photosmynthesis's Blog

September 24, 2010, 5:45 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Asssignment 2

Part 1

Here next to the water there is a small stand of trees, on the slope of a hill.  The canopy is high up and green, letting only small flecks of sunlight shine through.  A thin layer of leaf litter covers the ground and when kicked over reveals the fluffy white fungus, busy turning this material into small and small pieces.  Evidence of waterways, only brought to life with the summer rains, carves its channel all the way to the water.

Part 2


Organism: Oak tree (quercus) Strategy: (form) Oak seeds or acorns have a tough shell, which contains a single seed.  A mature Oak tree can be 40 ft tall, so this case for the seed can protect the seed from the drop to the canopy floor.  Also acorns are animal dispersed, and therefore need to survive transport and burial by organism such as squirrels or chipmunks.  In systems where oaks are present, they represent a major food source for many organisms.  For successful seedling establishment, they need to be able to survive seed predation, as well as the elements.

Organism:   Clover (trifolium) Strategy:  Leaves, this applies to any green plant but I already talked about trees.  Leaves contain photosynthetic apparatus to capture energy from the sun along with the biochemical pathways for fixing gaseous CO2 into sucrose.  As far as packaging, the ability to take the atomic components of the atmosphere and packages them into metabolites which can be used for growth and metabolism.

Water Purification

Organism: Fungus Strategy:  fungal hyphae penetrate the soil, foraging for organic matter to decompose.  These tubular strands (~5mm) form a dense mat that can exploit immense areas. This ingenious organism infiltrates the pore space and extract nitrogen, phosphorus, among other element from the soil solution.  Indeterminate growth, coupled with the small size of the hyphal strands gives it the ability to exploit resources that no others can rival.

Organism: Moss (Bryophytes) Strategy: spongy filtration.  Didn’t know what else to call this but these non-vascular plants, have always amazed me.  Their pioneer nature allows them to exploit and colonize habitats before all other.  But for purposes of water purification, these guys do some of the 1st steps in the process.  They seem to line these dried up streambeds, but when they are running these mosses serve to catch large particulate matter as the water flows though.  In this way they purify the water and also retaining some of the nutrients in the system.

Water availability

Organism:  Maple (acer) Strategy:  This becomes a little redundant for me, I feel as though I could pick the same organisms for all of these ecosystems functions.  But as per my previous blog, the action of deep rooting plants, penetrating to lower depths of the water table, couples with the tension force of evapotranspiration, create the process of hydraulic lift, pulling water from these depths to shallower parts of the soil, so that other can access these necessary commodity.

Organism: Fungus Strategy:  Again, the extensive network of the hyphal mycelium penetrates the soil.  The absorptive capacity of the hyphal particularly in mycorrhizal fungi works not only to find nutrients, but also functions in uptake of water from areas inaccessible to the plants root systems.

Transportation of materials

Organism:  Squirrel Strategy: Frugivory…the large teeth on these guys must play a role, as well as the claws for scaling trees, and the tail acts similar to a parachute in a fall.  All of these features allow these little guys to easily climb to the top of some of the tallest trees in the forest, harvest nuts, and then deliver them to sites for storage.  The process acts as a dispersal agent for the tree itself, when nuts are not eaten.  In any case, these little guys can move a lot of material from the tallest parts of the system, to the shortest.

Organism Penstemon (Penstemon Digitalis).  Strategy: this small flower does what all plants have the ability to do, transpire.  This elegant process is begins at the stomata of the leaf, where the H-bonding forces form a tension that is propagated back through the xylem cell, all the way back down to the roots, which pull up water from the soil.  This functions to carry water from the soil, and releases it back into the atmosphere where it will condense again and rain down on the land again.

Protection from biota

Organism: Wild Rosa.  Strategy:  Though this might by an invasive, they still provide a good example or protection from herbivores.  Having their stems lines with spines creates a barrier that makes them very hard to swallow, literally.  This must add to the strength of these plants to invade and do well in many habitats, because they are unlikely to be preyed upon by organisms looking for an easy meal

Organism: Snail Strategy:  The evolution of the shell was an amazing advantage to the mollusk.  With an extremely vulnerable body, which can fall prey to desiccation as well as table salt, possessing a harden shelter is beyond advantageous; it can be a lifesaver.  Once these organisms have crawled back into there shell they have are safe and sound.


