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Updated February 23, 2012 

Unit 1 Sustainability of Ecosystems


Chapter 1 Resources

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Chapter 1 Graphics Package - text graphics from chapter 1. Each of the image files has the text page number in the file name, so it should be easy to find and identify the image that you need. (Windows Downloading Tip: Right-click on the link and choose "Save Link As...", once the file is on your hard drive, right-click on it and choose "Extract All...")

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The Eden Project - giving people a voice about the environment:

  • Eden Foundation Projects - the Eden Foundation raises awareness about the environments through several key projects.
  • Seed - a massive sculpture like this makes a massive statement.

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Apollo 17 "Blue Marble" Photo - this may be the most widely distributed photo ever taken, and for good reason, it is spectacular. Get the picture in high resolution here.

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Biomes - what exactly is a biome?

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Boreal Forest - a biome that is widespread in Canada:

  • Taiga - an encyclopedia of information.
  • The Virtual Forest - an extensive listing of the species of the Northern Ontario boreal forest.
  • Boreal Forest - a wonderful journey provided by the Atlas of Canada.

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Canada in 2050 - Our Future in a Changing Climate - - In the coming decades, our country is going to be transformed by climate change. According to Don MacIver, Director of the Adaptation and Impacts Research Group at Environment Canada in Toronto, there will be no part of Canadian life that won't be affected by climate change. In this 54 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, we ask Canadian climate scientists to look ahead to 2050, to paint us a picture of what our country will look like as it's being transformed.

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Climatographs - you can tell a lot about a biome by analyzing climate data:

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Biomes - this interactive feature includes climate and precipitation data for every biome.

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Arctic Tundra - this video provides an excellent overview of the tundra biome. The background essay and discussion questions are also very good.

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Climate Change and the Tree Line - - The Canadian boreal forest, like this country in general, seems to just go on forever. But if you travel far enough North, the trees will eventually start to thin out. The climate gets colder, the environment harsher, and eventually, you’re so far north that trees simply can’t grow anymore and the landscape turns to tundra. This area of transition is the tree line. In this 8 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, Dr. Ryan Danby, a post-doctoral research scientist at the University of Alberta, describes how tree lines have advanced considerably in the Yukon. This could have serious impact on tundra species that are forced higher up the mountains, such as Dall sheep and caribou.

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Temperate Rainforest - a true treasure of Britich Columbia:

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Tropical Rainforest - a lush and diverse biome:

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Desert - hot or cold, these are defined by very little rainfall:

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Desert Biome - this video provides an overview of a southern Arizona desert and its unique organisms.

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Deception Island - volcanic activity makes this place warmer than you would expect:

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Biomes - do you know your biomes? Find out by trying this puzzle. (Also available for download )

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Section 1.1 Quiz - need more practice? Try this online quiz.

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Tl'azt'en Nation - explore the rich cultural heritage of the Tl'azt'en Nation.

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The Latest IPCC Report - - This 8 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast looks at how climate change is affecting our planet right now. Ice is disappearing earlier in the spring, trees are budding earlier, and extreme weather events are causing more outbreaks of disease than 20 years ago. This broadcast summarizes the latest in effects of climate change, as well as offering suggestions for ways to adapt to the changes. Linda Mortsch is a Senior Researcher with the Adaptation and Impacts Research Division of Environment Canada. (Tip: Download audio files to your hard drive by right-clicking and choosing "Save Link As...")

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Ecosystem - what is an ecosystem, and what are its parts?

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Dem Ponds, Dem Ponds, Dem Dry Ponds - - Dr John Smol and his colleagues have been studying small ponds in the high Canadian Arctic for more than twenty years. Sediments in these ponds have preserved a record of the biology and climate of this sensitive ecosystem, going back to the last Ice Age. Previously, they had discovered signs of accelerating climate warming, going back well more than a century, in the sediments. In this 9 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast we learn that the signs of warming are a little more obvious. The ponds are drying up completely, and we are just begining to understand the impact on these tiny arctic ecosystems. (Tip: Download audio files to your hard drive by right-clicking and choosing "Save Link As...")

