Bell-Ringers: Ecosystems

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Interdependence of Organisms with Living and Nonliving Environmental Factors

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  1. Isolation in Nature: The belief that organisms can survive in isolation without interacting with other organisms or their environment.

  2. All Interactions are Visible: The idea that all environmental interactions are immediately obvious or visible, ignoring microscopic interactions or chemical exchanges.

  3. Static Relationships: Thinking that once a relationship between organisms is established, it remains constant, without understanding that these relationships can be dynamic and change over time.

  4. Superiority of Biotic Factors: The misconception that living (biotic) interactions are always more important or influential than nonliving (abiotic) interactions.

  5. Insignificance of Abiotic Factors: Underestimating the importance of nonliving factors like sunlight, temperature, and soil pH in the survival and well-being of organisms.

  6. Unchanging Habitats: The belief that environments or habitats remain static over time, not considering natural or human-induced changes.

  7. Single Factor Dependence: The idea that organisms are only dependent on one or a few factors for survival, ignoring the multifaceted nature of ecological relationships.

  8. All Symbiosis is Mutual: Assuming that all relationships between organisms are mutually beneficial, overlooking predator-prey, parasitic, and competitive interactions.

  9. Overemphasis on Competition: The belief that competition is the primary or only interaction between organisms in an ecosystem, underestimating cooperation or symbiosis.

  10. Man-made vs. Natural: The misconception that human-made environments, like cities, are separate from ‘nature’ and don’t have complex ecological interactions.

Interactions in Ecosystems: From Predation to Mutualism

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  1. All Predator-Prey Interactions are Destructive: While predatory interactions can reduce the number of organisms, they don’t always lead to the elimination of whole populations. Predation can also play a role in controlling populations and maintaining ecological balance.

  2. Mutualism Guarantees Survival: Just because two organisms have a mutualistic relationship does not mean that they can’t survive without each other. While some are so interdependent that they require each other, others might just have an improved chance of survival.

  3. Competition Leads to Extinction: While competition can strain resources and challenge populations, it doesn’t always result in the elimination of a species. In some cases, it can lead to specialization and the evolution of niche adaptations.

  4. Interactions are Species-Specific: While the specific organisms involved may vary, the types and patterns of interactions are shared across ecosystems. Some might think that only certain species participate in mutualism or predation, but these interactions are universal.

  5. Nonliving Factors are Passive: There might be a misconception that nonliving environmental factors play a passive role in these interactions. However, abiotic factors, such as temperature or water availability, can significantly impact biotic interactions.

  6. Mutualism is Always Equal: Some might think that in a mutualistic relationship, both parties benefit equally. However, the degree to which each organism benefits can vary.

  7. Predators are Always Larger: A common misconception is that predators are always larger than their prey. However, many small organisms, like spiders or certain types of fish, can predate on larger species.

  8. Predation is Only About Eating: Some might think predation solely refers to one organism eating another. However, it can also involve non-lethal interactions, like a parasite living off a host without immediately killing it.

Food Webs

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  1. Everything Decomposes at the Same Rate: Students might think all organic material decomposes at the same speed, when in fact different materials take varying amounts of time to break down.

  2. Decomposers “Eat” Only Dead Things: Some might believe decomposers only break down dead organisms, while in reality, they can also act on decaying or non-living organic matter.

  3. Food Chains are Linear and Simple: Students often view food chains as strictly linear progressions without realizing that food webs represent a complex network of interactions.

  4. Energy is Recycled in Ecosystems: While matter is recycled in ecosystems, energy flows in one direction and is not recycled. Some students may believe that energy, like matter, goes through a cyclical process.

  5. Producers Don’t Consume: The misconception that plants (producers) only produce and don’t consume. In reality, plants do “consume” water, carbon dioxide, and nutrients.

  6. All Decomposers are Microscopic: While many decomposers are microorganisms, there are larger decomposers like earthworms and fungi that play a critical role in breaking down organic material.

  7. Decomposers Only Benefit from Dead Organisms: Some may believe that decomposers only gain from the death of other organisms, overlooking the essential role they play in returning nutrients to the environment which benefits living organisms.

  8. All Energy from the Sun is Used by Producers: Students might think that all the energy from sunlight is absorbed and used by plants, when in reality, a significant portion of sunlight is reflected, absorbed, or transmitted without being used in photosynthesis.

