Why Ecosystems are Important

Show Summary - February 16, 2009


Sharon welcomed everybody and talked about the importance of education about water because without water, we cannot be healthy. She recommends drinking 8 to 10 cups a day and noted that the human body has between 50 and 300 trillion cells, that we begin the process of dehydration from the moment of birth, that this affects everyone differently and that this water must be replaced if we are to remain healthy.

Guest: Tom Atzet

Tom Atzet, retired Southern Oregon Regional Ecologist for the U.S. Forest Service, is a frequent guest of Sharon's. This time, Tom talked about ecosystems, which he described as a "physical body located in a definable space, with things going in and out." An "ecosystem" describes the interaction between organisms and their environment. An ecosystem can be microscopic, or it can take in an individual physical body, a geographic area, entire populations or an entire continent or ocean. Environments are measured in terms of light (energy), heat (temperature), water (rainfall or moisture) and chemicals (nutrition).

Tom mentioned the Yellowstone ecosystem, which is an immense basin surrounded by mountains and which contains numerous much smaller ecosystems. He talked about Port Orford Cedars, which require 200 inches of rain a year but are able to inhabit much dryer areas where there is a lot of fog. He noted that California redwoods are able to add 16 inches of moisture per year to the available rainfall by capturing fog and dew on their leaves and having it drip onto the ground.

He also talked about dry-site adaptations, including camels, and noted that genetic change and adaptation (evolution) is always the result of environmental stress. Without the capacity to evolve, life would quickly die out.

Categories: Ecology and Environment