Biology How are humans connected to biology

Why do we need to study Biology?

Through studying biology, pathologists understand the human body, the functions of various organs, how diseases affect the body and ways to effectively control diseases. Veterinarians have to study biology to appreciate the functions of animals, including marine animals and creatures that live on land. Environmentalists rely on the study of biology to learn how man’s actions affect his surroundings and the ecosystems of other living beings. Studying biology is the foundation of all characteristics of life on Earth. Apart from creating solutions to the challenges many living organisms face, it paves the way for inventions and discoveries that improve the quality of life. Without studying biology, humans would probably never realize how important maintaining a healthy ecology is for themselves, animals and plant life. Additionally, studying biology enables the use of forensics to trace and arrest errant members of the society. It also allows agriculturalists to rear unique breeds of plants and animals.

Alberta oil sands effect the environment the most in Canada.

What is the Alberta oil sands?

Alberta’s oil reserves play an important role in the Canadian and global economy, supplying stable, reliable energy to the world. Alberta's oil sands have been described by Time Magazine as "Canada's greatest buried energy treasure." But what is oil sand exactly?

Oil sand is a naturally occurring mixture of sand, clay or other minerals, water and bitumen, which is a heavy and extremely viscous oil that must be treated before it can be used by refineries to produce usable fuels such as gasoline and diesel. Bitumen is so viscous that at room temperature it acts much like cold molasses. New technologies are increasing the treatment methods available to oil sands producers as more research is completed. Oil sand can be found in several locations around the globe, including Venezuela, the United States and Russia, nut Alberta utilizes the most technologically advanced production processes.

What can the oil sands effect?


The hydrosphere is composed of all of the water on or near the earth. This includes the oceans, rivers, lakes, and even the moisture in the atmosphere. Over ninety-seven percent of the earth's water is in the oceans. The remaining two-and-a-half percent is fresh water; over two-thirds of the fresh water on the planet is solid and exists in ice sheets.


The biosphere is composed of all living organisms. Plants, animals, and one-celled organisms are all part of the biosphere. Most of the planet's life is found from three meters below the ground to thirty meters above it and in the top 200 meters of the oceans and seas. But life can live far outside of these ranges: some birds are known to fly 8 kilometers up, and fish have been found over 8 kilometers beneath the ocean surface. Microorganisms are known to survive well beyond these ranges. The biosphere is made up of bio mes.


The atmosphere is the body of air which surrounds our planet. Most of our atmosphere is located close to the earth's surface where it is most dense. The air of our planet is 79% nitrogen and just under 21% oxygen; the small amount remaining is composed of carbon dioxide and other gasses.


The lithosphere is the solid, rocky crust covering entire planet. This crust is inorganic and is composed of minerals. It covers the entire surface of the earth from the top of Mount Everest to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. The actual thickness of the lithosphere varies considerable, and can range from roughly 40 km to 280 km. The lithosphere ends at the point when the minerals in the earths crust begin to demonstrate viscous and fluid behaviors. The exact depth at which this happens depends on the chemical composition of the earth, and the heat and pressure acting upon the material.

Water consumption for Oil production.

Oil sands production requires an extremely large quantity of water. In general it takes about 2 to 4.5 barrels of water, most of which is withdrawn from the Athabasca River, to produce one barrel of oil. While much of this water is recycled and used many times over, the oil sands use more water per year than the entire city of Calgary. The key policy problem regarding water for this purpose is the need to allocate water supplies in a way that properly balances oil sands production needs with ecosystem and human needs in the region. While the amount of water consumed per barrel of oil produced has been declining, a 2006 Government of Alberta report warned that there simply may not be enough available water to meet the needs of all planned oil sands projects while maintaining adequate stream flows.

Criticism from academics and activists has primarily focused on the effects of water withdrawals on fish populations, particularly during low-flow months, and the water security of communities within the Athabasca watershed. Alberta’s current regulatory framework has been criticized because the quantity of water withdrawals it authorizes does not adequately ensure ecosystem protection or the long-term conservation of the Athabasca watershed. As the federal government has jurisdiction over fisheries and the Athabasca watershed is shared by the province of Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories and numerous First Nations communities, there is a large potential for future jurisdictional disputes and power-sharing arrangements. Some affected communities are becoming increasingly vocal with their demands that a moratorium be placed on development, citing the negative effect that oil sands production is having on the region’s water systems. As new projects will require further massive withdrawals of water, the availability of freshwater sources may very well limit the continued expansion of oil sands production.

