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Grassland Genomes Adaptation to Environmental Change Research Paper

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Updated: May 1st, 2020

Introduction

Overview

Different genomes present various stressors with respect to how species coexist in a habitat. In the current paper, the author discusses how organisms are able to adapt to constraints posed by changing environmental factors. Grasslands present an ideal platform for evaluation of adaptability among organisms in the context of climate change. A case study of the lesser prairie-chicken will be used for the purposes of discussions in this paper.

Human Adaptability as a Response to Constraints

The habitation of a given group of people is dependent on their environment. The environment, on its part, is not a static phenomenon. It will always change due to natural and man-made factors prevailing in a particular region. To this end, people find it necessary to adjust to their environment through adaptation.

It is the only way they can continue living at the same place in changing times. According to Adger, the ability to adjust to environmental changes is considered as a plastic response to the surroundings (131). The plasticity is affected by a number of issues. Such factors range from cultural and physiological aspects of human interactions to behavioral elements. They affect how well individuals adapt to changes in the environment.

The plasticity of the human species is a response to the constraints presented by the environment. For instance, Moran argues that environmental changes have a physiological effect on people (34). Based on the existing climatic aspects, communities develop corresponding phenotypic responses. Such reactions include, among others, acclimatization (Swift 460).

Adaptation Ability

Ecosystems present a number of problems to the inhabitants. In light of this, it is noted that floods and typhoons are some of the environmental aspects that influence adaptation (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs [Defra] 43).

In this regard, the interaction between humans and the environment calls for adjustments to accommodate the changes in the surroundings. Adaptation to the environment requires certain changes for it to be useful to the inhabitants. For instance, in areas prone to flooding, communities living there create dams to mitigate the negative effects of these natural disasters.

It is apparent that changes in the environment affect human activities (Barth 10). Agriculture is one of the main economic activities in human societies that are impacted by a number of environmental changes (Smit and Wandel 283). For example, drought and floods are some of the challenges that are known to affect agricultural activities (Swift 459). To this end, drought inhibits agriculture in cases where the practice is dependent on rain. On the other hand, aridity minimizes the growth of disease-causing pathogens like molds and fungi.

Consequently, adaptation is necessary to ensure that human activities are not interfered with by the ever-changing elements of the environment. It is one of the reasons why humans have been able to live in grasslands in spite of the environmental challenges associated with such ecosystems (Barth 5).

Limiting Factors

Habitation in grasslands and other ecosystems is inhibited by a number of factors, which trigger a human response. The study by Adger suggests that climate change affects the distribution of populations in a given geographic region (133). For instance, there are areas where extreme cold occurs due to climate changes, leading to reduced biological productivity. There are other instances, such as in grasslands, where water scarcity hinders human activities.

Response to the environmental extremities requires individuals to put in place certain measures to mitigate the resulting negative effects. In this regard, the mitigation is allowed in cases where the adversities pose a direct challenge to human settlement. The decision is arrived at when the danger poses difficulty with regards to the transaction of normal human activities.

Biomes and their Characteristics

The environment is characterized by a number of biomes. Moran cites arctic zones, high altitudes, arid lands, highlands, and humid tropics as some of the biomes in existence (67). In the case of the arctic zones, instances of low temperatures characterize the environment. The zones have seasonal cycles of sunshine. In this regard, there are days with extended daylight and others where nights are longer than days. As a result of the low temperatures, arctic zones have low biological productivity.

Areas considered to be of high altitude also make up another instance of genomes suggested in this paper. The elevated altitudes result in changes in atmospheric pressure. Defra points out that most of these geographical areas are characterized by hypoxia (106). Hypoxia is a phenomenon where the atmospheric pressure of oxygen drops drastically.

During the night, high altitude areas experience a decline in temperatures, which bring about a corresponding stress among the inhabitants. The low temperatures also affect biological productivity in the ecosystem. Defra suggests that high altitude areas are characterized by extremely low biological productivity (120). Finally, highlands record relatively high rates of neonate mortality.

Arid lands are areas where the average annual rainfall is low and sometimes uncertain. Adger suggests that such climatic zones are characterized by high temperatures (152). The aridity is brought about by low levels of rainfall (Swift 470).

Rainfall in such areas tends to be uncertain, resulting in an irregular climatic pattern. The high temperatures result in a correspondingly high rate of evaporation. Consequently, low biological productivity results due to the effects of temperature on the internal mechanisms of organisms in these ecosystems.

