The Living World
21 Topics | 21 Quizzes

Ecosystem Disruptions Case Studies

Ash Dieback Case Study

In the UK, deciduous woodlands have been hit hard by Ash Dieback, a fungal disease which originated in Asia. The fungus doesn’t affect ash trees in its native range, but trees in the UK are susceptible to the fungal disease. Therefore, it threatens the UK’s woodlands. 

Some estimates say that 80% of the UK’s ash trees are under serious threat. More than 1,000 species rely on the ash tree including mice, beetles, bats and others. The tree is a feeding ground for many insects, which in turn are the food of choice for many UK woodland creatures. 

If 80% of ash trees are either felled or killed by the fungus, and the insect population dramatically decreases, the knock-on effects will be severe. Birds and mammals that feed on the insects will experience a sharp decrease in population. This will ripple to birds of prey which feed on the mentioned birds and mammals. 

The Ash Dieback fungus is an example of how introducing a non-native biotic component can have a dramatic effect on an ecosystem.

Florida Everglades Case Study

Florida, a state in the US, is home to a region known as the Everglades. The Everglades is a region of tropical wetland that frequently floods, and is home to a variety of plants and animals.

There are several ecosystems in the Everglades, each with a massive amount of biodiversity. This includes otters, crocodiles, centipedes, spiders, manatees, deer, rabbits, raccoons, foxes, turtles and much more.

The ecosystems in the Everglades change often, with animals adapting to changes in their food web. However, in the 1970s and 1980s, an invasive species, known as the Burmese Python, began disrupting the food web.

Burmese pythons are large snakes, reaching up to a length of 20 feet. The snakes were smuggled into America to be sold as pets, but most owners were unable to look after the animals. As a result, they were released into the wild. Burmese pythons thrived in the Everglades, in part because of the abundance of food available to them.

Pythons are responsible for a significant decline in mammal populations. They have been known to eat storks, woodrats, limpkins, alligators, deer and bobcats in large quantities too. Burmese Pythons do not have many predators due to their size and aggression. Therefore, their numbers have increased for decades while native population numbers have dramatically decreased.

Primary consumer populations, such as many forms of insect, have increased due to the drop in predators, which are being killed by the invasive pythons.

The Burmese Pythons are an example of human damage to an ecosystem. Burmese Pythons do not belong in Florida, and their presence is a problem for the Everglades park rangers. Tourists are encouraged to report all findings of pythons, while hunters are actively encouraged to kill them, to curb their ever-growing population.

Conclusion

These case studies help to show how precisely ecosystems must be balanced. Human involvement often leads to dramatic changes, but nature has a way of disrupting the ecosystems on its own. Damage to natural ecosystems comes hand in hand with climate change, and many countries continue to work hard to preserve the balance across the world.

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