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The Case of the Marbled Murrelet - - The Marbled Murrelet is a beautiful seabird found off the coast of British Columbia. It's listed as a threatened species, largely because it is thought that the forest habitat where it nests is being destroyed. In this 10 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, thanks to the detective work of Dr. Ryan Norris, an assistant professor of Integrative Biology at the University of Guelph, we learn the real story. (Tip: Download audio files to your hard drive by right-clicking and choosing "Save Link As...")

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Giant Clams - - Deep-sea ocean vents aren't the easiest place to live. There's hot lava, steaming water, very little to eat and a constant bath of toxic chemicals. Yet the giant clam, Calyptogena magnifica, gets by just fine. In fact, it does quite well, thanks to a species of bacteria that lives within its gill cells. In this 9 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, we explore this remarkable symbiotic relationship. (Tip: Download audio files to your hard drive by right-clicking and choosing "Save Link As...")

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Symbiosis - some organisms have established incredible relationships:

  • Symbiosis - very good general information, but some specific examples as well.
  • Symbiosis - not a flashy page, but good info on mutualism, parasitism, commensalism and the evolution of symbiosis.
  • Commensalism - interesting to note there are different types of commensalism.
  • Mutualism - fascinating cooperation between organisms.
  • Parasitism - fantastic photos and descriptions of parasitism.

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Symbiosis Movies - these examples help to explain symbiotic relationships.

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Squirrels Versus Trees - - Every fall, a battle rages between the trees in Canada's northern forests and the red squirrel. The trees want to produce enough seeds to be able to ensure new seedlings grow, while the squirrels want to steal as many seeds as possible. In this 9 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, Dr. Stan Boutin, from the University of Alberta, discusses how both species have developed some very sneaky strategies to beat each other. (Tip: Download audio files to your hard drive by right-clicking and choosing "Save Link As...")

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Indigo Birds - - The indigobird, like the cuckoo, is a nest parasite – it lays its eggs in the nests of other birds, who then are obliged to raise and nourish their secretly adopted offspring. The infant indigobirds are happily raised by their adoptive parents, sharing their food and even learning their language. This 8 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, explores how many of the ten species of the bird found in Africa can share the same forests. Somehow they’ve evolved from each other while inhabiting the same place. (Tip: Download audio files to your hard drive by right-clicking and choosing "Save Link As...")

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Brood Parasitism - a very sneaky way of reproduction:

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Hearing The Missing Link - - Hundreds of millions of years ago mammals began to evolve from their reptilian ancestor. Luckily for us, along with fur, warm blood, and mammaries, these earliest mammals developed a new kind of very sensitive hearing. Dr. Zhe-Xi Luo, Curator of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, tells us that this new adaptation gave mammals of the time the ability to use their hearing to occupy a nocturnal niche the dinosaurs weren't occupying, allowing our ancestors to stick around until they could dominate the planet. Find out more in this 9 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast. (Tip: Download audio files to your hard drive by right-clicking and choosing "Save Link As...")

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Plants are Happy Families - - We don't usually think of plants as living in families, but Dr. Susan Dudley, a professor of Biology at McMaster University, has found that they have ways of recognizing kin. In this 8 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, she tells us how plants dial back competition for resources when surrounded by siblings, and that cooperation and non-competition helps family groups do better than strangers. What's not known is how the plants manage the task of recognizing that nearby neighbors are relatives or strangers. (Tip: Download audio files to your hard drive by right-clicking and choosing "Save Link As...")

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Hunting Spiders - - Dr. Oswald Schmitz, a Canadian professor of ecology at Yale University, is interested in the relationships between grass, grasshoppers and spiders. In the natural order of things, the grasshoppers eat the grass and herbs, and in turn are eaten by the spiders. In this 9 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, we learn that the different spider behaviours cause changes in the grasshopper behaviour, which, in turn change what plants are being eaten. This complex interaction has implications for larger ecosystems, because it shows it's not just a numbers game. Change the way predator and prey interact, and the whole system can be shifted to different plant populations. (Tip: Download audio files to your hard drive by right-clicking and choosing "Save Link As...")

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Masters of Disguise - predation has resulted in some very interesting adaptations that organisms use to avoid being seen.

