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Ecosystems

What is an ecosystem? An ecosystem is made up of animals, plants and bacteria as well as the physical and chemical environment they live in. The living parts of an ecosystem are called biotic ...

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Ecosystem tipping points and stressors

Simply defined, a tipping point is the point when a number of changes or incidents become significant enough to cause a large change in the way the system functions. The tipping point concept is ...

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The phosphorus cycle

Phosphorus is a chemical element found on Earth in numerous compound forms, such as the phosphate ion (PO43-), located in water, soil and sediments. The quantities of phosphorus in soil are ...

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Classification system

In the 18th century, Carl Linnaeus published a system for classifying living things, which has been developed into the modern classification system. People have always given names to things that ...

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The nitrogen cycle

Nitrogen is the most abundant element in our planet’s atmosphere. Approximately 78% of the atmosphere is made up of nitrogen gas (N2). Nitrogen is a crucially important component for all life. It ...

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Marine food webs

Feeding relationships are often shown as simple food chains – in reality, these relationships are much more complex, and the term ‘food web’ more accurately shows the links between producers ...

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Human impacts on marine environments

Throughout human existence we have relied on the oceans – for food, as a waste dump, for recreation, for economic opportunities and so on. However, it’s not only our activities in the marine ...

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Pollination and fertilisation

Sexual reproduction is a way of making a new individual by joining two special sex cells, called gametes. In the sexual reproduction of animals and plants, the male and female gametes join to ...

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Adaptations of marine organisms

Adaptation is an evolutionary process whereby an organism becomes increasingly well suited to living in a particular habitat. It is not a quick process! Natural selection over many generations ...

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Measuring biodegradability

In nature, different materials biodegrade at different rates. If you throw your apple core into the bushes along with a steel toy car, your apple core will have disappeared in a few months and ...

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Human impact on rivers

Human beings have an impact on river ecosystems. The relationship living organisms have with each other and with their environment is extremely complex. Impacts on a species or a non-living ...

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Flowering plant life cycles

The flowers and fruit of flowering plants come and go as part of their life cycle. Some flowering plants don’t even have stems and leaves all the time. The fruit and vegetables we eat come from ...

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Attracting pollinators

Flowering plants need to get pollen from one flower to another, either within a plant for self-pollination or between plants of the same species for cross-pollination to occur. However, pollen ...

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Earthworms’ role in the ecosystem

Charles Darwin is well known for his work on natural selection. He published widely on topics ranging from barnacles to geology to plants. He travelled the world and saw many unusual animals ...

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River ecosystems

The ecology of the river refers to the relationships that living organisms have with each other and with their environment – the ecosystem. An ecosystem is the sum of interactions between plants ...

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Melting and freezing

Water can exist as a solid (ice), liquid (water) or gas (vapour or gas). Adding heat can cause ice (a solid) to melt to form water (a liquid). Removing heat causes water (a liquid) to freeze to ...

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Native bird adaptations

New Zealand separated from Gondwana around 65 million years ago. Due to the geographical isolation and a lack of ground-dwelling predators, our birds evolved unique characteristics. Flight was ...

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What is a fern?

There are ferns in most New Zealanders’ backyards and local environments. Ferns are green flowerless plants with divided leaves that tend to grow in damp, shady areas. The developing leaves of ...

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Environmental conditions affecting the sea

On land, the most important environmental conditions affecting organisms are rainfall and temperature. In our oceans, there are a number of environmental conditions that affect the growth ...

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Adapting to marine habitats

Being able to adapt is a matter of life or death. In a perfect world, organisms would not need to adapt. However, changes to the environment and food web mean that organisms need to move, if they ...

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Birds’ roles in ecosystems

An ecosystem consists of all of the organisms living within an area and the interactions between them and the physical environment. All ecosystems, whether they are marine, freshwater or located ...

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