Ecosystem Change

cover for GSS book Ecosystem Change

ECOSYSTEM CHANGE is about the interdependence of all living things and the nonliving environment. It is also about how human activities are changing ecosystems around the world. See Overview.


ChaptersInvestigationsStay Current
1. Earth Alive!1.1 Make a Model EcosystemChapter 1
2. Energy Through the SystemChapter 2
3. Studying Desert EcosystemsChapter 3
4. Changes in the Global System4.1 Future WetlandsChapter 4
5. Carbon in the Biosphere5.1 Decomposition in a BagChapter 5
6. Carrying Capacity6.1 Invasive Species
6.2 Cultures Affecting Ecosystems
Chapter 6
7. Neighborhood and Global Citizenship7.1 Recycling
7.2 Planetary Intelligence
Chapter 7


Through case studies your students will learn about the vastly different kinds of ecosystems, or biomes, on our planet. They will discover that humans have been changing ecosystems for thousands of years; but that the pace of change has increased with the rapid growth of human populations in the last century. In the laboratory, your students will investigate the variables that are important in the process of decomposition, and relate their findings to the biogeochemical cycles that maintain Earth’s biosphere. Through interviews, they will “meet” scientists like Samira Omar of Kuwait, who is studying the ecological effects of the Gulf War; and Dr. Dagmar Werner, who is working to preserve the biodiversity of the rain forests of Central America. They will also find out what people in the United States are doing to reduce human impact on ecosystems, and consider ways that their own actions can make a difference.


Conservation and Recycling

  • Articles
    • 4 July 2005. Recycler takes TVs for free. Program reimburses businesses and cities for disposing of computer monitors and television sets. By Clint Swett — Sacramento Bee Staff Writer.
    • Spring 2004. Home Repo, by Dan Rademacher. Terrain magazine–Ecology Center, Berkeley, CA. Stemming the tide of two-by-fours, one house at a time. …At Beyond Waste, a Sonoma County deconstruction and flooring operation, Pavitra Krimmel and her crew have attacked the problem head-on: to get recycled lumber for their flooring and other projects, they’ve actually taken to disassembling buildings themselves when developers intend to tear them down. … Changing the value of waste is the life’s work of Dan Knapp, the sociologist who founded Urban Ore, Berkeley’s landmark building reuse center. …Urban Ore is a prime example of reuse-goods like bathtubs and doors are sold and reused in a new house….
    • Fall, 2002. OnEarth The Deconstructionists, by Carolyn Szczepanski In a Portland, Oregon, suburb, the six-man crew of DeConstruction, Inc., enters a three-bedroom house and, with hammers and crowbars, starts tearing the place apart. …But unlike the wreckage generated by 95 percent of demolition jobs across the country, this stuff isn’t headed for the landfill. It will be resold at a discount rate, making a profit for the company and contributing almost nothing to the estimated 65 million tons of waste that traditional U.S. demolition companies send to the dump every year.
    • Fall 2002, OnEarth, p. 21. Wasting Away, by Gretel H. Schueller – Is recycling on the skids?
  • Biodegradable plasticware –
  • Composting
  • Grassroots Recycling Network
  • Funding Factory Schools can earn free technology, sports & recreation equipment, playground systems or even cash by simply collecting and recycling items such as empty inkjet & laser cartridges and old cell phones
  • How to Recycling/Reuse…
  • Institute for Local Self-Reliance —
  • Integrated Waste Management — California Integrated Waste Management Board
  • Junk mail reduction strategies:
    • contact company directly by going to its website or calling customer service to request they not send you catalogs or mail of any sort
    • get on the “do not mail” list by writing to Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, PO Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512 or registering online
  • Recycling-Beyond Cans and Bottles
  • Recycling PCs —
  • Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
  • Tires in Highways – The Use of Recycled Materials in Highway Construction
  • Treecycle – recycled paper, Stationery, Envelopes, Bags-tissue-rolls, boxes, and biodegradable (PLA corn) utensils & cups
  • Xeriscape — Xeriscape is a systematic concept for saving water in landscaped areas.
  • Earth911 – Recycling directories


  • America’s ‘Virtual’ Farm — Teaching Teachers about..Remote Sensing, Agriculture, and Problem-based Learning This web-based course is designed for practicing teachers interested in integrating remote-sensing technology and problem-based learning (PBL) into the curriculum. The course content uses agricultural themes throughout the lessons as the vehicle for teaching the integration of technology and PBL.
  • Precision Farming — to improve farmers’ profits and harvest yields while reducing the negative impacts of farming on the environment that come from over-application of chemicals.
  • 25 February 2002. Researchers Seek To Squeeze Rubber Out Of Sunflowers
  • Farmer’s Markets — Locally Grown Food

GREEN COMMUNITIES-STUDENTS AND SUSTAINABILITY — From EPA, This page is designed for teachers who wish to introduce the concepts of sustainability into their classrooms. The site has a variety of individual or group education resources, especially science fairs. Subjects include stream ecology, brown fields, endangered species, energy, international development, non-point pollution sources, and much more. The site separates these resources into three categories: K-8, 9-12, and teacher references.


