field studies

    • Species’ functional roles and diversity

    • Species’ composition and indicator species

    • Species populations – balance and imbalance

  • Land use and land use change – a formal and deeper introduction

    • Rural land use: Cultivated land, settlement land, common property resources land, natural forests/grasslands/wetlands, land classified as “wasteland” by administration

    • Urban: Natural areas like rivers, hills, streams, surrounded and encroached by an urban landscape including residential, commercial, and industry

    • Urban fringes: A natural and rural landscape being ‘taken over’ by urban sprawl and industry

    • Highways as interrupters, blockers, and dividers of rural and natural landscapes

    • Roads in mountain ecosystems and their impact and risks

    • The journey of a natural landscape to human-modified landscape over centuries. The growth of cities.

    • Using coloured maps and geospatial images over various periods of time as a key tool: Land use Land class maps – e.g. demonstrating the various types of forest areas (dense canopy, sparse forest, scrub land, grassland, barren/open land) on maps

  • Human impact on ecological health and commons: Pollution

    • The concept of local/national/global commons. Examples

    • Pollution as a disruptor of health of the commons

    • Air pollution: Manmade (e.g. gas emissions) and natural (e.g. dust)

    • Major air pollutants

    • Effect of air pollution on plants and animals and thus on food webs and biodiversity

    • Greenhouse effect

    • Acid Rain

    • Water pollution

    • Key water pollutants: Biological, Man-made (inorganic and organic chemicals), Fertilizer run-off due to agriculture, Sewage released with/without treatment, Industrial waste release in natural water systems

    • Natural and man-made sources of water pollution

    • Soil pollution: Sources

    • Soil pollution: Fertility and toxicity

    • Laws: Acts for Water pollution & prevention, Air pollution and prevention, Environmental Protection

  • Major man-made materials around us, their impact on environment

    • Plastic: History, types, uses, raw materials, production process, waste creation, waste footprint, microplastics, ecological impact, inadvertent consumption by animals, recycling – it’s success and limitations

    • Glass: History, types, uses, raw materials, production process, waste creation, waste footprint, ecological impact e.g. accidents to mammals and birds, recycling – it’s success and limitations

    • Other materials like kite thread and bird injuries caused by it, waste in the ocean (e.g. nets) and animal injuries caused by it.

    • Oil spill/leakage on land and in oceans and it’s impacts

  • Human Population Studies – a formal introduction

    • Basic concepts like census, growth rate of population, birth and death rates, literacy, sex ratio, population density of a city/district/state/nation, occupations & their distribution, migration – seasonal and permanent, Human Development Index, Well-being, Happiness

    • Lifespan estimates through pre-history, history prior to modern medicine, and after modern medicine

    • Impact of growing population on resources like food and water

    • Adoption of technology by a population

    • Energy needs of a population

    • Ecological and land use impact of a growing population that also has an increasingly higher lifespan

    • The environmental issues created when consumption and technological complexity in a population increases.

  • Preparations during, before, and after a field trip to study ecosystems and biodiversity

  • Preparations during, before, and after a field trip to study human-modified landscapes, especially industrial/urban – understanding land use, resource use, pollution and waste creation, roads and transport

  • Classification of organisms and Microbiology (contd).

    • 5-kingdom view of life

    • Monera: Characteristics and constituents

    • Protista: Characteristics and constituents

    • Bacteria: Characteristics

    • Protozoa: Characteristics

    • Fungi: Characteristics

    • Algae: Characteristics

    • Virus: Characteristics

    • Bacteria – Ecological significance as decomposers, nitrogen fixers, Symbiotic partners, and Pathogens

    • Protozoa – Ecological significance as decomposers, micro-predators of bacteria & phytoplankton, indicators of water quality

    • Fungi – Ecological significance as decomposers, symbiotic partners of plant roots, food source for insects/mammals/humans, pathogens

    • Algae – Ecological significance as primary producers, climate regulators, biofuel source, cause of harmful blooms

    • Virus – Ecological significance as regulators of populations of bacteria/protozoa/other microorganisms, agents that transfer genetic material between different organisms, and pathogens for human/animals

  • Ancient and modern human history of a larger region (e.g. a state) and it’s relationship with the region’s ecology, resources, and economy:

    • Ecological history

    • Biodiversity

    • Agriculture

    • Land use, Resource use, exploitation

    • Possible linkages with inter-cultural conflicts

    • Economic models – the growth of trade (national and international)

    • Social history e.g. professions, distribution of agricultural surplus, linked with economic models and biodiversity

    • Linkage of political conflict with natural resource ownership and trade ownership e.g. forest land, fertile land, rivers, lakes, coasts

    • The role of military power and conflicts

    • Resource needs of the military e.g. water, firewood, ship-building wood, animals for military and transportation, agricultural produce

    • Technology in agriculture and military

    • Taxation on agriculture income and other forms of taxes

    • Social stratification around agriculture, political power, and military

    • Industrialization leading to change in socioeconomic fabric of the local civilization.

 

Other concepts in geography, history, and science that are appropriate at this level, should also be covered in parallel. Below are some examples, but this is not an exhaustive list.

  • Earth’s rotation. Date, Local time, and time zone change along the longitudes

  • The Earth’s interior structure: Crust, Mantle, Outer core, Inner core

  • Human health: Major infectious and non-infectious diseases, zoonotic diseases, release of older pathogens due to climate change (e.g. due to melting of ice and permafrost)

  • Cell biology (contd. – in depth): Cell structure & components, their nature and function in detail, energy production & consumption in a cell, osmosis

  • Human respiratory and cardiovascular systems in more depth

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