As you learned in Chapter 1, ecosystems are a
complex and delicate balancing game. The addition or removal of any species
affects many other species that might compete for or provide food. These interspecific interactions are further
influenced by human impacts on the environment such as habitat fragmentation. Chapter 4 noted how disturbances associated
with deforestation and urban sprawl alter environmental conditions in ways that
can both shift competitive outcomes in ecosystems and threaten human well-being.
In this lab you will apply the scientific method to
examine how thresholds of land use changes such as deforestation and urban
sprawl can impact communities, predator/prey relationships, species diversity,
and quality of life in human communities.
The imaginary forest town of Pinchot,
facing a land use planning battle. Conservationists and the local outdoor
recreation industry want to protect at least 75% of Pinchot’s surrounding
forest reserve to maintain the town’s natural heritage, including its unique
biodiversity and valuable ecosystem services. Developers, however, want to
expand the town’s neighborhoods and shopping malls and insist that protecting
25% of the reserve is all that is needed to sustain the forest’s biodiversity
and economic value.
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