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Herbivory and Plant Defenses - plants do many things to protect themselves from being eaten:

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Vancouver Island Marmot - Canada's most endangered animal:

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Toxic Newts - a good example how a relationship between species can result in an "arms race".

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Ecosystems - what did you learn about biomes? Find out by trying this puzzle. (Also available for download )

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Section 1.2 Quiz - need more practice? Try this online quiz.



Chapter 2 Resources

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Chapter 2 Graphics Package - text graphics from chapter 2. Each of the image files has the text page number in the file name, so it should be easy to find and identify the image that you need. (Windows Downloading Tip: Right-click on the link and choose "Save Link As...", once the file is on your hard drive, right-click on it and choose "Extract All...")

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Krill - a comprehesive page with excellent photos and diagrams.

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Hydrogen and Bacteria - - Hydrogen has been seen by many as the fuel of the future, if only we had a source for it. In this 8 minute audio Quirks and Quarks, Dr. Bruce Logan, an Environmental Engineer at Penn State University, describes a way to generate hydrogen by giving microbes a little electrical boost. The microbes generate electrons and protons for hydrogen production by digesting almost any kind of biomass, and with a little extra voltage, the electron and proton combine to form hydrogen.

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Ancient Lifeforms: An Ancient Ecosystem - - An Australian group has described a fossil reef system with evidence of life from nearly 3.5 billion years ago. The fossils are stromatolites which are the fossil remnants of colonies of microbes. In this 8 minute audio Quirks and Quarks, researchers think this reflects an entire microbe-based ecosystem in the ancient seas. This is the strongest evidence of widespread microbial life this early in the earth's history.

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Woodpeckers and Fungus - - When woodpeckers dig into the bark of dead trees searching for tasty insects they're not just digging holes. They're also delivering a potent microbiological agent: a weapon of mass decomposition. In this 7 minute audio Quirks and Quarks, Kerry Farris, an associate conservation ecologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, tells us that woodpeckers carry wood-decaying fungus on their beaks. When they peck on trees they deliver the fungus, which breaks down the wood over time, making trees suitable for digging out nesting sites in the future.

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Energy Flow in the Coral Reef Ecosystem - fascinating organisms of the coral reef are featured.

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Energy Flow Activities - try these activities to learn more about food chains, webs, and pyramids in different ecosystems.

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Silence of The Songbirds - - Hundreds of species of songbirds in Canada have gone extinct or become endangered in the last two centuries. In this 11 minute audio Quirks and Quarks, we learn that while we appreciate their songs, we also depend on these birds in ways we often forget. Birds are a vital part of the ecosystem as they eat fruits and disperse seeds, or help keep bugs at bay to protect crops and forests.

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Poison Frogs - - In this 8 minute audio Quirks and Quarks, we learn that when it comes to their place in the food chain, frogs aren't at the bottom, but they're certainly not at the top either. Yet a certain group of frogs in Costa Rica, called poison frogs, has found a way to turn this middle ground into an advantage. They steal their poison from the food they eat. (Tip: Download audio files to your hard drive by right-clicking and choosing "Save Link As...")

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Low Light Life - - Life blooms in the deep-sea oases formed around hydrothermal vents, but it lives in the dark. The energy for the bacteria that form base of the food chain is supplied by the chemical soup that circulates up from the vents. In this 8 minute audio Quirks and Quarks, researchers are amazed to find a photosynthetic bacterium at one of these vents. It ekes out a living from the minimal light generated by infra-red energy from the hot environment and stray photons produced by chemical reactions, and this may be how photosynthesis first evolved. (Tip: Download audio files to your hard drive by right-clicking and choosing "Save Link As...")

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Marine Algae - a future source of biofuels?

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Energy Flow in Ecosystems - learn more about energy flow by trying this puzzle. (Also available for download )

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Section 2.1 Quiz - need more practice? Try this online quiz.

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Carbon Cycle - how does carbon cycle in the envrionment?

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Carbon Cycle "Movie" - actually an interactive flash object, the narrator "kids" are a bit childish, but the information and animations are well presented.