Greenhouse Gases

More than any other environmental issue, the Alberta government is increasingly being criticized for its approach to climate change. Currently, Alberta is responsible for one-third of Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs). Specifically, the oil sands are Canada’s largest-growing source of GHGs, and these emissions are expected to increase substantially in the future. It is clear the Alberta government’s intention is to allow total GHG emissions from the oil sands to continue to rise. It recently released a GHG plan that relies heavily on intensity-based targets , which focus on reductions in emissions per unit of production, instead of setting absolute limits on total emissions. The Government of Alberta’s long-term target is a 14 percent reduction in GHGs, below 2005 levels, by 2050. Its most ambitious goal is to have emissions stabilized by 2020.

Like the provincial government, the current federal government’s climate change plan considers carbon capture and storage to be the solution to the oil sands’ ever-increasing emissions, but the concept has yet to be proven technologically or economically feasible. While recent funding announcements for carbon capture research are important, the amount of funding allocated falls far short of what is required to jump-start an industry-wide capture-and-storage program. If carbon capture and storage continues to form the foundation of Alberta’s climate change plan, finding a way to overcome the large associated financial and technological hurdles will prove extremely challenging.

The Alberta government’s lack of progress on mitigating oil sands emissions may prove to be a political liability in the future. Already, vocal international environmentalists have begun targeting the oil sands on the issue of climate change. As perhaps the global environmental issue of the 21st century gains increasing international attention, Alberta’s ability to ignore this growing chorus of voices may prove impossible. At the same time, many predict that a large political showdown between the provincial and federal government is looming; the belief is that it’s only a matter of time before the federal government moves to aggressively limit industrial sources of GHGs in Canada. Recently, the Federal Court of Canada struck down the environmental assessment of a proposed major oil sands project, arguing the project did not have an adequate plan to deal with its GHG emissions.

Even the United States, which buys the vast majority of oil from the region, has begun taking steps that could force the Government of Alberta to take the issue of GHG emissions from the oil sands more seriously. California has enacted legislation to reduce the emissions intensity of its transportation fuels, a move that may limit the ability of oil derived from the oil sands that is to be sold in that state. Moreover, a recent US federal law forbids the US government from purchasing oil from ‘non-conventional’ sources whose production creates greater emissions counts than that of ‘conventional’ oil resources. While the Alberta government lobbied the US successfully to ensure this law did not apply to the oil sands, it is likely that pressure from the US will only increase.

The Government of Alberta’s ability to continue developing the oil sands while largely ignoring growing concerns about climate change, both in the domestic and international political arenas, is uncertain. Public attention to climate change issues is only now beginning to focus on the oil sands, and this attention is only likely to increase.

Development effects

Oil sands development causes large-scale spatial disturbances to Alberta’s northern boreal forest . According to critics, the cumulative effects of deforestation, habitat fragmentation, and species loss caused by exploration, open pit mines, in-situ developments, urban development, forestry, and road clearing in the region are not being adequately managed or even considered.

In April 2008, the impact on habitat received widespread media attention when hundreds of migrating ducks died in a Syncrude tailings pond. There is also concern about links between habitat loss and declines in populations of at-risk species, such as caribou. The Alberta government, as articulated in its Mineable Oil Sands Strategy, has always maintained this disturbance is “temporary” and that production sites will be reclaimed when projects are completed. Provincial requirements for reclamation, however, are considered by environmentalists to be an inadequate means of ensuring that reclaimed land resembles a functioning ecosystem. In this context, reclaimed land is not actually required to resemble the site as it existed prior to development. Environmentalists point out that ecologically complex wetlands will be replaced with dry tree plantations, though there is uncertainty as to whether trees will even be able to grow on the sites used by oil sands projects.

To date, only one oil sands project has been awarded a reclamation certificate, which means that the reclaimed land has been formally approved by the provincial government. Critics were quick to point out, however, that this site was only minimally disturbed by oil sands activity and is not reflective of the massive land disturbances that take place in most oil sands project sites. Despite uncertainty as to whether the land base can be adequately reclaimed and how much money this will cost in the future, approvals for new oil sands projects continue to be granted. There is concern, however, particularly among environmental groups, that the Alberta government (and thus taxpayers) will be stuck with the future cost of reclamation. Though operators are required to provide the government with “financial security” that can be used if the land is not adequately reclaimed, it is the oil sands companies that tell the provincial government how much this deposit should be. It is also unclear whether this amount of money will be close to the amount required for ecologically sound reclamation, if needed.

