Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Ecosystems on the Brink

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Ecosystems on the Brink

Article excerpt

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States 2013) identify "ecosystems"--the theme of this month's issue--as one of the four major high school life science core ideas, along with molecular, cellular, and organismal biology; genetics; and evolution.

These four fundamental ideas form the foundation of modern life science:

LS1: From molecules to organisms: Structures and processes

LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, energy, and dynamics

LS3: Heredity: Inheritance and variation of traits

LS4: Biological evolution: Unity and diversity

It might seem odd to include "ecosystems" in this pantheon of core ideas, considering that the life science curriculum often gives the study of ecosystems short shrift, placing it in the last chapter of the textbook. And yet there can be no argument about the importance of ecosystem ecology to the modern science curriculum. Interdisciplinary by nature, the field involves chemistry, physics, biology, and Earth science, and core ideas like energy, matter and its interactions, biodiversity, Earth's systems and their related human impacts, and engineering solutions. The intricate interactions involved in even the simplest ecosystems can help students understand the messiness of science and the complex functioning of natural systems, fluxes, and reservoirs.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to place ecosystem ecology at the heart of 21st-century science education is simple: The future of our planet depends on understanding and protecting vulnerable ecosystems. …

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