The Ecological Basis for a Vegetarian Diet
General Ecology Questions:
1. Compare the terms ecosystem, community, species, and population as they relate
2. What is the difference between exponential and logistic growth? What are some
density-dependent factors that keep populations from growing exponentially indefinitely?
What are some density-independent factors?
3. What is an ecological niche? What happens when two species have identical niches?
How does the fundamental niche differ from the realized niche?
4. Explain an example of resource partitioning, and explain how natural selection
can lead to character displacement.
5. Describe an example of each of the three types of symbiosis discussed in your
6. Explain how energy moves through the living components of an ecosystem (starting
with primary productivity and including a discussion of food webs and ecological
7. Explain how water, carbon, and nitrogen cycle through ecosystems, and give
at least one example for each of how human activities can alter the cycle.
8. Seven different biomes are described in your textbook. If you were in charge
of global ecosystem conservation but were told you had to focus all of your resources
on preserving two of the seven types of biospheres, which would you choose, and
The Ecological Argument for Vegetarianism
In 1971 the author Frances Moore Lappé wrote a bestseller called Diet for
a Small Planet, which promoted eating a purely vegetarian diet. In this book,
Lappé discussed the ecological benefits that result from avoiding the consumption
of meat. In the years since, vegetarianism has become quite common in many places,
though the underlying reasons offered for deciding to be a vegetarian vary from
person to person, and are not always related to protecting the environment. Recent
studies on climate change have led to new ecological concerns about meat consumption,
and in fact, a leading IPCC scientists has recently called for people to give
up eating beef one day per week (http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23774790-eat-less-meat-to-stop-climate-change.do).
Your job is to explore ecological, and other, reasons for being a vegetarian.
1. Why does eating a vegetarian diet make sense in terms of energy efficiency?
Give a specific example illustrating how this could be important (you can make
up your own numbers – it doesn’t have to be a real example).
2. A recent analysis showed that for the average American, cutting beef from their
diet one day per week would reduce their annual greenhouse gas emissions as much
as reducing their total driving miles by 1000 km. Clearly explain TWO ways that
raising cattle for beef increases greenhouse gas emissions.
3. Corn, the number one crop grown in the United States, is used primarily to
feed beef cattle. Explain TWO ways (discrete from those you’ve already discussed)
that intensive agriculture of corn negatively impacts the environment.
4. Discuss one health risk and one moral issue related to beef consumption.
5. With your group mates, discuss your own attitudes and practices regarding the
consumption of meat. Would you consider cutting back on the amount of meat you
consume based on what you’ve learned? Why or why not? For your write-up,
summarize the main points of this discussion.