Grasslands are also part of the genomes that make up the global ecosystem. The areas that makeup grasslands are characterized by prolonged dry seasons and a cyclical drought (Swift 459). A number of issues associated with this genome are discussed in the subsequent chapter. However, it is important to mention at this juncture that the herd size and composition of this genome is largely dependent on the physical characteristics mentioned.

Key Excerpt

Biomes affect the physiological aspects of human beings. Adger points out that an individual’s development depends on their ability to cope with the stresses and pressures brought about by the attributes of a given biome (135). For instance, low productivity due to temperatures may result in irreversible changes in individual physiologies. The most affected aspect of human physiology is a developmental adjustment.

In the previous section, the ability of individuals to adapt to changes in the environment was discussed. The adaptation will be discussed in detail in this section. DeGaetano and Allen cite acclimatization as a response to the various environmental challenges facing organisms (3193). In this regard, development adjustment calls for an acclamatory form of physiological response.

The effects of the environment on development adjustment are rectified by an acclamatory form of physiological response. The acclamatory response is reversible. As a result, it allows people to adapt to a given habitat.

Discussion of the key excerpts calls for an understanding of adaptation with respect to adjustments in the environment. Regulatory adjustments are the main aspects through which people respond to the challenges brought about by environmental changes in their ecosystem (Moran 91). One of them is the behavioral adjustment. It is one of the most common avenues through which environmental changes are addressed by communities.

For instance, human activities in grasslands are adjusted according to the amount of rainfall received and the ability of the ecosystem to accommodate a specific size of the herd. The adjustments should be more flexible in comparison to the developmental and acclamatory shifts. It is the only way through which the inhabitants of a particular ecosystem can survive.

It is noted that the adjustments can be acquired through a learning process. For example, pastoralists living in arid areas and grasslands teach their children how to adapt to changes in rainfall (Swift 461).

Multi-Level Responses

The challenges presented by environmental changes require a comprehensive response. In this regard, Defra suggests that fluctuations in the environment require more than one response (93). Cold stress is one of the challenges that result from environmental fluctuations. The best response to this challenge is the testing of all available hypotheses.

The knowledge arrived at after evaluating hypotheses is used to address cold stresses. The process of constructing dams is considered as a response to such environmental challenges like floods. Consequently, populations are required to have a number of solutions to the ever occurring challenges brought about by a dynamic environment.

Adaptation and Adjustment

Habitation is supported by the need for populations to adapt and adjust to the challenges in an environment. An ecological element to a habitat calls for scrutiny on the elements of adaptation. According to Moran, adaptation is an integral aspect of all the organisms in a habitat (77). Human and nonhuman organisms are all forced to adapt to changing environmental properties. The adaptations result from physical and chemical factors.

Adaptation is about how best an organism responds to changes in the habitat. According to Adger, the adaptation of organisms calls for an analysis of how species interact with each other (141). The same extends to intra-species interactions. Common causes of adaptation are common in evolutionary changes (Adger 131). Natural selection, in nature, occurs due to the need for adaptation among different species. Consequently, the evolutionary adjustment has been an ongoing progression.

The process of adjusting to environmental changes brings about issues of adaptation in which mal-adaptation is common. Moran cites dental defects as a common element of mal-adaptation (172). Dental defects are brought about physiological stress. The stress is brought about by the populations in an environment.

Regulatory responses occur rapidly and reflect an organism’s physiological and behavioral flexibility. In this regard, cultural strategies of clothing and shelter bring about survival and comfort. On the other hand, acclamatory responses take longer since they call for a change in the structure of an organism.

Responses to the changes in an organization are triggered when the external stimulus is present for a sufficient amount of time. In this regard, acclamatory responses are essential, given their reversibility. A typical example, in this regard, can be seen in the cases where muscles enlarge due to rapid exercise (Moran 133).

As already mentioned, developmental responses are not reversible and occur during an individual’s growth and development — environmental conditions prevalent during the developmental period of an individual call for a corresponding response. In high altitude areas, lung development is hindered due to the low oxygen pressures.

Ecosystem Concept

An understanding of the grassland’s ecosystem calls for the integration of spatial analysis. According to DeGaetano and Allen, spatial analysis involves an evaluation of the entire volume occupied by a habitat (3198). To this end, the changes that occur in the expanse of an ecosystem are analyzed with respect to its structure and function (Defra 71). The structure of an ecosystem is evaluated on the basis of how best it can support the populations inhabiting the area.

