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|Life Science & Study Event|
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|Division B Champion||Solon Middle School|
|Division C Champion||Fayetteville-Manlius High School|
Green Generation is a new event in 2015 that is running for both divisions B and C. In 2015, its views are focused on aquatic issues, air quality issues and climate change. In 2016, it will focus on terrestrial issues and population growth issues.
According to the most recent rules released by the national committee, in Green Generation, "students will demonstrate an understanding of general ecological principles, the history and consequences of human impact on our environment, solutions to reversing trends and sustainability concepts ." It contains elements of Ecology, Water Quality, and Wind Power, as well as other topics.
Teams are only allowed one two-sided note sheet, a writing implement, and a non-graphing calculator.
General Principles of Ecology
Please see the main Ecology page for more information.
Ecology is the study of how organisms interact with one another and with their environment. Environment can be split into two components; the living portion, termed the biotic component (e.g., organisms), and the nonliving portion, termed the abiotic component (e.g., air, soil, water, etc.).
There are many visible human impacts on the environment. However, not all of them are easy to see, and there are many different ways that humans can negatively affect the world around them.
About 40% of all humans live within 100 km of a coastline, so humans have a large impact on aquatic environments.
A "dead zone" occurs when the aquatic environment is very low on dissolved oxygen. Many aquatic organisms depend on oxygen to survive, so with low concentrations of oxygen, organisms will die out or leave for other areas with higher oxygen levels. This creates a dead zone with very little aquatic life.
The state of having low oxygen levels is also known as hypoxia. The state of almost no dissolved oxygen is known as anoxia.
The release of greenhouse gases into the air affects the quality of the air we breathe, since certain particulates can cause discomfort or even diseases.
Also see Ecology#Acid Rain.
Acid rain is the effect that occurs when greenhouse gases, primarily sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides, are dissolved into water droplets in the air. This leads to a high concentration of hydrogen ions in the rain, which in turn results in an acidic solution (ph below 7).
Climate Change is defined as the change in weather patterns over an extended period of time. Factors that can determine and affect climate are called forcing mechanisms. Forcing mechanisms can be further classified as either internal or external. In Green Generation, the greatest emphasis is on external forcing mechanisms, primarily human influences.
People are organisms, and like any organism, they need resources to live. However, humans are unique in that we have built a large, organized civilization with advanced infrastructure, which takes up significantly more resources than other beings whose main concerns are survival and procreation. As the human population continues skyrocketing past 7 billion, there are several ways this can affect the environment
- Rise in Carbon Emissions - the current human population is based around non-renewable energy sources that release greenhouse gases when burned. Until humans make a commitment to renewable energy sources, the release of gases will only increase with more population. In addition, the greater the population, the faster these resources will run out
- Destruction of Habitat - As humans continue building, they have to develop undeveloped areas, which destroys the habitats of that area. Deforestation is a common issue (more on deforestation below), and ocean habitats are also affected due to the large concentration of people living along coastlines.
- Pesticides and Fertilizers - People need food to live, so farmers are key to sustaining the human population. Unfortunately, most farmers use pesticides that can seep into the soil, polluting it, and can run off into nearby waterways, which pollutes the water for ecosystems downstream.
Due to the wide variety of environments people live in, there are several different impacts humans have had on terrestrial environments.
Deforestation is the destruction of forest environments for wood or human development. Deforestation results in a loss of habitat for many species, therefore hurting biodiversity. The loss of photosynthesis results in less buffering of carbon dioxide levels. A method of clearing forests for agriculture called slash-and-burn involves the burning of vegetation and releases a massive amount of carbon into the atmosphere. Deforestation can drive desertification, as described in more detail below.
Desertification is a type of deterioration of land in which a relatively dry region becomes more and more arid. The primary cause of desertification is the removal of vegetation, which may occur as a result of several factors, such as drought and human activities. The removal of vegetation makes soil more susceptible to erosion. After the topsoil is eroded, infertile soil layers are left to harden into caliche, which hinder further plant growth. The removal of vegetation also results in less evapotranspiration, and therefore even drier conditions.
Many different countermeasures are used to prevent and combat desertification, such as reforestation. Reforestation of certain plants can help enrich the soil and restore its fertility. Reforestation also occurs in the form of windbreaks and woodlots. Windbreaks are rows of trees planted in a way as to provide shelter from the wind, and can help reduce soil erosion and evapotranspiration. Woodlots are like forests, but are generally distinguished by being too small for full-scale commercial harvesting.
Solutions and Sustainability
Bioremediation is the use of biological organisms to clean up an environment. Generally the term refers to the use of microbes to decontaminate a polluted area, but the term can apply to plants and fungi as well.
Please see Physical Science Lab#Renewable Energy for more information.