Biology - Environmental Change (AQA Syllabus A)

As a part of GCSE Science, students will look interdependence and adaptation. This is the last of three quizzes on the subject and it looks in particular at the effect environmental change has on the organisms that live in a particular habitat. This covers the effect of human activities, such as farming and pollution, but also natural changes and simple changes which can be observed, such as changing the habitat of woodlice.

Changes in the environment affect the distribution of living organisms in a habitat. Such changes may be caused by living or non-living factors such as the arrival of a new competitor, or changes in the average temperature or rainfall. These changes have an effect on the organisms found in that habitat. Populations of the organisms that are better adapted to the environmental change will increase whilst poorly adapted ones will decrease. Organisms that are highly specialised can disappear entirely as a result of environmental changes.

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It is for that reason that certain species can be used as 'indicator species' for pollution in air or water. Some forms of pollution, especially in water, are obvious, however, others, such as dissolved salts or low oxygen levels, are not so easy to see. To monitor those all the time would be costly and involve lots of time consuming analytical tests. Indicator species provide an easy to see and quick method of qualitatively checking air and water pollution.

Algae and lichens are sensitive to any air pollution, particularly sulfur dioxide. Observing these can tell environmental scientists whether or not the air is polluted. In water, the larvae of certain species are very sensitive to pollution. If they disappear from a stream or river, environmental scientists need to find out why and where the pollution is coming from. The opposite is true too, if they are found in places where they were not originally seen, then the water has become cleaner.

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  1. What is the most common source of air pollution?
    Air pollution will continue to increase as long as humans are dependent on fossil fuels for energy
  2. How has the number of farmland birds in Europe been affected as farming has become more intensive?
    There are many reasons for this such as ploughing when ground breeding birds are nesting, removing hedges and trees to make larger fields and increased use of pesticides which kills off the insects that the birds eat
  3. Woodlice are nocturnal crustaceans who absorb water through their skin. They live in dark, damp places including under rocks. If you remove a rock under which woodlice are living what will happen to the woodlice?
    The reaction of woodlice to changes in their environment can be investigated by using apparatus called a choice chamber
  4. Some pupils investigated the streams near their school. In one of the streams, the water looked very clear and the only creatures they found were rat tailed maggots and sludgeworms. What does that tell them?
    Appearances can be deceptive. Even though the water in the stream looked nice and clean, it wasn't. Rat tailed maggots and sludgeworms are indicator species of very polluted water
  5. Which one of the following is an advantage of using a data logger and temperature probe instead of an ordinary thermometer?
    You can take continuous readings over long periods of time without needing to be there. As for the other reasons above - there are very accurate conventional thermometers, data logging equipment usually costs more than the equivalent standard thermometer and you need to learn how to use the data logger. Being electrically powered is a disadvantage - you need to make sure it is fully charged so that your data is not lost
  6. Where would you be most likely to find bushy lichens?
    Bushy lichens can only thrive in areas of very low pollution
  7. Which of the following is an abiotic change in the environment?
    Other abiotic changes are temperature and rainfall
  8. The larva of the mayfly can only survive in very clean water. Because of this, how can we use the mayfly?
    Even a small amount of pollution will kill off the mayfly larva
  9. The dodo is an extinct flightless bird that lived on the island of Mauritius. Which of the following could explain why it became extinct when humans settled on the island?
    The dodo had no fear of humans and was very easy to catch and kill for food. It nested on the ground an laid only one egg so when dogs and other domestic animals found and ate the egg, fewer dodos were born. Building and farming destroyed the habitat of the dodo and it took less than 70 years for human activity to make the dodo extinct as it lived only on Mauritius
  10. Humans have been cutting down trees for thousands of years. Which of the following is not an environmental change caused by deforestation?
    Acid rain is mainly caused by sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in the air. These come from burning fossil fuels

Author: Kev Woodward

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