The concept of an ecosystem relates to certain elements of human adaptability. Smit and Wandel use their study to point out that ecological success is brought about by human adaptability (283). In this regard, human adaptability is measured through a number of factors, which include demography, nutrition, and energy.

The adaptability seeks to evaluate how best an ecosystem can create a balance between the rates of birth and mortality. In certain cases, the success of an ecosystem is evaluated based on its ability to sustain life. Consequently, the rate of reproduction and life expectancy becomes essential in spatial evaluation. Relative energetic efficiency indicates the adequacy of technology.

Modeling

Researchers come up with simulations that enhance an understanding of the complex nature associated with ecosystems. Moran argues that the concept of modeling allows environmentalists to interrogate ecosystems, which makes their comprehension easier (98). Environmentalists come up with models of an ecosystem, to understand and eventually predict information that would otherwise remain unknown.

Ecosystems can be divided into two main groups. According to Defra, there are both closed and open ecosystems (173). The closed system is bounded for heuristic reasons and is treated as if it were unaffected by forces outside the system. On the other hand, an open system requires constant external inputs to sustain its operation.

The study by Smit and Wandel makes reference to cybernetic ecosystems with respect to adaptability (287). Cybernetic systems work on the principle of information feedback to maintain and control the process of adapting to changes in an ecosystem.

Modeling has a number of advantages with respect to environmental studies. Most research undertakings are coupled with gaps in the literature. However, Moran suggests that modeling helps to fill existing gaps in the literature with respect to habitation, ecosystems, and adaptation (123).

Models of ecosystems identify existing knowledge gaps and come up with specific relationships that require investigation. Modeling is also beneficial in the sense that sufficient data is identified from the ever-accumulating stream of new information touching on ecosystems. Finally, modeling provides an understanding of the systemic relationships in an eco-system as compared to detailed content.

Energy and Matter

Discussions on people and ecosystems would be insufficient without any mention of energy. Smit and Wandel argue that the laws of thermodynamics are applicable in evaluations of people and their ecosystems (287). The principle knowledge touching on energy is that it can neither be created nor destroyed. However, it is possible for energy t to be transformed from one form to another. There are other instances when the same energy may be degraded. In this regard, energy is essential in influencing human activities.

Human activities require energy as the main input. Based on the principles of thermodynamics, the energy required for human activities is transmitted in various forms. Heat is one of the forms of energy. The process of its acquisition affects the environment. For instance, the chemicals dissipated through fires contaminate the environment resulting in major changes that may require adaptation (DeGaetano and Allen 3190). Consequently, energy is seen as a core aspect of how ecosystems function, coupled with the adaptations of populations.

The matter is a totally different aspect of energy. Moran points out that matter cycles from one state to another within a system (119). The difference between matter and energy is that the latter can be transferred from one system to another while the former is retained within an ecosystem. Matter enables one to appreciate the manner through which an ecosystem sustains itself through the cycle mentioned.

Grassland Biomes

Overview

Research suggests that a quarter of the earth’s surface is made up of grasslands. Antarctica is the only continent where grasslands are not found (DeGaetano and Allen, 3188). The absence of grasslands in this region is brought about by the extremely low temperatures that inhibit biological processes. Grasslands can be classified into different types, including prairies, plains, and savannas.

The development of grasslands is brought about by rainfall levels that cannot support a population of forest bats that is enough to prevent desertification. As the name suggests, the grass is the common feature of this genome.

Description of a Grassland Ecosystem

As already mentioned, grassland ecosystems are made up of grasses. However, forbs are also considered s part of the vegetation that covers this landscape. According to DeGaetano and Allen (3188), grasslands are disturbance-related ecosystems. To this end, there are wet and dry seasonal patterns in this genome. In the Americas and Europe, savannas tend to have extremely low temperatures in winter. In summer, the temperatures are very high. Based on the rainfall volumes, savannas act as a transition between forests and deserts.

Human settlement in an ecosystem requires economic activities to sustain the population. In this regard, grasslands have an integral role in economic development courtesy of activities like agriculture. The study by DeGaetano and Allen (3188) suggests that agriculture is largely practiced in the prairies.

This phenomenon is evident in North America. Livestock grazing, on the other hand, is practiced in areas where the grass is shorter. Apart from human settlement, the natural fodder in savannas has provided a unique habitat for wild animals. The sustenance of this ecosystem is a result of human activities.

