Green Generation

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Green Generation
Life Science & Study Event
Forum Threads 2015 2014 2013
Tests 2015 2014
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Question Marathons 2015
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.


Event Overview

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 and a writing implement. Additionally, each competitor may bring 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.).

Ecologists organize the biosphere into several levels. A population is a group of individuals of the same species occupying a common geographic area. A community is formed when two or more populations reside in the same geographic location. An ecosystem is comprised of a community and its surrounding abiotic factors. A biome is a collection of ecosystems with similar climates and communities.

Energy Flow

Food webs describe the flow of energy within an ecosystem by linking together several food chains. Each food chain begins with an organism that uses energy from light or chemical reactions to produce organic compounds from inorganic compounds through photosynthesis or chemosynthesis, called an autotroph (also referred to as a producer). Any organism that can't produce its own organic compounds and must consume other organisms to obtain them is called a heterotroph (also referred to as a consumer). Heterotrophs can be further organized based on what they consume:

  • Herbivore-a heterotroph that only consumes plants
  • Carnivore-a heterotroph that only consumes animals
  • Omnivore-a heterotroph that consumes both plants and animals
  • Detritivore-a heterotroph that consumes detritus (dead and decaying organic matter)
  • Decomposer-a heterotroph that breaks down dead and decaying organic matter using biochemical reactions

Note that as opposed to detritivores, decomposers break down dead and decaying organic matter using biochemical reactions without ingesting it.

Each "step" in a food chain is called a trophic level. For example, autotrophs comprise the first trophic level of a certain food chain, the heterotrophs that consume those autotrophs make up the second trophic level, and so on. Within each food chain, only about 10% of the amount of energy that is initially available to one trophic level is available to the organisms in the next trophic level.

Biogeochemical Cycles

A biogeochemical cycle is a description of the pathways a chemical substance takes to recycle itself. Some of the most important biogeochemical cycles are depicted in the table below.

Cycle Description Picture
Hydrologic Cycle The cyclic movement of water between Earth's hydrosphere, atmosphere, cryosphere, biosphere, and lithosphere. Click on the diagram to the right for a better view of it. Usgs water cycle.jpg
Carbon Cycle The cyclic movement of carbon in different chemical forms from the environment to organisms then back to the environment. Ccycle.jpg
Nitrogen Cycle The cyclic movement of nitrogen in different chemical forms from the environment to organisms and then back to the environment. Ncycle.jpg
Phosphorus Cycle The cycle that involves the uptake of phosphorus by organisms. Phosphorus in the environment is mainly found in rocks, but natural weathering processes can make it available to biological systems. Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plants and animals in the form of the ions PO43- and HPO42- . (phosphate ion, hydrogen phosphate ion, respectively) It is a constituent of DNA-molecules and RNA-molecules, which store energy,(in the form of ATP and ADP) and of fats of cell membranes. (lipids) Pcycle.jpg

Community Interactions

Table of community interactions

Within a community, species will interact in multiple different ways. The term symbiosis is usually defined as the interaction between two or more species. There are many different types of symbiosis which are defined by whether or not the interaction is beneficial, detrimental, or without effect to the species in the interaction, and they are described below;

  • Commensalism-an interaction which is beneficial to one species, but has no effect on the other species
  • Amensalism-an interaction that is detrimental to one species, but has no effect on the other species
  • Antagonism-an interaction that is beneficial to one to one species, but detrimental to the other species
    • Predation-a form of antagonism in which a predator feeds on its prey, and the prey is killed in the process
    • Parasitism-a form of antagonism in which a parasite feeds on its host, but the host is not usually killed
  • Mutualism-an interaction that is beneficial to both species
  • Competition-an interaction that is detrimental to both species (described in more detail below)

In addition, two species that don't have an effect on each other are referred to as neutral.


As described above, competition is an interaction that is detrimental to both species. Competition can be described as intraspecific (among individuals of the same species) or interspecific (between different species).

Competition occurs when two or more species occupy the same niche. A niche is the conditions in which an organism lives and the way the organism uses those conditions (such as how they utilize a resource), and is sometimes described as the functional role of an organism in a community. According to the competitive exclusion principle, no two species that occupy the same niche can coexist indefinitely; eventually one species will always reign dominant and lead to the eventual extinction of the other. This can be avoided by the organisms undergoing a shift towards different niches.

Human Impacts

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.

Aquatic Environment

About 40% of all humans live within 100 km of a coastline, so humans have a large impact on aquatic environments.

Aquatic Pollutants

Dead Zones

A "dead zone" occurs when the aquatic environment is very low on dissolved oxygen. This sometimes happens because of what is called an Algal Bloom. This happens when eutrophication of a body of water (excess of nutrients) grows algae into huge numbers, blocking out the sun, which leads to little or no photosynthesis, which causes a LOT less oxygen in the water. 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.

Air Quality

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.

Atmospheric Pollutants

Acid Rain

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 of usually 5 or 6).

Climate Change

Please see Ecology#Global Warming and Meteorology/Climate#Greenhouse Gases for more information.

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.

2016 Topics

Population Growth and Terrestrial Issues (Not part of 2015 event)

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.

Renewable Energy

Please see Physical Science Lab#Renewable Energy for more information.

Renewable energy comes from resources that can be renewed relatively quickly, such as wind or vegetation. The use of renewable energy can prevent ecological damage if a resource is only utilized under a sustainable yield.

Resources can be divided into three classifications based on how promptly they are renewed:

  • Perpetual-resource is continuously and instantaneously renewed on a human timescale (e.g., solar energy, wind, etc.)
  • Renewable-although not instantaneously, resource is renewed on a human timescale (e.g., vegetation, etc.)
  • Nonrenewable-resource is in a fixed supply on a human timescale; take a very long time to be renewed (e.g., coal, oil, etc.)

Everyday Solutions

See Also

Water Quality
Wind Power
Ecology section of Remote Sensing

External Links

EPA Website - Fantastic resource covering a wide array of topics
National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) from the EPA
Most recent National trial event rules (1/7/14) - Outdated by the 2015 Official Rules

2013 National Tournament Trial Events

Division B: Green Generation · Invasive Species | Division C: Geologic Mapping · Green Generation