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Assembling Your Land Ecosystems

You have designed your plants and your animals: Now it is time to put them all together. Each one of  you will choose one ecosystem (the rain forest, the tundra, the grasslands, etc) and gather together the animals and plants that that live there. You will show the relationships between them.

To do this, you will be giving copies of your plant and animal images to the other members of your exploratory team. When you made land plants and land animals, you chose as many biomes as you have team members (two explorers = two biomes, three explorers = three biomes): Now we will put the biomes together.

I hope that the diagram below will help to explain what we will do:

Each person should choose ONE of the biomes that you have been working with.

Example:    Jenny chooses the desert environment.
                   Jose chooses the grasslands.
                   Mike chooses the
tropical rain forest.

Now look at this chart. Jenny will work with all desert plants and animals, the ones that she made, the ones that Jose made, and the ones that Mike made. She will give her grassland Plants and Animals to Jose, and her Tropical Ocean plants and animals to Mike. Then each person will make a page describing his/her biome.

 Person

 Biome
 Land Plants  Land Animals  

The Land Ecology Page combines these Life Forms
Jenny

 Desert

 Desert Plants

Desert Animals
Jenny will
do the Desert Biome
using these files

 Desert Plants

Desert Animals
 Grasslands

 Grasslands Plants

 Grasslands Animals

 Desert Plants

Desert Animals

 Tropical Rain Forest

  Tropical Rain Forest Plants

  Tropical Rain Forest Animals

 Desert Plants

Desert Animals
 
Jose

  Desert

Desert Plants

Desert Animals
Jose will do the Grasslands Biome using these files

 Grasslands Plants

 Grasslands Animals
  Grasslands

 Grasslands Plants

 Grasslands Animals

 Grasslands Plants

 Grasslands Animals

  Tropical Rain Forest

 Tropical Rain Forest Plants

  Tropical Rain Forest Animals

 Grasslands Plants

 Grasslands Animals
 
Mike

 Desert

 Desert Plants

Desert Animals
Mike will
do the Tropical Rain Forest Biome using these files

 Tropical Rain Forest Plants

  Tropical Rain Forest Animals
 Grasslands

 Grasslands Plants

 Grasslands Animals

 Tropical Rain Forest Plants

  Tropical Rain Forest Animals

  Tropical Rain Forest

 Tropical Rain Forest Plants

  Tropical Rain Forest Animals

 Tropical Rain Forest Plants

  Tropical Rain Forest Animals

 

Part One: Collect the Images and Information for the Plants and Animals in Your Biome.

It might be a good idea if each member of your group printed out the descriptions of his/her animals and plants.

You will need copies of the image files, too.

You will need to make a scene similar to (or better than!) the one at the top of this page. This will allow you to visualize your land environment while doing amazing things with your drawing program!

Part Two: Divide the organisms into

  • Primary Producers: make their own food from chemicals and energy
  • Primary Consumers: eat the primary producers: cannot make food
  • Secondary Consumers: eat smaller predators

These relationships are called the food chain. Sometimes there are one or two more layers of predators but this is rare. Five levels is the maximum length of food chain that we see on earth.
In very simple or very challenging areas, there may be only two levels.

Now describe the animals in each level of your food chain. See the model in Rubric 7.

Part Three: Draw a Food Pyramid or Food Chain.

Go to the Biomes section to see examples of food pyramids. Make your pyramid and add a short explanation.

Part Four: Draw an Energy Pyramid.

This shows what happens to the energy in your biome.

The basic rule is that every time you go up a level in a food chain, only a small percentage of the energy that is passed up becomes biomass (the bodies) at the next level.

Visit The Energy Pyramid

Part Five: Ranges of Your Animals

Now let's figure out some other relationships. Go to Following the Energy Trail to find out how many Kilocalories your ecosystem produces per year. This is called the Primary Productivity. The table shows the calories produced in a year on ONE square meter. Find the kind of biome that you are working with (Rain forest, Desert, Grassland, etc,) and write down the number for that biome.

Example: The Primary Productivity of the Grassland Biome is

2000 KiloCalories per meter squared per year.

This is the amount of food available for the animals that eat those plants. (Comparison: an active adult human can use 2000 KiloCalories per day. However, people cannot digest grass.)

Divide the Primary Productivity Number 2000 by 365 to see how many KiloCalories are produced on a meter squared per day,

2000 KiloCalories   = 5.47 KiloCalories per day: round this to 5 KiloCalories
     365 days

In the table below I have shown you how to figure out how many KiloCalories my grassland animals need. Now I can figure out how many meters squared each animal needs for just one day.

Number of KiloCalories My Slow Grazer needs per day   =   40   =  8 meters squared per day
Number of KiloCalories yielded by 1 meter squared per day   5

And that's only for one day! In a year (365 days * 8 meters squared = 2920 meters squared) even a very small animal needs a lot of ground to live on!

 The Sizes of Animal Territories

Primary Consumers -- Herbivores

 Animal Name

 Animal Weight

 KiloCalories Needed per Day
Calorie Page

 Number of Meters Squared needed per day
Meters Squared in one year
(Daily need * 365)
 KiloCalories if Eaten:
Weight in Pounds * 800 KiloCalories

 Burrow Muncher
 1.5 pounds  1.5 pounds * 45 KiloCalories = 73 KiloCalories per day.      1.5 pounds * 800 = 1200 KiloCalories

 Slow Grazer
 4 ounces  4 ounces * 10 = 40 KiloCalories per day            8  8 * 365 = 2920 Meters Squared per Year  4 ounces * 50 KiloCalories per ounce = 200 KiloCalories

 Leaf Yummer
2 pounds  2 pounds* 45 = 90 KiloCalories per day      

 Stilt Runner
 40 pounds  40 pounds * 30 = 1200 KiloCalories per day      

Secondary Consumers -- Carnivores

Grabber 
 1 pound 1 pound *45 KiloCalories = 45 KiloCalories per day      

 Grass Slider
 8 ounces        

 Gray Chaser
 25 pounds 25 pounds *30 KiloCalories = 750 Kilocalories per day

 4 Slow Grazers a day = 800 KiloCalories.

BUT. . .
4 Slow Grazers each need 2920 Meters squared to stay alive for a year.4 * 2920 = 11,680 Meters Squared to feed the predator for one day.

4 slow grazers a day for 365 days = 1406 slow grazers a year.  

 Sky Diver
 3 pounds        

 Tertiary Consumers
           

Notice how the Predators at level 2 need a lot more territory than the little grazers they feed on. The grazers have to stay alive, grow, reproduce and eat every day until they get eaten. This is why predators have to hunt over large areas -- they have to find enough prey animals to eat without wiping all the little prey animals out. If the predators can't find enough to eat, they will starve to death, and many do. If a predator can survive but there are not enough prey animals in his area to feed young predators and/or a mate, that kind of predator will not be part of that ecosystem.

Figure out the size of the territory a couple of your predators will need. You may be surprised by what you find out!


© 1999. Elizabeth Anne Viau. All rights reserved. This material may be used by individuals for instructional purposes but not sold. Please inform the author if you use it at eviau@earthlink.net.