What I want for Christmas, The ecosphere

Since I was a young boy growing up, I was always fascinated with the mysteries of the world. How do televisions work, are there tiny men running around inside just to entertain me? How does adding a bunch of individual items blend together to make something as delicious as a chocolate cake? Or one of the major questions I still think about today, how does everything survive? It might seem like a relatively simple question to answer, but as you look closer into it, it becomes a complicated process.

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An ecosystem is described as the biotic and abiotic factors interacting with one another. However just like Newton’s 3rd law, for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction, therefore there must be a balance of these forces.

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If we were to look at a lake to see these interactions we would see that species of fish that eat organisms on a tropic level directly below them must be replenished over time, or else they too will be gone with no food resources. In a natural ecosystem, it is more difficult to clearly see where this balance lies as you cannot account for all the resources consumed for each trophic level.

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This is where, what I want for Christmas, comes in. The ecosphere is a small closed system aquarium with the only thing inside are native Hawaiian shrimp, the Halocaridina rubas or another similar species, and a plant species that the shrimps like to eat. There might be decorative stones or ornaments at the bottom, but because there is not a trophic level above the shrimp there is no need for them to hide from predation. The whole mechanism behind this is a shrimp that eats vegetation and breathes oxygen in the water, if the plant vegetation is not replenishing or if the plant is unable to keep up with the oxygen demand of the shrimp it will die. This also works the other way, if the plant is unable to receive carbon dioxide from the shrimp it will also die. This delicate balance is required.

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By provides a physical boundary for which everything inside is a constant and the only thing that is able to enter the sphere is replenishing radiant energy such as light and heat. Therefore, anything that is inside the ecosphere must be a balance and therefore must recycle all available nutrients in a cyclical fashion. At room temperature, and with only low inputs of light, the algae produce oxygen which supports the shrimp and bacteria. Bacteria break down the shrimps’ wastes. The breakdown products provide nutrients to the algae and bacteria upon which the shrimp feed. The manufacturer states that shrimp live in the ecosphere for an average of 2 to 3 years, and are known to live over 10 years.

So, if you are looking for a low-maintenance gift for a loved on this Christmas, you might want to consider the ecosphere.

By – Shesan Govindasamy

References

http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/teacher_resources/project_ideas/balanced_ecosystem/

http://eco-sphere.com/

Images from (in periodic order):

  1. http://www.mstworkbooks.co.za/natural-sciences/gr8/images/gr8ll02-gd-0009.png
  2. http://ecosystembiology.weebly.com/uploads/1/3/8/0/13806238/4567920.jpg?632
  3.  http://static.dudeiwantthat.com//img/household/desktop/Self-Sustaining-Ecosphere14-21.jpg
  4. http://ecosphere-asia.com/en/images/eco_how2.jpg

 

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