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Grades 9-12

 Life science (Content standard C) How do we know that?

The interdependence of organisms

  • The atoms and molecules on the earth cycle among the living and nonliving components of the biosphere.

  • Energy flows through ecosystems in one direction, from photosynthetic organisms to herbivores to carnivores and decomposers.
    See “Productivity

  • Organisms both cooperate and compete in ecosystems. The interrelationships and interdependencies of these organisms may generate ecosystems that are stable for hundreds or thousands of years.
    See “Resilience”, “Little fish”, “What is a coral?”, “The sea is green

  • Living organisms have the capacity to produce populations of infinite size, but environments and resources are finite. This fundamental tension has profound effects on the interactions between organisms.
    See “Productivity

  • Human beings live within the world's ecosystems. Increasingly, humans modify ecosystems as a result of population growth, technology, and consumption. Human destruction of habitats through direct harvesting, pollution, atmospheric changes, and other factors is threatening current global stability, and if not addressed, ecosystems will be irreversibly affected.
    See “Elements of Sustainability”, “Disturbance”, “Sustainability on coral reefs”, “Reefs & resorts”, “City vs. village fishing”.
 Science in personal and social perspectives (Content standard F) How do we know that?

Natural resources

  • Human populations use resources in the environment in order to maintain and improve their existence. Natural resources have been and will continue to be used to maintain human populations.

  • The earth does not have infinite resources; increasing human consumption places severe stress on the natural processes that renew some resources, and it depletes those resources, and it depletes those resources that cannot be renewed.
    See “Elements of sustainability
  • Humans use many natural systems as resources. Natural systems have the capacity to reuse waste, but that capacity is limited. Natural systems can change to an extent that exceeds the limits of organisms to adapt naturally or humans to adapt technologically.
    See “Elements of sustainability”, “The sea is green

Environmental quality

Natural and human-induced hazards

  • Normal adjustments of earth may be hazardous for humans. Humans live at the interface between the atmosphere driven by solar energy and the upper mantle where convection creates changes in the earth’s solid crust. As societies have grown, become stable, and come to value aspects of the environment, vulnerability to natural processes of change has increased.
    See “How reefs protect the land
  • Human activities can enhance potential for hazards. Acquisition of resources, urban growth, and waste disposal can accelerate rates of natural change.
    See “Sustainability on coral reefs
  • Some hazards, such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and severe weather, are rapid and spectacular. But there are slow and progressive changes that also result in problems for individuals and societies. For example, change in stream channel position, erosion of bridge foundations, sedimentation in lakes and harbors, coastal erosions, and continuing erosion and wasting of soil and landscapes can all negatively affect society.
    See “Sustainability on coral reefs”, “How reefs protect the land”, “Why protect your own reef?
  • Natural and human-induced hazards present the need for humans to assess potential danger and risk. Many changes in the environment designed by humans bring benefits to society, as well as cause risks. Students should understand the costs and trade-offs of various hazards – ranging from those with minor risk to a few people to major catastrophes with major risk to many people. The scale of events and the accuracy with which scientists and engineers can (and cannot) predict events are important considerations.
    See “Diversity”, “Sustainability on coral reefs”, “Coral bleaching”, "Swept away by global warming
 References How do we know that?

Council, N. R. (1996). National Science Education Standards. National Academy Press: Washington, DC.


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