Organism: Fungus Strategy:  The good old standby organism…through the process of uptake of nutrients, as well as the breakdown of decayed organic matter, these organism function as the ecosystem trash collectors and water treatment plants.  Their absorptive capacity allows them to remove many contaminants from soils components.  Fungus has can also break down synthetic products such as many petroleum base substances.

Organism: Bacteria Strategy:  Most of the time we think of cleaning in terms of removing bacteria, but the truth is, the diversity of organisms in this kingdom perform many essential functions in natural habitats.  Much in the same way that plant roots and fungus work, bacteria have the ability to take up soluble elements and remove them from water sources and sediments.  Bacterial immobilization of nitrate is a process, which can significant reduce the nitrogen load in some soils, and can be considered a form of cleaning.


Organism Fungus Strategy:  Here we go with the mushrooms again.  We can all see who my local champion is.  These guys are amazing in their hidden ecosystems services, as well as their beautiful elegance of form.  The hyphal structure works as a sponge, decomposing and absorbing is often the very definition of these organism ecological niche.

Organism Sedge roots Strategy:  I saw these grasses and decided to put them in here, but this applies to all plant roots.  Absorbing water as well as nutrient for growth and production of biomass connects this function to so many other ecosystem functions and services.  The small size and large surface area-to-volume ratio, makes these structures adequately equipped for exploitation of soils and uptake across cell membranes

Communication flows

Organism Birds Strategy:  I am no ornithologist, but out in this park I see orioles, terns, blackbirds, perhaps.  All I know is “cheep-cheep-cheep-cheep” is in the air.  These organisms define communications, and mastered it without the invention of the Blackberry mobile handset.  I don’t exactly know the process that gave them this ability; perhaps the chambered lung that aids in flying also contributes to being long winded.  It seems clear that they possess a very useful mechanism of communication.

Organism Deer:  Strategy:  Now I didn’t see any deer the day I was in the park, but I know they are there. Chances are, if they were at this site, they heard me coming, and moved on.  This brings me to my point…deer are unparalleled at there ability to sense their surroundings.  They seems to be aware at all times of the changes in the shadows, perhaps the wind, perhaps who knows

Feedback systems

Organism Oak/Beetle strategy:  I had to choose an interaction here and was inspired when I saw a small beetle eating a young oak sapling.  The dynamic between plant and herbivore is very interesting and is subject to shift in the natural environment.  Increases in atmospheric CO2 can increase growth of foliage, which can minimize the effect of losses due to herbivory.  On the hand, this can stimulate an increase in the beetle population, which can then effect the plant populations more intensely.

Organism Maple Strategy:  Through the process of evapotranspiration again, the magic of this function unfolds.  Water taken up from roots through this process is evaporated from the leaves, which goes into the gaseous atmosphere.  When it condenses, the water falls as rain, which is then taken up by the plant again.  In this way they plant acts directly in the biogeochemical cycling of freshwater.

Protection from abiotic factors (

Organism: Tree Canopy. Strategy:  The thick covering provided by the canopy tree shelters all under their shadow.  My taxonomic knowledge of east coast woody plants but I do see Oaks, Maples, Hickory, and others.   Outside of this tree stand, in an open field, you can feel wind blowing, the sun beating down, and during a rain, one could easily become soaked.  But within the canopy of these larger organism yields a much more gentle climate, providing shelter and protection for those that dwell within.

Organism: Snail Strategy:  For this had to look for a while, but almost be accident I almost stepped on this guy once I went closer to the waters edge.  This organism is interesting cause it provides its own protection.  Growing this shell helps protect them from predators as well as the elements, which is good because their skin will dry out quick.  Only problem for me is learning that the way the shell evolved, it turned the anus backwards, and that space where it puts it’s head in defense….well, lets just say I might rather be eaten….


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