Grasslands facilitate the storage of carbon. According to DeGaetano and Allen, the carbon in the grassland genome is mostly stored below the ground (3199). Environmental changes (both man-made and natural) affect the carbon quantity stored underground.

For instance, grazing, plant cover, and wildfires are some of the factors that contribute towards the distortion of carbon quantity. In this regard, a spike in the carbon stored underground would greatly help in the reduction of carbon emissions. Grasslands also enhance the maintenance of the hydrological and nutrient cycles (Barth 10).

Grasslands are categorized based on the height of the vegetation species. DeGaetano and Allen used their study to illustrate that the different types of grasslands exist based on vegetation height (3197). The study examined western grassland where variation resulted from tall, short, and mixed heights of vegetation. In most parts of the world, tall grass savannas are gradually becoming extinct (Swift 470). Large scale cattle keeping is common in the short grass savanna attracting both human and wild animal settlements.

Stressors in Savanna Biomes

Various habitats are presented with a number of stressors that affect life in the ecosystem. According to DeGaetano and Allen (3188), human activities are the major stressors in a savanna. For instance, in the United States, grasslands are constantly being converted into farmlands and airports among a number of human-related activities.

The motivating factor behind the reclamation of grasslands entails underlying economic benefits. The economic value of cropland supersedes that of natural habitat. To this end, the wild animals are edged out of the settlement matrix. However, conservationists urge for diversification of land use in the savanna to prevent the extinction of natural habitats and their ecosystems.

Effects of Climate Change on Grasslands

The functions of grasslands are dependent on the volume of precipitation, temperature, and moisture levels in the soil. Fluctuations of the climate affect the functions of the provided by grassland ecosystems like nitrogen fixation and carbon storage (DeGaetano and Allen 3199).

A study conducted by DeGaetano and Allen indicates that when the atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) rise, the carbon 3 to carbon four ratio in the vegetation changes (3193). The increase in the atmospheric CO2, further results in an increase in the Carbon to Nitrogen ratio.

Climate change also brings about an increase in environmental temperatures. In this regard, grasslands are affected by an influx of non-native pests (DeGaetano and Allen 3197). In cases where climate change results in the melting of ice, the water flow is changed. A shift in precipitation patterns brings about changes in the species. Ultimately dry conditions result in the loss of nesting habitats (Swift 459).

A case study of the lesser-prairie chicken

Climate change brings about changes in an ecosystem courtesy of the stresses. The shift in the physical aspects of the savanna calls for a physiological response from the inhabitants of the ecosystem. In this regard, the prairie-chicken (also known as Tympanuchuc pallidicintus) found in the Great Plains region provides a suitable point of reference. Climatic changes pose great difficulty to this species triggering the need for adaptation.

The plight of the prairie-chicken results from economic activities in the grasslands and climate change. Based on this understanding, the Great Plains region was converted from natural habitat to croplands and mines (DeGaetano and Allen 3188). The result of these economic activities was the decline in the quality of the habitat. Consequently, the population numbers of the prairie-chicken began to decline.

However, prairie-chicken is faced with a greater problem in the form of climate change. As already mentioned, climate brings about fluctuations in temperature and precipitation (Smit and Wandel 290).

The different modeling approaches carried out suggest that temperatures in the regions occupied by this bird might spike by 5 degrees Fahrenheit. In a separate study, DeGaetano and Allen suggest a decline in precipitation volumes by up to one inch in the year 2060 (3188). The survival of the prairie-chicken is threatened by these climatic changes.

Climate change calls for a corresponding response from the inhabitants within an ecosystem. In this regard, conservation efforts are underway to bring about an ecosystem that will adjust and adapt to the climatic changes. According to DeGaetano and Allen, natural habitat is being reclaimed from croplands through a compensation mechanism (3191). The reclamation would increase the size of the bird’s ecosystem. The adverse effects of climate change would also be mitigated courtesy of the restoration of the native prairie grasses.

Climate Change Adaptation Strategies in the Grassland Biome

The discussion on climate change cannot be exhausted. According to DeGaetano and Allen, shifts in temperature and carbon dioxide levels pose great challenges to the constituent elements of an ecosystem (3199).

Based on the discussion in the previous chapter, mitigation efforts are necessary to ensure that climate change does not destroy habitats and ecosystems. Consequently, conservation efforts (as seen in the case of lesser prairie-chicken) become necessary. Conservation requires a complete restoration of the habitat features.