  9. Higher Trophic Levels Get the Same Amount of Energy as Lower Ones: Not realizing the energy loss at each trophic level, some might believe that top predators receive as much energy from their food as primary producers obtain from the sun.

  10. Atoms in Decomposed Organisms are Lost: Some might think that when an organism decomposes, its atoms disappear or are “used up”, not understanding the concept of conservation of matter.

Ecosystem Dynamics and Disruptions

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  1. Static Ecosystems: Some might believe that ecosystems are static and unchanging, especially if there are no visible signs of change in the short term.

  2. Isolated Effects: The belief that a disruption in one part of an ecosystem will not significantly affect other parts.

  3. Immediate Effects Only: Assuming that disruptions to ecosystems show immediate consequences, without realizing that some effects might manifest after extended periods.

  4. Recovery is Quick: The idea that ecosystems quickly and easily revert to their original state after a disruption.

  5. Size Matters More: Believing that only large disruptions can have a lasting impact on ecosystems, overlooking the potential cumulative effects of small disruptions over time.

  6. Man-Made vs. Natural Disruptions: Assuming that natural disruptions (like wildfires or volcanic eruptions) are always ‘good’ or ‘normal’ for an ecosystem, while human-caused disruptions are always ‘bad’.

  7. All Disruptions are Harmful: The misconception that any change or disruption is inherently detrimental, not considering that some disruptions can lead to increased biodiversity or open up niches for new species.

  8. Uniform Effects: The belief that a specific disruption will have the same effect across different ecosystems.

  9. Simple Food Webs: Underestimating the complexity of food webs and thinking that removing one species might not have cascading effects on others.

  10. Human Exclusion: Believing that humans are external to ecosystems and not considering them as a component that can be affected by or cause disruptions.

  11. Decomposers Are Secondary: Undervaluing the role of decomposers and thinking that they are less affected by or effectual in disruptions.

  12. Ecosystem Boundaries: Thinking of ecosystems as isolated entities without considering the migration of species or the flow of resources between neighboring ecosystems.


Use the arrows located at the bottom of the presentation to navigate through all the bell ringer questions.

  1. Biodiversity is Only About the Number of Species: Some believe that biodiversity only concerns the sheer number of species in an ecosystem, while in reality, it also considers the genetic diversity within species and the variety of ecosystems.

  2. All Ecosystems Have Similar Levels of Biodiversity: This is not true. Some areas, like rainforests or coral reefs, have extremely high biodiversity, while others, like deserts, might have less.

  3. High Biodiversity Always Means Good Health: Some ecosystems naturally have lower biodiversity but are still in good health.

  4. Humans are Separate from Biodiversity: In reality, humans are an integral part of biodiversity and play significant roles in its increase or decline.

  5. Loss of Biodiversity Doesn’t Affect Humans Directly: Contrary to this belief, as biodiversity declines, humans can lose vital resources and services ecosystems provide, like clean water or medicines.

  6. Water Purification is Solely a Technological Process: Many might not realize that wetlands and forests play crucial roles in purifying water naturally.

  7. All Changes in Biodiversity are Natural: While ecosystems naturally evolve, many changes in modern times result from human activities like deforestation, pollution, or overfishing.

  8. Only Large Animals Matter for Biodiversity: Every species, no matter how small, plays a role in the ecosystem’s health.

  9. We Can Always “Fix” Biodiversity Loss Later: Some might think we can easily reintroduce species or restore habitats later, but once some species go extinct or habitats are severely damaged, it can be impossible or extremely hard to revert.

  10. There’s One Solution to Protecting Biodiversity: In reality, biodiversity protection requires a multi-faceted approach, considering both conservation and sustainable use. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer.

  11. Only Scientists Can Determine Ecosystem Health: While scientists play a crucial role, indigenous peoples and local communities also have invaluable knowledge about ecosystem health.

  12. Biodiversity is Just About Protecting Animals and Plants: It’s also about preserving the genetic differences within each species, which can be crucial for adaptation to future environmental changes.

  13. If a Solution Works in One Area, It’ll Work Everywhere: Ecosystem management solutions might need to be localized due to differences in cultural, social, and environmental factors.