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TEACHING TOOL: Animated Carbon Cycle - - custom animation created by McGraw-Hill Ryerson for BC Science teachers - use this interactive flash object, to individually control the carbon stores and exchanges that are illustrated in BC Science 10 Figure 2.27. Teacher password required.

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Nitrogen Cycle - how does nitrogen cycle in the environment?

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TEACHING TOOL: Animated Nitrogen Cycle - - custom animation created by McGraw-Hill Ryerson for BC Science teachers - use this interactive flash object, to individually control the nitrogen stores, nitrification, denitrification, and nitrogen flows that are illustrated in BC Science 10 Figure 2.37. Teacher password required.

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Nitrogen Dead Zones - - Fish, like all living creatures, take in nitrogen from the environment and use it for their metabolic needs. The more fish, the more nitrogen gets taken up. In effect, fish act as natural nitrogen sponges. In this 8 minute audio Quirks and Quarks, Dr. Maranger, an aquatic biologist at Université de Montréal, says that the declining fish stocks are exacerbating the impact of nitrogenous fertilizers which make their way from our farm lands into our seas. Removing so much fish has taken away the oceans' natural ability to deal with high levels of nitrogen and is contributing to the development of lifeless dead zones. (Tip: Download audio files to your hard drive by right-clicking and choosing "Save Link As...")

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Phosphorus Cycle - how does phosphorus cycle in the environment?

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TEACHING TOOL: Animated Phosphorus Cycle - - custom animation created by McGraw-Hill Ryerson for BC Science teachers - use this interactive flash object, to individually control the phosphorus flows and exchanges that are illustrated in BC Science 10 Figure 2.46. Teacher password required.

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The Effect of Climate Change on Species - natural cycles can be greatly disrupted when the climate changes:

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Nutrient Cycles in Ecosystems - a puzzle about nutrient cycling. (Also available for download )

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Section 2.2 Quiz - need more practice? Try this online quiz.

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Fatal Frog Fungus - - Amphibians around the world have been facing steep declines in numbers and unprecedented rates of extinction. While pollution and climate change may be part of the problem, Dr. Karen Lips of the Department of Zoology at Southern Illinois University thinks the biggest issue is an aggressive invasive fungus. Learn more in this 9 minute audio Quirks and Quarks.

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Climate Change in the North - - The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Amundsen is currently cruising in the Western Arctic with a crew of research scientists. Their mission is to investigate the impact of climate change in the North. In this 20 minute audio Quirks and Quarks, we learn how warming waters in the North will stimulate the growth of microbes, reducing the ability of the ocean to absorb CO2, how changing sea levels due to global warming will change the arctic land and seascapes, and how melting permafrost is increasing the amount of mercury in the water, which is entering the food chain.

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Albatross Contamination - - Two species of albatross nest together in the Hawaiian Islands and they’ve even been known to breed together, but two closely related species of albatross have wildly different levels of contaminants in their bodies. The black-footed birds had significantly higher levels of the toxic compounds than do the Laysan species of albatross. In this 7 minute audio Quirks and Quarks, Dr. Myra Finkelstein, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California Santa Cruz, believes the difference is linked to where the birds forage, because while both species eat a similar diet of fish, fish eggs and squid, they head to different foraging grounds after breeding. The black-footed albatross forage off the West Coast of North America, which has a history of more industrial and agricultural development than the foraging grounds of the Laysan birds, near Alaska.

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Endocrine Disruptors - the effect on bird species can be devastating:

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Mercury Rising: The Poisoning of Grassy Narrows - old archive footage, but clearly describes the sad problem. Make sure you view the 17 other media files on this topic listed just underneath the video.

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Effects of Bioacculumation - learn more about bioaccumulation with this puzzle. (Also available for download )

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Section 2.3 Quiz - need more practice? Try this online quiz.



Chapter 3 Resources

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Chapter 3 Graphics Package - text graphics from chapter 3. Each of the image files has the text page number in the file name, so it should be easy to find and identify the image that you need. (Windows Downloading Tip: Right-click on the link and choose "Save Link As...", once the file is on your hard drive, right-click on it and choose "Extract All...")

