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2.1 Understanding the Biosphere

In this section you will find materials that support the implementation of 2.1: Understanding the Biosphere. Use the navigation below to find the materials.

Section Materials


Visions of Earth, by AGI
A four-DVD set on interactions in Earth systems.

Mapping the Biosphere, by Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment
The site is dedicated to the dissemination of global and regional environmental data. Downloadable data sets include base files covering water resources (runoff, wetlands, precipitation), ecosystems (soil organic carbon, soil pH, lakes and wetlands), landuse (built up land, croplands, irrigated lands), and human impacts (infant mortality, literacy rate, per capita oil usage). More detailed .jpg maps are also available for world regions like Europe, North America, and Asia but not in any GIS format.

Microbial Life in Extreme Environments, by SERC
This page from the Microbial Life Educational Resources site describes the inhabitants of the deep red, highly acidic waters of the Rio Tinto in Spain. The page presents historical, economic, and environmental information about the river as well as links to collections of online resources about it and how to use it as an example in class.

When is dinner served? Predicitng the spring phytoplankton bloom in the Gulf of Maine, by SERC
In this activity from the Earth Exploration Toolbook students learn about the variables that influence the abundance of phytoplankton, the microscopic plants that form the base of the marine food chain. Users apply this knowledge to make predictions about the timing of the spring phytoplankton bloom in the Gulf of Maine. They obtain and graph data from buoy monitoring stations and interpret them to make their predictions. They check their predictions by examining chlorophyll concentration data at each buoy. Users also compare their predictions with reality by obtaining and examining MODIS satellite images to view the full extent of the bloom over time.

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Visions of Earth, by AGI
82 High-definition animations showing a variety of Earth and space system processes.

National Habitat Suitability for Tamarisk Invasion ( also available for: Texas, Arizona, Nevada, California, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico), by USGS and NASA
The spread of invasive species is one of the most daunting environmental, economic, and human-health problems facing the United States and the world today. It is one of several grand challenge environmental problems being addressed by NASA's Science Mission Directorate through a national application partnership with the US Geological Survey. NASA and USGS are working together to develop a National Invasive Species Forecasting System (ISFS) for the management and control of invasive species on Department of Interior and adjacent lands. The system provides a framework for using USGS's early detection and monitoring protocols and predictive models to process MODIS, ETM+, ASTER and commercial remote sensing data, to create on-demand, regional-scale assessments of invasive species likely habitats.

Invasive Species: Tamarisk's Use of Water, by NASA and USGS
Tamarisk's extensive root system can reach up to 50 feet laterally and 100 feet in depth to access the water supply. As this invasive plant draws up large amounts of water, it can lower the water table. Native plants with shallower root systems have to compete for an already-dwindling water supply. One large Tamarisk plant can absorb up to 200 gallons of water per day - that's twice the amount the average person uses in the same timeframe.

Invasive Species: Tamarisk and Salt, by NASA and USGS
Tamarisk's extensive root system extracts sodium chloride, or salt, from deep within the soil. Salt collects in plant tissues allowing it to exude the excess through its leaves. Over a period of years, the plant effectively changes the natural chemistry of the soil. Native trees and plants can no longer thrive in the salt-saturated soil.

Invasive Species: Tamarisk and Fire Sprouts, by NASA and USGS
As Tamarisk drops its leaves, it creates a debris layer known as 'duff' which chokes the ground below. This adds to the fuel load, compounding an already high fire danger in the drought-stricken West. When fires ravage an area, Tamarisk ignites quickly, leading to a more severe burn. To make matters worse, this invasive plant tends to come back more quickly than native plants in these burned areas.

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