Ecosystems

This overview outlines a series of sessions and activity options to support your planning to deliver the Key Stage 4 biology programme of study Ecosystems alongside other curriculum areas. 

Learners will develop a deeper understanding of the importance of biodiversity to the planet and the people that live on it, critically exploring the relationship between human activity, the diversity of life, and the dynamic balance of biotic and abiotic factors within ecosystems. 

Royal Meteorological Society climate change content quality mark

 

Unit of learning
KS4

Sessions

Prior Knowledge

What do we already know about ecosystems?  
Support learners to review their understanding of the interdependence of organisms, and their awareness of how ecosystems respond to perturbation. An equitable approach to learning can be established by promoting opportunities for learners to share their experiences and interests about local and global ecosystems.

Explore

Why does biodiversity loss matter?
Through understanding the levels of organisation in an ecosystem, learners can be supported to appreciate the importance of how high biodiversity in a particular area increases the likelihood of ecosystem stability in the face of environmental changes. A range of activities allow learners to explore human impact on ecosystems and the species within them.  

Enquire

How can we measure biodiversity?  
Provide learners with the opportunity to understand how biodiversity can be measured (the distribution and abundance of organisms) through carrying out fieldwork on an ecosystem.  

Making change

How can we protect and enhance biodiversity?
Activities can support learners to critically explore examples of action being taken to preserve specific species and ecosystems, such as breeding programmes, regeneration of habitats and reduction of deforestation.

Communication

How can we work with others to ensure actions to improve local biodiversity cater for different needs?
Support learners to research and raise awareness about local biodiversity issues, ensuring that action is based on scientific evidence as well as community needs.  

Supporting Information

Through investigating the complexity of ecosystems and the decline of species both in the UK and across the world, students can be supported to develop critical thinking skills to consider the impact of human activities on biodiversity and strategies that can support environmental responsibility. 

Curriculum Links

Biology

Ecosystems

  • Levels of organisation within an ecosystem
  • Some abiotic and biotic factors which affect communities; the importance of interactions between organisms in a community
  • Organisms are interdependent and are adapted to their environment
  • The importance of biodiversity
  • Methods of identifying species and measuring distribution, frequency and abundance of species within a habitat
  • Positive and negative human interactions within ecosystems 

Working scientifically

While teaching the outcomes outlined above, the following working scientifically skill objectives can also be delivered

  • Making and recording observations and measurements using a range of apparatus and methods
  • Interpreting observations and other data, including identifying patterns and trends, making inferences and drawing conclusions

Geography

Global ecosystems and biodiversity

  • The interdependence of ecosystems on climate, soil, water, plants, animals and humans

Resources and their management

  • How humans use, modify and change ecosystems and environments, past and present impacts of human intervention

Fieldwork

  • The collection of primary physical and human data, and secondary sources

Citizenship

  • The different ways in which a citizen can contribute to the improvement of their community, to include the opportunity to participate actively in community volunteering, as well as other forms of responsible activity.

Common misconceptions

Ecosystems are just a collection of organisms
Learners should be supported to know that ecosystems are a community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.  

Plants and animals only depend on humans
Learners should be supported to understand the interdependence between humans and living things.

Some species are more important than others
Learners should be supported to understand that the balance within an ecosystem is determined by the complex interactions between the species within it. For example, the loss of one species can have a profound impact on feeding relationships through the ecosystem.  

Key Concepts  

Biodiversity – The variety of living organisms, such as animals and plants, in an ecosystem. Ecosystems are dependent on biodiversity to persist and to work properly, and we are dependent on ecosystems to function.
Fragile environment – An environment that is easily disturbed and unable to adapt to environmental changes.  
Global warming – The long-term heating of Earth’s surface observed since the pre-industrial period due to human activities.  

Further Activities and Opportunities

The National Education Nature Park programme provides an opportunity for learners to apply their scientific understanding and skills to their school grounds, exploring opportunities for biodiversity monitoring and interventions for which they can use scientific skills to measure numbers and distributions of local wildlife, at appropriate times of year.  

Learners can choose a mission to help protect the planet's ecosystems on the Natural History Museum's 'Do Your Bit For Nature' page. 

For further information and activities about biodiversity, UNESCO have produced a biodiversity toolkit which serves as a reference for understanding the often hard to grasp concept of biodiversity. 

Recommended books – BookTrust reviewed

The Curiositree: Natural World by Amanda Wood and Mike Jolley (ages 10–16). An extremely beautiful reference book that explores the way that habitats, plants and animals are connected, and the way that all elements of nature work in harmony.

Green Careers  

The resource pack developed by SAPS (Science and Plants for Schools) includes a slideshow sharing a range of STEM career opportunities ranging from toxicology to environmental conservation.