Virtual Ecology Lab: Invasive Species Worksheet


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Virtual Ecology Lab: Invasive Species Worksheet

Virtual Ecology Lab: Invasive Species Worksheet

Learning Goal: To learn how an invasive species can affect an ecosystem.
Prerequisite Knowledge: Before beginning this lab, you should be familiar with these concepts:
•    the definition of invasive species
•    the types of interactions that occur between different species in an ecosystem
Introduction: Ecosystems are webs of intricately balanced interactions. But what happens when a new species is introduced that uses a disproportionate share of the ecosystem’s resources? In this lab activity, you will determine how an invasive species, the Burmese python, affects other species in the Florida Everglades.

Part A
Normal conditions (no pythons)
Enter the Ecology Lab Room by clicking the button. Then follow the Lab Procedure.

Lab Procedure
1.    Four species appear in the Species Tracking box in the lower left: cougar (or Florida panther), house mouse, Burmese python, and red-eared slider. Note that the python population is set to 0 because in this first simulation, they have not yet been introduced to the ecosystem.
2.    Click the green play button on the Controller, the device sitting on the floor of the Lab Room.
3.    Let the simulation run until 20 years have passed, as displayed by the graphs that appear in the data window on the right side of the screen. (Years are shown on the x-axis.) The speed of the simulation can be accelerated or slowed by clicking the + and – buttons.
4.    After 20 years, pause the simulation by clicking the red button on the Controller.
5.    Click the SAVE button in the upper right corner of the data window to save the data to the Lab Book.
6.    Then click on the Lab Book (on top of the Controller) to open the saved data. Change the data’s title from “Tropical Forest” to “Normal.”
Describe the growth patterns of the mouse, cougar, and red-eared slider populations when pythons are not present.

ANSWER:

Part B
Introduce Burmese pythons
The Burmese python is a species of snake native to Southeast Asia. In Florida, some people who bought Burmese pythons as pets ultimately released them outdoors. The species took hold in the wild, especially in the Everglades.
7.    Click the TIME button at the bottom of the Controller to reset the simulation.
8.    In the Species Tracking box, make sure that the fields next to the +/- Population button are set to +80 and Python, Burmese.
9.    Run the simulation again by clicking the green play button.
10.    But this time, add 80 pythons after 10 years have passed by clicking the +/- Population button when the simulation reaches the 10-year mark.
11.    Let the simulation run for 30 more years. Then pause the simulation at Year 40.
12.    Again, save the data to the Lab Book. Edit the data’s title to “Python Invasion.”
Describe the growth of the Burmese python population immediately after they were introduced.

ANSWER:

Part C
What happened to the populations of the other animals?

ANSWER:

Part D
Think it over
Suggest one reason why the introduction of Burmese pythons to this ecosystem may have caused the effects you observed.

ANSWER:

Part E
Remove Burmese pythons
Now try controlling the Burmese python population.
13.    Click the TIME button at the bottom of the Controller to reset the simulation.
14.    In the Species Tracking box, make sure that the fields next to the +/- Population button are set to +80 and Python, Burmese, and that the fields next to the Catastrophe button are set to -80% and Python, Burmese.
15.    Run the simulation again by clicking the green play button.
16.    When the simulation reaches the 10-year mark, click the +/- Population button to add 80 pythons.
17.    When the simulation reaches the 30-year mark, click the Catastrophe button to wipe out 80% of the python population.
18.    Let the simulation run for 10 more years. Then pause the simulation at Year 40.
19.    Again, save the data to the Lab Book. Edit the data’s title to “Python Removal.”
What happened to the cougar and Burmese python populations when 80% of the Burmese pythons were removed?

ANSWER:

Part F
Think it over
What do your observations reveal about the challenges involved in fighting invasive species?

ANSWER:

Part G
Based on your observations of Burmese python population trends, recommend a way managers could fight the Burmese python invasion in the Everglades. Explain your reasoning.

ANSWER:

Part H
Would you recommend introducing another nonnative species from Southeast Asia that is known to prey upon the Burmese python or its eggs? Explain.

ANSWER:

Part I
Not all invasive species are predators.
Which of the following characteristics would help any nonnative species, regardless of its place in the food chain, become invasive? Select all that apply.

ANSWER:

____ reproduce fewer offspring in new environment

____ grow and reproduce quickly in new environment

____ lack adequate space in new environment

____ outcompete native species for resources in new environment

____ have no natural predators in new environment

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