1.1. 1: Systems

December 15th, 2009

Why Environmental Systems?

SYSTEM: an assemblage of parts and their relationship forming a functioning entirety or whole.

During the 1970’s, British chemist James Lovelock and American biologist Lynn Margulis came up with the GAIA HYPOTHESIS: That the world acts like a single biological being made up of many individual and interconnected units ( A SYSTEM ).

Gaia was the Greek Earth goddess

Biogeochemical cycles
figure 1. A systematic view of the Earth’s biological and chemical components

The Components

The Earth’s systems comprise interactions between the living ( Biotic ) and non-living ( Abiotic ) constituent parts. As in any system these interactions involve INPUTS, PROCESSING of the inputs to create OUPUTS.

Even if we look at the starting point of all food chains on Earth, photosynthesis and conversion of light energy to stored chemical energy in the leaf, this to can be viewed as a system component within a bigger system.
photosynthesis

So Photosynthesis comprises inputs, a process and outputs

Component

But photosynthesis is also a component in a larger system. A food chain the initial light energy gets processed and converted into chemical energy (food) that is passed along the system.

Foodchain

Yet if you take each of the organisms in the diagram above and place them in individual plant pots or cages at a zoo and the system breaks down: the interactions between the components are what make the system not the components themselves

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