Ecology Case Study:

Should Iron be added to the Ocean to Slow Global Warming?


This case study is based on a radio story aired on NPR this fall. Go to this link and listen to the story. The information you hear is the basis for the questions below, but you may want to do additional research before answering.


General: all groups have the same questions:

1. Compare the terms ecosystem, community, species, and population as they relate to ecology.
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 text.
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 pyramids).
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 why?


Questions Specifically About Your Case Study


1. What will be the basic ecological impact of adding iron to the oceans?

2. Explain why this will theoretically help reduce the impacts of global warming.

3. Aside from this impact on global warming, what other potentially beneficial ecological impacts could occur if this plan is carried out? Explain.

4. Many scientists do not agree that adding iron to the oceans is a good idea. Describe two possible negative consequences that could arise.

5. The pessimistic scientists mentioned in question 4 are calling for thorough studies of potential impacts of adding iron. What are the challenges in doing experiments to test this? What things need to be taken into consideration?

6. Given your answers to number 5, form two specific testable hypotheses that relate to the impacts of adding iron to the ocean, and for each one explain how you could do an experiment that would allow you disprove or find support for the hypothesis.