|The Living Environment|
ökosphäre focuses its energies on advising clients on how best to fit into the living environment. True sustainability occurs with an appropriate knowledge of living things and how they work together.
DIVERSITY OF LIFE
The preservation of a diversity of species is important to human beings. We depend on two food webs to obtain the energy and materials necessary for life. One starts with microscopic ocean plants and seaweed and includes animals that feed on them and animals that feed on those animals. The other one begins with land plants and includes animals that feed on them, and so forth. The elaborate interdependencies among species serve to stabilize these food webs. Minor disruptions in a particular location tend to lead to changes that eventually restore the system. But large disturbances of living populations or their environments may result in irreversible changes in the food webs. Maintaining diversity increases the likelihood that some varieties will have characteristics suitable to survival under changed conditions.
INTERDEPENDENCE OF LIFE
Every species is linked, directly or indirectly, with a multitude of others in an ecosystem. But the interaction of living organisms does not take place on a passive environmental stage. Ecosystems are shaped by the nonliving environment of land and water—solar radiation, rainfall, mineral concentrations, temperature, and topography. The world contains a wide diversity of physical conditions, which creates a wide variety of environments: freshwater and oceanic, forest, desert, grassland, tundra, mountain, and many others. In all these environments, organisms use vital earth resources, each seeking its share in specific ways that are limited by other organisms. In every part of the habitable environment, different organisms vie for food, space, light, heat, water, air, and shelter. The linked and fluctuating interactions of life forms and environment compose a total ecosystem; understanding any one part of it well requires knowledge of how that part interacts with the others.
The interdependence of organisms in an ecosystem often results in approximate stability over hundreds or thousands of years. As one species proliferates, it is held in check by one or more environmental factors: depletion of food or nesting sites, increased loss to predators, or invasion by parasites. If a natural disaster such as flood or fire occurs, the damaged ecosystem is likely to recover in a succession of stages that eventually results in a system similar to the original one.
Like many complex systems, ecosystems tend to show cyclic fluctuations around a state of approximate equilibrium. In the long run, however, ecosystems inevitably change when climate changes or when very different new species appear as a result of migration or evolution (or are introduced deliberately or inadvertently by humans).
FLOW OF MATTER AND ENERGY
The elements that make up the molecules of living things are continually recycled. Chief among these elements are carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulfur, phosphorus, calcium, sodium, potassium, and iron. These and other elements, mostly occurring in energy-rich molecules, are passed along the food web and eventually are recycled by decomposers back to mineral nutrients usable by plants. Although there often may be local excesses and deficits, the situation over the whole earth is that organisms are dying and decaying at about the same rate as that at which new life is being synthesized. That is, the total living biomass stays roughly constant, there is a cyclic flow of materials from old to new life, and there is an irreversible flow of energy from captured sunlight into dissipated heat.
An important interruption in the usual flow of energy apparently occurred millions of years ago when the growth of land plants and marine organisms exceeded the ability of decomposers to recycle them. The accumulating layers of energy-rich organic material were gradually turned into coal and oil by the pressure of the overlying earth. The energy stored in their molecular structure we can now release by burning, and our modern civilization depends on immense amounts of energy from such fossil fuels recovered from the earth. By burning fossil fuels, we are finally passing most of the stored energy on to the environment as heat. We are also passing back to the atmosphere—in a relatively very short time—large amounts of carbon dioxide that had been removed from it slowly over millions of years.
The amount of life any environment can sustain is limited by its most basic resources: the inflow of energy, minerals, and water. Sustained productivity of an ecosystem requires sufficient energy for new products that are synthesized (such as trees and crops) and also for recycling completely the residue of the old (dead leaves, human sewage, etc.). When human technology intrudes, materials may accumulate as waste that is not recycled. When the inflow of resources is insufficient, there is accelerated soil leaching, desertification, or depletion of mineral reserves.
September 29, 2009 – To spur new development and investment in compressed natural gas (CNG) as replacement clean fuel for vehicles, ökosphäre is spinning off key assets, technology, and business relationships of a start-up business effort incubated in ökosphäre's business initiatives group to form an independent company called Ciengas, LLC. Click here to learn more.
August 26, 2009 – In a challenging real estate climate, Countrywide Properties, a real estate brokerage in Rexburg, Idaho, has taken a novel approach by hiring ökosphäre to develop and deploy new, creative marketing techniques for the firm's real estate offerings and holdings. Click here to learn more.