  • Air Quality
  • Dry cleaning alternative: wet cleaners – green alternative to dry cleaners
  • Eco-Friendly Products
  • Junk Mail–Stop Junk Mail Kit
  • Scorecard for Pollution – Web site where you can enter a zip code and it will tell you pollution characteristics of that local community.
  • Water Quality
    • Hazmat (hazardous materials)-trained scuba diver, Tim Nelson … makes a living plunging into heavily polluted rivers. … forty years’ worth of decaying and deadly PCB-filled electrical equipment, the forgotten remains of an old Army Corps landfill… lay 60 feet underwater…
    • Mercury Thermometers and Your Family’s Health
    • Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
  • Pollution Articles
    • Fall 2006. Drugging Our Waters, by Elizabeth Royte. NRDC: OnEarth. How An Aging Population And Our Growing Addiction To Pharmaceuticals May Be Poisoning Our Rivers. Excerpt: …The 120 residents of River Glen Health Care Center, where the average age is 90, take an average of eight drugs a day; the most common among them target high cholesterol, high blood pressure, depression, and diabetes. Once swallowed, Reilly’s medications will bring her some relief, but their biological activity won’t stop once they leave her body. When residents of Heritage Village and two other nearby retirement communities flush their toilets, wastewater laced with traces of prescription drugs rushes through a series of pipes into the Heritage Village treatment plant. This flushing is the main pathway by which pharmaceuticals enter the environment. Hospitals and nursing homes routinely dump unused or expired pills down the toilet, and consumers have been advised to do the same; effluent from pharmaceutical manufacturers also ends up at municipal wastewater treatment plants. …Americans now fill more than three billion prescriptions a year; nationwide, more than 10 million women take birth-control pills, and about the same number are on hormone-replacement therapy. …Our rivers — already stressed by pollutants, groundwater pumping, reduced flows, and overburdened wastewater treatment plants that dump raw sewage — will be ever less able to cope. …In 2002, the USGS published the results of its first-ever reconnaissance of man-made contaminants. …the agency found traces of 82 different organic contaminants — fertilizers and flame retardants as well as pharmaceuticals — in surface waters across the nation. These drugs included natural and synthetic hormones, antibiotics, antihypertensives, painkillers, and antidepressants.
    • March 2005. The Dangers of Modern Art. Green Tips from Union of Concerned Scientists. Some art supplies contain ingredients that are harmful to both humans and the environment. These include naturally occurring heavy metals such as lead, cobalt, cadmium, and manganese, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as turpentine, xylene, acetone, and toluene. So, how can you express yourself creatively while protecting the environment?
    • 24 August 2004. E.P.A. Says Mercury Taints Fish Across U.S. By MICHAEL JANOFSKY, NY Times. The federal environmental agency’s latest annual survey of fish advisories showed that 48 states – all but Wyoming and Alaska – issued warnings about mercury last year.
    • 30 September 2003. Observations of a “weekend effect” in diurnal temperature range, Piers M. de F. Forster and Susan Solomon , National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Aeronomy Laboratory, Boulder, CO 80305; and Department of Meteorology, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AH, United Kingdom. Using surface measurements of maximum and minimum temperatures from the Global Daily Climatological Network data set, we find evidence of a weekly cycle in diurnal temperature range (DTR) for many stations in the United States, Mexico, Japan, and China….We conclude that the weekend effect is a real short time scale and large spatial scale geophysical phenomenon, which is necessarily human in origin. We thus provide strong evidence of an anthropogenic link to DTR, an important climate indicator. Several possible anthropogenic mechanisms are discussed; we speculate that aerosol-cloud interactions are the most likely cause of this weekend effect, but we do not rule out others. PNAS | vol. 100 | no. 20 | 11225-11230.
    • 21 March 2001. E.P.A. to Abandon New Arsenic Limits for Water Supply (NY Times)
    • 9 January 2001. Trees And Air Pollution. Australia’s native plants emit chemical compounds that can interact with other air pollutants to exacerbate smog formation over Australian cities, researchers have found.