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China Desertification - this National Public Radio 5 minute broadcast explains the severity of the desertification problem in China (RealPlayer file).

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Stickleback Evolution - - Dr. Dolph Schluter, Director of the Biodiversity Research Centre at the University of British Columbia, has been researching local sticklebacks - the fish of choice for evolutionary and behavioural biologists - and he has found that the mutation of just one gene might have been all it took for some species to lose their legs. Find out more in this 8 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast.

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Galapagos Finches and Devolution - - Darwin's finches are an icon of evolution. From one ancestral species they diversified into the 14 different groups which were found by Darwin on his famous voyage aboard the Beagle to the Galapagos. In this 9 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, Dr. Andrew Hendry, a biologist at the Redpath Museum at McGill University, has found evidence that one group of finches on the Galapagos, which was showing signs of potentially splitting into two new species, has been interrupted in the process. Human settlement appears to be the culprit.

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Krakatau - an explosion heard 3000 km away!

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Tree: A Life Story - - A new book, Tree: A Life Story, co-written by David Suzuki and Wayne Grady, is a tale of the life and death of one individual Douglas-fir on Canada’s west coast. In this 11 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, the story begins when a seed lands on the forest floor after a fire, and ends more than 900 years later when the giant tree falls. As the life of tree unfolds we also learn about the ecosystem that surrounds it, and how our understanding of trees in particular and biology in general has developed over the past several centuries.

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Forest Fires and Mercury - - Erin Kelly, a doctoral biology student at the University of Alberta, was measuring mercury levels in lakes at different elevations in the Canadian Rockies, when one of the lakes she was looking at was suddenly encased in a forest fire. In this 8 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, she describes how she discovered mercury levels as much as five times higher after the fire, raising concerns for the health of the fish, and the health of those who might eat them. While forest fires are part of a natural, cyclical process, prescribed burns have been suggested as a means of curbing the destructive spread of the mountain pine beetle. This new research suggests that deliberately increasing the number of forest fires could have implications for animal and human health that need to be taken into consideration.

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Pine Beetle Infestation - the mountain pine beetle is devastating Canadian forests:

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British Columbia's Mountain Pine Beetle - (link at bottom of page) - clearly explains the reasons for the epidemic, beetle biology, how forests are attacked, and how forests will regenerate. This video is slow to download, so it is recommended you download it ahead of time if you plan to show this 9 minute video in class.

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Section 3.1 Quiz - need more practice? Try this online quiz.

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Burns Bog Convservation Society - keeps you up-to-date on what's new at the bog, and even has tour information.

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Losing our Permafrost - Problems of Peat - - Many areas of permafrost contain large amounts of peat. When peat melts, it starts to breakdown, and bacteria begin to cause decay of the plant material. This has led many scientists to believe there will be massive releases of carbon dioxide as this plant material is lost. In this 9 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, Dr. Merritt Turetsky, from Michigan State University, has shown the problem to be more complex than was previously thought. Because plants begin to grow where the permafrost decays, that actually leads to an uptake of carbon dioxide. On the other hand, the same soils are giving off large amounts of methane gas, a very important contributor to greenhouse emissions.

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Going Green, One Home at a Time - - Most people agree that a major problem facing our planet today is the rising level of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. So environmentalism has now become mainstream, with recycling, fuel efficiency, and reduced use of plastic all part of our daily lives. But one area that still needs dramatic improvement is the construction and design of the buildings we live and work in. In this 24 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, it's estimated that forty percent of our greenhouse gas emissions in North America come from our homes and offices. So researchers and builders are looking for ways to 'green up' our homes.

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Geothermal - The Energy Underground - - We're familiar with geothermal energy from mountain hot springs, geysers like Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park, and perhaps from the way Iceland has developed an entire energy system based on volcanic-heated water. However, geothermal energy is still just a niche player in the global energy picture. In this 25 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, thanks to new research being done, that picture may be changing.

