Marine Ecology Project

Marine Ecology Projects: Kelp Forests, Coral Reefs Marine Ecology is the study of organisms and how they interact with each other and with their environment.   In ecological studies, scientists may examine the characteristics of a habitat that allow for certain organisms to grow and flourish while others do not, or conversely the interactions of organisms–which may be competitive or facilitative, direct or indirect–and how these interactions affect the success of organisms (usually determined by organism abundance, or offspring produced). These interactions may be between predators and prey, hosts and symbionts, or between members in the community competing for space, or alternatively, species facilitating the success of others by excluding competitors (or eating them). To understand the holistic nature of marine habitats we must first understand the unique role species play in these habitats, or the organism’s niche.  Species have evolved to effectively function in habitats where their physiology (or genetics) are adapted to obtain food, compete for habitat space, and produce offspring. The delicate dynamic of marine communities can be shaken by the introduction of new species–so-called invasive species–or the loss of other species–such as a loss in herbivores (example: the mass die-off of Diadema spp. sea urchin on Caribbean coral reefs in the 1980s  (Links to an external site.) ). Such shifts in the composition of species in a community, or the abundance of important species within a community, can have dramatic effects on ecosystems.  (watch a video about the loss of Diadema spp. and the loss of fish herbivores in the Caribbean and how saving herbivores may help to save coral reefs!).   Sea otters play a critical role as predators of sea urchins, unfortunately, sea otter populations along the western USA were almost wiped out due to hunting. This has affected kelp forests by increasing the abundance of sea urchins on many rocky reefs. However, this is not beneficial for temperate kelp forests  (Links to an external site.) . In many kelp forests, urchins have acted as “loggers” mowing down kelp canopies resulting in large barren spaces (called “urchin barrens”) on the reef that once was a vibrant kelp forest community. These effects are sometimes referred to as “trophic cascades” (in the example of otters and sea urchins) or “phase shifts” (in the example of the shift from coral dominated to algal dominated reefs in the tropics).  These are but a few examples… The Impacts of humans on coral reefs and kelp forests may be severe.  These effects may be direct (i.e., fishing reducing the abundance of herbivores, reduction in habitat abundance due to coastal development) or indirect (i.e., hunting otters resulting in an explosion in urchins, climate change increasing ocean temperatures  (Links to an external site.) ).  Further, the effects of humans these effects are likely to be amplified due to anthropogenic climate change  (Links to an external site.) .  Specific factors that you may want to discuss are: 1. temperature, light levels, dissolved nutrients — how to do these impact, structure or limit these systems 2. species interactions — herbivores and carnivores, predators and prey, host and symbiont 3. invasive species, competitive interactions between key ecosystem players 4. dominant primary producers and factors affecting the distribution of animal groups 5. disease, population crashes/proliferation 6. human and environmental disturbances — this includes local impacts and those happening at global scales (like climate change) Minimum guidelines: 1.  5 complete pages double spaced NOT including the reference page 2.  Times New Roman font (12 pt) 3.  Focused and well crafted paragraphs 4.  Provide a reference page (cite minimum of 5 references, and yes you can use your book) 5.  References must be cited in the text following scientific journal formatting 6.  A clear and concise title 7.  Never quote! Paraphrase the literature in your own words and provide a citation References you must include at least 3 primary literature citation, and 2 or more secondary literature citations to receive full credit for the references. Good, reliable references do not come from blogs or general websites. These sources are “popular media” and are not scientific. If you cite a news site, such as Nature News (news from the journal Nature) this is a secondary source and it is reliable since you are getting information that is summarizing a peer-reviewed work. Your book is an example of secondary literature. If you cite a journal article, this is the best reference type and is called “primary literature.” These are peer reviewed papers written by scientists and are published in academic journals. You can find some of these academic journal articles online for free (search through google scholar) a good source is: https://journals.plos.org/plosone

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