The second strategy of the envisioned climate change adaptation involves species and habitat management. The envisioned climate change narrative requires species that are built to withstand the harsh effects. Strategies like an update of the existing species become necessary (Moran 73). The management of the natural resources and genetic diversity of the various species helps to ensure that climate change does not eradicate the populations in a habitat.

Climate change adaptation strategies call for an enhanced capacity to ensure climate change is effectively managed. According to Adger, the best strategy to approach this objective would be to increase climate change awareness among stakeholders (143). The strategy is supported by ensuring natural resource managers attain an enhanced capacity to realize the necessary programs for the intended adaptation measures. For instance, the capacity building would become necessary for scientific research.

The third strategy involves efficient monitoring and support systems. Stakeholders in the climate change mitigation programs ought to be provided with sufficient support structures (DeGaetano and Allen 3188). Efficient monitoring and support systems also require the development of the necessary tools through consensus building. In this regard, risk assessment analysis becomes a requisite. Consultation, with experts, on the best form of tools, is essential to realize diversity in the monitoring and support system tools.

Climate change adaptation strategies call for increased awareness of the benefits of organisms responding to the harsh reality of climate change. Increasing awareness of the benefits of species response to stresses requires identification of the knowledge gaps. DeGaetano and Allen suggest that joint initiatives should be carried out by the relevant stakeholders to point out the knowledge gaps (3189).

As already mentioned, modeling would be an ideal technique. Once the knowledge gaps are identified, there is a need to carry out extensive research on the respective elements of climate change. The research is meant to establish the adaptive capacity of respective species.

Modeling has been suggested as an ideal mechanism through which knowledge gaps can be filled. Consequently, stakeholders are called upon to understand the impacts of climate change on the respective species in an ecosystem. Modeling will provide an understanding of how respective species respond to the climatic changes. The modeling must ensure that all possible threats to a species are addressed through continuous integration of the potential threats (Barth 8).

Adaptation strategies transcend awareness creation. Stakeholders ought to be adequately motivated. According to DeGaetano and Allen, motivation ensures that adaptation strategies put in place become a reality (3192). Based on this understanding, continuous civic education on the benefits of conservation becomes necessary. Consequently, a coordinated and targeted communication strategy is called for to ensure that as many stewards as possible join in the movement for endangered.

The reduction of non-climate stressors allows species to adapt to impending climate change scenarios. The proposed reduction is realized by coming up with measures that minimize fragmentation and habitat loss (Defra 173). A similar trend was observed in the case study presented by the lesser prairie-chicken. A strategy of this nature requires conservationists to engage crop landowners on the best. Considerations for offsite habitat banking also become an integral aspect of this strategy.

Conclusion

Grassland genomes are dependent on precipitation and temperature levels. The quantity of the two elements is mostly average. Consequently, climate change acts as the main stressor of this genome. According to DeGaetano and Allen, grasslands are intermediate vegetation between forests and deserts (3190). Consequently, slight increases in temperature or decline in precipitation will create unfavorable conditions for habitation. To this end, conservation strategies are seen as the best form to induce adaptation among species.

Conservation techniques like awareness creation, motivation, and extensive research help to protect species from the harsh effects of climate change. Theoretical frameworks that support modeling become necessary to ensure that possible effects of climate change are addressed beforehand. The discussion on grasslands has focused on the occupation of wild animals, which are the most at risk when to respond to stressors. The adaptation and adjustment strategies outlined point out that response to stressors is a collaborative endeavor.

Works Cited

Adger, Neil. Fairness in Adaptation to Climate Change, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT, 2006. Print.

Barth, Fredrik. “The Land Use Patterns of Migratory Tribes of South Persia.” Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift 17 (1960): 1-11. Print.

DeGaetano, Arthur, and Robert Allen. “Trends in Twentieth-Century Temperature Extremes across the United States.” Journal of Climate 15.22 (2002): 3188-3205. Print.

Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs. . 2006. Web.

Moran, Emilio. Human Adaptability: An Introduction to Ecological Anthropology. 3rd ed. 2008. Boulder, Westview Press, 2008. Print.

Smit, Barry, and Johanna Wandel. “Adaptation, Adaptive Capacity, and Vulnerability.” Global Environmental Change 16 (2006): 282-292. Print.

Swift, Jeremy. “Sahelian Pastoralists: Underdevelopment, Desertification, and Famine.” Annual Review of Anthropology 6 (1977): 457-478. Print.

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