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Fueling Our Future - - One of the problems with fossil fuels is that, while they are bad for the environment, they are awfully good at providing energy. They're plentiful, relatively inexpensive, and easily stored, transported and used. In this 13 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, Dr Robert Evans, Director of the Clean Energy Research Centre at the University of British Columbia, and the author of Fueling our Future: An Introduction to Sustainable Energy, takes an engineer's perspective to how we're going to adjust the way we use energy, in order to exploit the strengths and hide the weaknesses of greenhouse-gas-free energy sources.

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Sustainable Fossil Fuels - - Sustainable fossil fuels? In this 17 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, Dr. Mark Jaccard, a professor in the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University, argues that fossil fuels should be part of an environmentally sound and responsible energy system for the foreseeable future. In other words, we don't have to stop using fossil fuels. In fact, he says to avoid an economic disaster we probably should continue to use them, while moving towards more use of renewables over time.

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Forest Fragmentation and Monkey Poo - - Dr. Colin Chapman has been investigating the effects of forest fragmentation on wildlife in Uganda for more than ten years. Lush jungle is being reduced by deforestation to tiny, ever-shrinking patches of forest. In this 9 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, he collected more than 500 samples of monkey dung and discovered that the more the fragments shrunk, the higher the number of parasites the monkeys were carrying. The parasites are a sign that the monkeys are stressed, unhealthy, and unlikely to survive in these tiny fragments of forest.

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BC Mining and Contamination Prevention - reclaiming old mines is of great environmental importance:

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Biomass - - One of the richest sources of renewable, greenhouse-gas free energy might be biomass. Throughout our history we've used wood, dung, straw and animal and plant oils for cooking, light and heat. Now we're looking at those same materials to power our modern industrial lifestyle. In this 24 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, Dr. David Layzell, Queen's Research Chair in the department of Biology and director of the biomass research group Biocap, says that Canada has a wealth of biomass resources, and up to 20 per cent of our energy could come from biomass.

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Biofuels - learn about the pros and cons:

  • Biofuel - very good overview of all the different types of biofuels.
  • Quick guide: Biofuels - short but clear summary.
  • Green Dreams - a fantastic article from National Geographic on the pitfalls and promise of biofuels.

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Human Influence - try this puzzle to test your knowledge about human influence on ecosystems. (Also available for download )

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Section 3.2 Quiz - need more practice? Try this online quiz.

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Rock Snot Algae - - If you're a fan of a good mystery, you'll love the story of Didymosphenia geminata. And for almost two centuries, it was thought of as a species endemic to the northern hemisphere that never did anyone any harm. But almost twenty years ago, Vancouver Island became the epicentre of an outbreak of algae blooms that covered the bottoms of rivers in a thick, slimy blanket, which people called "rock snot". In this 12 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, Dr. Max Bothwell, a freshwater ecologist with Environment Canada in Nanaimo, BC, is called in to investigate.

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Mice and Albatross - - A video shot a few years ago, of a gruesome attack on an Albatross chick in its nest on Gough Island in the South Atlantic, shocked the world. In this 9 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, we learn that the five-kilogram chick was defenseless against the ravages of a horde of ferocious predators. The predators, oddly enough, are mice introduced to the island by sailors in the 19th Century. Now Ross Wanlessa, Ph.D Candidate at the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, has published a paper suggesting that mouse predation on Albatross chicks on the island could doom the Albatross in the future.

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Fearless Iguanas - - The marine iguanas of the Galapagos islands have lived undisturbed by predators for millions of years. In this 9 minute audio Quirks and Quarks broadcast, it looks like this peaceful existence may ultimately lead to their demise. Dr. Michael Romero from the Department of Biology at Tufts University and his colleagues have found that these animals have lost a critical stress response that would normally cause them to flee predators. The iguanas essentially have become largely fearless and as a result are suffering terribly from new predators that are being introduced into the Galapagos islands.

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British Columbia Invasive Species - many species have been introduced into B.C., with significant impact on ecosystems.

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Cultural Keystone Species - a special feature article to Ecology and Society.

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Introduced Species - try this puzzle to test your knowledge about the effects of introduced species. (Also available for download )

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Section 3.3 Quiz - need more practice? Try this online quiz.

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Ecological Footprint Calculators - here are a few to choose from to calculate your footprint:

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Electronic Products - from cradle to grave requires a lot of research!

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