The three main structural components of an ecosystem constitute the producers, consumers and the decomposers. These are the biotic components of an ecosystem while the abiotic components include minerals, light, air and soil. The biotic components interact with the abiotic components along with the other living organisms sharing a complex relationship within the environment. The producers are mainly the plants that generated their own energy and all the other components are dependent on the producers. The consumers are the herbivores, carnivores and the omnivores to whom the energy gets transferred from the producers both directly and indirectly (by consumption of other consumers). This is further followed by the decomposers feeding on the decaying matter (both plants and animals). One of the prominent decomposers are a class of bacteria known as saprophytes that recycle the nutrients which the producers can reuse. Hence, the energy flow occurs in a cyclic form starting from the producers and the energy is received back from the decomposers.
Some of the major factors that disrupt the natural ecosystem or energy flow within the ecosystem include global warming, environmental pollution, habitat loss, etc. (Kusler, 2004) These factors cause an ecological balance that might affect the coexistence or interaction between the biotic factors and abiotic factors. As for instance, deforestation is leading to habitat loss or extinction as the food content in the environment that consumers are dependent on are reduced. When the population of producers are reduced in the environment, Darwin’s rule of survival of the fittest comes into existence wherein a part of the population may starve to death (leading to extinction) while the others cope with the shortage of food in the environment. Another example is the environmental pollution of soil, air and water. The spilling of oil is the pollution of water in an ocean and may lead to the positioning of many fishes. This gives a potential threat of a habitat loss. (Hubbart, 2017)
It is vital to assess the health of the ecosystem to measure the impact of human activities on the natural environment that often alters and disrupts the ecological balance. This paper focuses on the understanding of the aquatic ecosystem in terms of ecological health assessment. The Merry Creek is a waterway in Australia and joins the Yarra River at Dights Falls. With the involvement of human activities, there have been changes to these natural waterways as some of the swamp areas have been converted to channels and drains. The main catchment area has been converted an urban area. With urbanization, the ecological imbalance in the aquatic ecosystem has indeed led to destruction of the natural habitat. The area happens to be one of the lands of the indigenous people of Australia. Although with the European settlers, the area became a focus for industrial activities, the Riparian ecology (as it is called) is destroyed.
The environmental health assessment for this waterway containing pools, rifles and runs is carried out using several methods. Some of the procedures to measure the condition of Merry Creek would include (Roberg, 2017)
The increased industrialization has led to accumulation of heavy metals and other toxic substances in the water systems as well as the surrounding area leading to reduction in water quality. The population of microivertebrates have decreased drastically and by 1990, the fauna has declined highly. Crude oil deposition in the waterways has led to further decline of microivertebrate population and water quality. The use of fertilizers and overflow of raw sewage into Merri has led to high contamination of water. With the restoration programs, there has been an increase in the population of microivertebrates in the water. The
Hence, it can be concluded that the ecological balance in Merry Creek is mainly because of the human activities that have prevailed around the area. From industrialization to urbanization, the quality of the ecosystem has declined over the years. The government has initiated the greatest restoration project to improve the ecosystem of Merry Creek. This includes increase in the microivertebrate population, enhanced water quality, management of sewage water, etc through several specific projects for both grassland and wet sites. Weed control measurements have also been carried out as part of the restoration process. The Merry Creek Management Committee has started the Waterwatch program to create awareness and the river water level data is being measured to check for the flowing capacity of the water bodies. Thus, the ecological imbalance can cause a vital impact on the environment that indeed disrupts the entire cyclic energy flow within an ecosystem. (Brierley, 2019)
Bush, J., Miles, B. & Bainbridge, B., 2003. Merri Creek: Managing an urban waterway for people and nature. Ecological Management and Restoration, 4(3), pp.170–179.
Roberg, K., Flora and Fauna Report 2017-18. Available at: https://www.mcmc.org.au/parkland-management/parkland-management-news/763-annual-flora-and-fauna-report-17-18 [Accessed October 10, 2020].
Kusler, J, 2004. Multiobjective Wetland Restoration in Watershed contexts.Associations of State Wetland Management Inc.
Brierley, G.J., 2019. A Strategy to Express the Voice of the River. Finding the Voice of the River, pp.111–150.
Hubbart, J. et al., 2017. Challenges in Aquatic Physical Habitat Assessment: Improving Conservation and Restoration Decisions for Contemporary Watersheds. Challenges, 8(2), p.31.
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