Ecosystem Structuring Elements

Some communities of organisms are structured by physical elements - a sandy beach, or rock, for example. However, in most terrestrial environments and in many shallow aquatic environments, plants and algae are the structuring elements. They not only provide the food and water and atmospheric chemistry but also greatly increase surface for attachment and cover. In general, plants also provide a spatial heterogeneity (spatial surface) that does not exist in the physical world. Particularly in the marine environment, where calcification is enhanced, many animals join plants to provide a community structure that consists of reef or shell framework. This framework is calcium carbonate (or other organic solid such as chiton) instead of (or along with) plant cellulose. In constructing any living ecosystem, it is essential that these structuring elements be first developed as 'colonial' stages soon after the physical environment is formed.

Figure 3 Engineering/control pad in the Florida Everglades mesocosm. The green diagonal tube in the center is an Archimedes screw that lifts water from the coastal tank (far right) for distribution to the estuary (back right), the ATS (left-foreground), and the wave generator (out of view to lower right).

Figure 3 Engineering/control pad in the Florida Everglades mesocosm. The green diagonal tube in the center is an Archimedes screw that lifts water from the coastal tank (far right) for distribution to the estuary (back right), the ATS (left-foreground), and the wave generator (out of view to lower right).

zooplankton and swimming invertebrate larvae. Several approaches are available to solve this problem, including using slow-moving piston pumps, membrane pumps, and Archimedes screws (Figure 3). All of these devices can work well, though relative performance is not fully quantified.

In terrestrial environments, fans for wind and air handlers for heat and air conditioning, as well as the cooling or heating surfaces employed have the same effect on flying insects and birds. On the other hand, in the wild, ultraviolet light, wind, and rain have critical controlling effects on many plant predators. These factors cannot be omitted.

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