Short essay on Effect of Man's Activities on the Ecosystem

Man or for that matter, any other living organism must interact properly with the rest of the ecosystem because he is an integral part of that ecosystem. Some of the man's activities like hunting of various animals disrupt the food chains in which these animals normally take part.

This disruption of one food chain affects the numerous other food chains operating in the food web. The shortening of food chains due to man's activities like hunting leads to an imbalance in the functioning of an ecosystem and ultimately in the functioning of the whole biosphere. The effect of man's activities on the functioning of an ecosystem will become clear from the following examples.

The formation of Sahara Desert is an example of the ill effect of man's activities on the delicately balanced ecosystem. When the Romans started capturing lions, the population of lions in the forest was reduced to a large extent.

Lion is a predator which kills the herbivorous animals like deer, sheep, goat, buffalo, etc. Now, since the population of predator lion decreased, there was no one to kill the herbivorous animals. Due to this the population of herbivorous animals increased rapidly.

The large population of these herbivorous animals ate up all the vegetation (plant materials) in that region, turning the lush-green forests into vast desert called Sahara Desert. Our own Rajasthan Desert was formed as a result of overgrazing of vegetation by progressively increasing tribes of herbivorous animals which occurred due to the reduction in the predator population of lions because of excessive hunting and capturing.

Let us take the example of Grass-->Deer-->Lion food chain to study the effect of man's activities

on the ecosystem. A natural ecosystem is a delicately balanced system. If the man does not disturb this ecosystem, then the organisms like grass, deer and lion in a forest keep a natural balance which benefits them all and gives us a healthy environment. We will now discuss the effect of removing all the three organisms from this food chain, one at a time.

(i) If All the Lions are removed:

If all the lions in a forest are removed by killing or capturing, then there will be no predator control over the population of deer. Due to this the population of deer will increase greatly. Deer eat grass. So, an increase in deer population will lead to excessive grazing of grass. The density of producers like grass will be very much reduced. Overgrazing may even eliminate the grass and other green plants completely and turn the lush-green forest into a desert area having no vegetation at all.

(ii) If All the Deer are removed:

Deer is a food (or prey) for lion. Now, if somehow, all the deer population from a forest is removed, then there will not be sufficient food for the lions. Some of the lions will die because of starvation and hence the population of lions will decrease. The decrease in population of lions will disturb other food chains in which lions operate. The hungry lions of the forest can come out of the forest in search of food and may even kill domestic animals or human beings for obtaining food. If the lion and deer are operating in other food chains of the food web, the removal of deer population and the subsequent reduction in lion population will disturb the balance of ecosystem.

(iii) If All the Producers are removed:

If all the producers like grass and other plants are removed, then no deer or lion (or any other organism) will be able to exist. This is because the food and energy necessary for sustaining life is derived from the producer organisms like grass, plants and their products.

From the above examples we conclude that if we kill all the organisms in one trophic level, it will cause too much damage to the environment. So, we cannot remove all the organisms of a trophic level without causing any damage to the ecosystem. The impact of removing all the organisms of a trophic level will be different for different trophic levels (as explained in the above given examples). We will now answer some questions based on trophic levels.

Sample Problem 1:

Which of the following belong to the same trophic level?

Grass; Hawk; Rabbit; Frog; Deer

Solution:

Here, grass is a producer, hawk is a top carnivore, rabbit is a herbivore, frog is a carnivore and deer is a herbivore. Since rabbit and deer are both herbivores, so they belong to the same trophic level (2nd trophic level).

Sample Problem 2:

Which of the following belong to the same trophic level?

Frog; Grasshopper; Grass; Snake; Algae

Solution:

Here, frog is a carnivore, grasshopper is a herbivore, grass is a producer, snake is a top carnivore, and algae is producer. Since grass and algae are both producers, so they belong to the same trophic level (1st trophic level).