With current estimates suggesting that a third of the world’s amphibians, a quarter of all mammals and one in eight birds are now endangered, human impact on ecosystems around the planet is becoming more and more apparent. These resources explore interdependence - from food webs to adaptation, from loss of habitat to the competing priorities involved in species conservation.
Links and Resources
As a starter, introduce the idea of food webs with this short video. Phytoplankton and zooplankton have a crucial place in the Arctic food chain, which is highly sensitive to change.
Having watched the video, there are two activities for students:
Activity A - Food chains uses the Arctic food chains to show why a pyramid of biomass is more useful than a pyramid of numbers.
Activity B - Arctic food web develops ideas about food webs and encourages students to think about how species are adaptated depending on their food source. .
In this activity, students are assigned a particular plant or animal that would be found on an African savannah and build their own food web as a class, based on the information cards provided.
The activity can then be extended by thinking about possible human impact on the ecosystem and it's effect on the food web and biodiversity, introducing the idea of endangered species and extinction in preparation for later lessons.
To end the lesson, show students what it would be like to work with birds of prey with this engaging video, highlighting career opportunities for those with biology qualifications. Part of the biologist’s work at the Hawk Conservation Park is to set up nest boxes for British birds of prey, which includes monitoring prey abundance using the capture-mark-recapture method.
This is also a good lead into the next lesson on adaptation.
There is an excellent presentation in these resources which looks at the definition of adaptation, why animals need adaptations to move successfully in their natural habitat and the difference between a specialist and a generalist species. Students can then complete the worksheet to assess their understanding of the ideas by describing the adaptations of a range of animals.
Lead into the next resource by showing this video which highlights the work of a marine biologist.
Using the marine environment as an example, students learn about how different animal species are adapted physically or behaviourally to survive in this habitat.
Students can then research an allocated habitat, taking into account local predator or prey species, and design a new species of animal or plant to suit the conditions. They then present this species to the class.
What happens to a highly adapted species if their ecosystem changes? This engaging lesson introduces students to the issues around endangered species.
Firstly the visually engaging presentation describes what is meant by an endangered species. Then, using the ARKive website, students explore endangered species around the world, each species’ conservation status, and the various factors leading to that species endangered status by filling in the Conservation Definitions worksheets provided.
As a plenary, concepts and definitions can be reinforced by playing Endangered Species Bingo, which incorporates all the species the students will have researched online during the main activity.
With this Arkive resource, students can learn more about the importance of biodiversity and species conservation. In a finely balanced ecosystem there are competing priorities when considering the conservation of an endangered species and difficult decisions need to be made.
This colourful leaflet looks at what biodiversity is and why it matters. It also explains how human activities threaten the natural environment, endangering species and habitats and what we are doing about the problem. It would be good as part of a display on biodiversity, or in a research pack if you do not have access to the internet for the previous activities.
A Catalyst article about Earth’s biodiversity much of which appears to be teetering on the brink of a man-made extinction crisis. Scientists have suggested that, unless urgent action is taken now, many species will disappear in the next 50 years. This article looks at some of the issues involved.
Again, useful as part of a display on biodiversity, or in a research pack.