Ecology, Habitats, and Biodiversity Study Guide for McGraw-Hill's ASVAB
The sum of all the places on Earth where life can exist is called the biosphere. An ecosystem is the collection of all the living creatures and nonliving features or conditions in a particular environment. For example, a rainforest has certain creatures living in it. The amount of rainfall, the temperature, the soil conditions, the air, and the contour of the land are some of the nonliving features of the ecosystem. The study of ecosystems—the interactions between and among these living creatures and nonliving features—is called ecology.
The many thousands of species of plants and animals that live on the planet contribute to biodiversity. Biodiversity is the variety of life forms that exist. Scientists believe that a rich biodiversity creates a condition in which plants and animals are more likely to recover from stresses caused by nature and people. Biodiversity tends to increase as one approaches the equator. Warmer weather tends to support biodiversity.
Life forms live in what is called a habitat, a geographic area with conditions that support the continued reproduction of the species. Some habitats may be small, such as the dark corners of an underground cave or a hot thermal pool where only a few creatures live. Other habitats may be large, such as the thousands of square miles of prairie land that support certain grasses.
There are many threats to biodiversity. One is the reduction or destruction of habitat. Habitats can be destroyed by natural causes, such as volcanic eruptions or changes in climate like those that occurred during the Ice Ages. People have contributed to the loss of habitat and the destruction of species by actions such as building roads, cutting down forests, sending pesticides or other chemicals into the water, and sending pollutants from factories and cars into the atmosphere.
Global warming resulting from sending carbon dioxide into the atmosphere can raise temperatures and affect biodiversity. The thinning of the ozone layer in the atmosphere can increase the amount of ultraviolet radiation (UV) that reaches Earth's surface, resulting in harm to living organisms.
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