Human impact on ecosystems
Humans are part of the ecological balance and their activities can affect ecosystems both directly and indirectly. In this topic at A level students are required to consider effective management of the conflict between human needs and conservation to maintain sustainability of resources and promote biodiversity for the good of the local, national and global environment. Conservation methods such as marine conservation zones and wildlife reserves, seed banks, gardens and zoos could all be possible methods that could be considered.
In this topic students will be expected to be able to evaluate evidence and data concerning issues relating to the conservation of species and habitats and consider conflicting evidence that may be presented.
In some A level specifications students are also expected to have some knowledge of international and local conservation agreements.
Whilst this list provides a source of information and ideas for experimental work, it is important to note that recommendations can date very quickly. Do NOT follow suggestions which conflict with current advice from CLEAPSS, SSERC or other recent safety guides. eLibrary users are responsible for ensuring that any activity, including practical work, which they carry out is consistent with current regulations related to Health and Safety and that they carry an appropriate risk assessment. Further information is provided in our Health and Safety guidance.
Links and Resources
This is a comprehensive and detailed set of resources which look at lowland heathland - one of Britain's rarest and most threatened habitats. It is also home to a diverse range of unique flora and fauna. These resources help students to learn more about this habitat with activities, suggested field work and guides to heathland plants and animals. Students consider the conflicts between economic incentives, society, and environmental conservation and the impact of humans on the ecosystem.
This activity has been produced by Defence Dynamic and focuses on Salisbury Plain. This area is a military training area, yet it contains a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) and is home to a wide range of species that have disappeared from other areas of the country.
In this activity, originally designed for use at Key Stage Four students, are tasked with finding out why Marsh fritillary butterflies are a threatened and declining species throughout the UK, but there has been a population explosion on Salisbury Plain. They are provided with information to help them answer this question.
The student activity sheet provides headings and a word bank to structure a response to this question. A level students do not need to be given this. They could work in small groups and be provided only with the question, the information sheets, including the sheet on scrub clearance and video, also on scrub clearance.
This is one of three podcasts from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), included in this list. These podcasts would work as resources individually or could be used together.
This podcast considers two aspects of human impact on the environment - firstly the unintentional spread of invasive species and the challenge monitoring of impact in hostile environments.
The podcast is relatively long, 20 minutes, and not very easy to break into sections, so the best option would be to download this onto a school/college network and ask students to listen to this as homework/independent study, making notes.
The information/ideas contained in the podcast could then be discussed and questions posed as a starter activity for the next lesson.
In this podcast from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the effect of the introduction of grey squirrels of red squirrel populations in the UK is investigated. In the investigation there is commentary on how these two potentially competitive populations are being managed as effectively as possible.
This podcast is relatively long, about 16 minutes, so the best option would be to download this onto a school/college network and ask students to listen to this as homework/independent study, making notes.
This podcast looks at why removing some man-made coastal flood defences might not be such a bad idea, what it is like studying gas exchange in the wilds of the Southern Ocean, and – in what could be the first case of 'natural' geoengineering – how forests could be whitening the clouds right above them.
This video focuses on the protection of the Californian coastline and Universals Studios' initiatives to become environmentally friendly.
The video is about thirteen minutes long and the information presented is at a relatively low level, as it was originally produced for use at Key Stage Four. It would however, easily be possible to make use of this video at A level as case study material for a set of appropriate questions.
This Catalyst article about tropical peatlands provides a great case study on the conflict between human needs and conservation to maintain sustainability of resources.
Using this as stimulus material, which should be included within their answer, students could be asked to answer an examination style essay question on how human activity is influencing this particular habitat. This is a good test to see if students can provide an objective and scientific answer. Often students become carried away with the effect of human activity and do not provide clear and logical arguments supported by appropriate facts and examples.
This Catalyst article considers ways of reducing the impact of human activities in tropical regions, through the eyes of a conservation biologist.
This article would be appropriate to use as additional reading material/reading around the topic, which A level biologists should be encouraged to do.
The level of reading in the article should not prove challenging for any A level student and there are possibilities for students to carry out additional research activities from points mentioned in the article. The article also provides an insight into the work of a conservation biologist which might be a career choice some students would consider.