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Ecology term paper

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"Replacing old growth with young trees was the second critical tenet of applied forest ecology. In 1905, the basic premise of the new Forest Service was simple: If the United States was running out of timber, the best way to meet future demands was to grow more timber. According to early Forest Service surveys, more than 70% of the Western forests were dominated by old growth. Foresters felt that meant western forests were losing as much wood to death and decay as they were gaining from growth. Ecological theories of stability and predictability shaped the ways foresters viewed old-growth forests. Such forests, they thought, were at a stable, climax equilibrium, so the same amount of timber was lost to death and decay each year as was created through growth. Young forests would put on more wood volume per acre faster than old forests at equilibrium, since they were still growing rapidly. Therefore, foresters believed that young forests would create more wood for human use, so over mature forests needed to be cut down immediately. Scientific forestry seemed impossible until the old growth had been replaced with a regulated forest. These theories were not new; American foresters had borrowed them from European forestry, where old growth had long been eradicated. Trying to apply these European beliefs to a completely different set of ecological conditions in America shaped a Forest Service that, in order to protect the forest, believed it necessary to first cut it down. When early foresters thought the forest would be improved if old growth were removed, their ideas about ecology were at the heart of their decision. These were ideas deeply shaped by their culture as well as by their science. Foresters seized on simple ecological theories - in particular, succession and competition theory - as a way of reducing the complexity of the forest to something they could hope to manage. Every species might be different, foresters reasoned, but with any luck they all followed the same simple rules. The alternative - that forest development might not follow orderly laws, and that nature might be so complex that people could never precisely predict the result of any action - was not something foresters wanted to contemplate."
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"Every person, whether environmental professional or simply having a personal interest in one or more levels of ecology, will isolate a few events that can be distinguished as milestones in planetary history. From the ecological perspective, every step in the global strategy is crucial to life, if not actually mediated by some portion of the biomass, and each step can represent a crisis in homeostasis. Particularly critical events must start with the Big Bang, the ultimate source of all energy and material in the universe. From that ultimate source, the next critical step is the formation of the lithosphere of earth in combination with the cooling of the planetary surface to the range in which H 2 O exists as a liquid. The next critical steps were the origin of life and the incorporation of certain bacterial cells into others with the formation of membranes, separating life from non-life. The oxygen revolution was perhaps the single most important ecological crisis. The next critical step was the evolution of an organism that was to be the ancestor of primates, represented today by gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans. In terms of geological time and past events, rapid manifestation of crises has attended the development of the human species. Language, communities, and culture are a combination unique to this particular primate. It is human culture that evolves, and rapidly, rather than the organism itself. Most recently, humanity has undergone or perpetrated a particularly critical step - the formalization of science out of a mixed background of magic, religion, and industry. The great crises for humans, then, are the advent of hunting and gathering, settling in communities as tillers of the soil, entering in rapid succession the industrial and scientific revolutions, and many would add, the information revolution associated with computer technologies."
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"One word on the effects of human endeavours, such as agriculture and industry, on stream temperature and ecology needs to be interjected here. One should know that water taken from a stream and used in irrigation is warmed in the process and, upon being dumped back into the stream, increases the downstream temperature for some distance. Similarly, water used in cooling various industrial installations warms the stream. In addition to the simple warming of the stream which, as such, may exceed the temperature tolerance of some of the organisms, the increased heating also decreases the oxygen retention capacity of the water, thereby affecting certain organisms and stream metabolism. Reservoirs, whether for water supply or hydroelectric power, exert considerable influence on the quality of stream water below the impoundment. As spring temperatures of streams approach the favourable point for spawning of warm water fishes, sudden discharge from the lower levels of an upstream impoundment cools the stream and inhibits reproduction of the fishes. Conversely, the influx of warm, surface waters from an impoundment into a cool trout stream has deleterious effects on the fishes and the stream community. Much precise work needs to be done on these aspects of stream relationships. The results of such research could go far in enlightening the agencies concerned with dam-building projects."
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