Effect on Society

There is much concern in Northern Alberta communities about their ability to keep up with the pace of development in the oil sands. In towns like Fort McMurray and Cold Lake, housing costs are spiralling upwards, such that many newcomers cannot find adequate housing. The region’s physical infrastructure, from roads to water and sewage systems, are severely overtaxed, with communities reporting massive infrastructure deficits. Social services, including health care, crime prevention and education, are inadequate and unable to meet the demands of population pressures. Communities in Northern Alberta feel they are absorbing a disproportionately high amount of the negative impacts of oil sands growth while failing to receive their fair share of the benefits. Many mayors, municipal councils, and individuals from these communities outlined their concerns in submissions to Alberta’s Oil Sands Consultations process. While the Government of Alberta has acknowledged there are indeed gaps in social services and infrastructure, few of its own recommendations have been implemented.

To alleviate some of these major social problems, communities have requested large investments from the provincial government and a new arrangement for tax and royalty regimes to ensure communities in the oil sands region can meet both infrastructure and social demands. Despite budgetary surpluses, the Alberta government has been slow to provide these communities with the requested funding. Massive social and infrastructure deficits remain; finding a way to fairly share the economic costs and benefits of the oil sands will remain a politically difficult policy problem for the foreseeable future

Over 30 different First Nations live in the oil sands region of Northern Alberta. Unlike in most of neighbouring British Columbia, formal treaties cover the area and, as with many resource extraction industries, the oil sands industry has been a mixed blessing for rural First Nations communities. While many First Nations members are indeed employed in the oil sands, there is much concern that oil sands companies are not doing enough to hire local First Nations. That said, the amount of business flowing to First Nations-owned companies (such as trucking and construction) has been extremely large. Furthermore, many of the larger oil sands companies have strategies and targets for hiring specific numbers of First Nations employees, and for purchasing from, and contracting with, First Nations-owned businesses, as outlined in a report published by the National Energy Board in 2004. These economic benefits, however, have not been sufficient to mute the resistance of many First Nations members to the scale and pace of development in their ancestral lands.

The problems cited by First Nations members regarding oil sands development include: lack of proper consultation and accommodation of First Nations interests; lack of adequate compensation; loss of traditional hunting and trapping territory; habitat destruction (particularly fishing grounds); health concerns relating to surrounding air and water pollution; and general concerns regarding the wide range of environmental issues pertaining to oil sands development. As many of the First Nations affected by oil sands development are located downriver in Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories, this poses challenges for other governments (provincial and territorial), as well as the federal government. Several First Nations groups, including the Dec-ho, have made high-profile calls in support of declaring a moratorium on oil sands development. Recently, the Assembly of Treaty Chiefs, which is comprised of representatives from all First Nations groups in Northern Alberta, unanimously passed a resolution calling for the provincial government to cease granting approval for new oil sands projects until certain conditions, including the development of a proper water management strategy, are met. While recent consultations with Alberta’s First Nations about the oil sands have concluded, it remains too early to determine how the Alberta government will respond to the issues raised during these proceedings.

Effect on Economy in Alberta

Despite the enormous economic growth that oil sands development has spurred in Alberta, distribution of benefits has been uneven overall. In general, the level of investment and growth in the oil sands has hurt the province’s conventional oil and gas industry. Rising real estate costs and general inflation have hurt sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing particularly hard. Consequently, today there is a growing income split between those Albertans who are employed in the oil sands and those who are not employed by the oil sands – but who are faced with the rising daily cost of living. There is also concern that the economic benefits associated with oil sands development are being concentrated geographically and not diffused throughout the province. Moreover, despite recent changes to the province’s royalty regime, the Government of Alberta has been criticized for not collecting enough economic rent (in the form of royalties) from the oil sands on behalf of Albertans (the so-called ‘owners’ of the resource), and for allowing the vast majority of oil sands profits to flow to industry. Also worth noting here is that since labour demands for the oil sands are so large, a significant proportion of oil sands employment is going to non-Albertans. Consequently, more oil sands-related economic benefits are flowing beyond Alberta. Accordingly, it has been argued that a more prudent economic strategy would see oil sands development slowed, thereby ensuring Albertans can fill any related jobs and benefit from oil sands employment over the longer period. While economic benefits are the primary motivation behind the current pace and scale of development in Alberta’s oil sands, the manner in which these benefits are distributed within the greater Alberta economy remains a contested policy issue.

Oil sands development to date has been fueled largely by natural gas. While many factors are contributing to the increase in price of natural gas in Western Canada, it is important to note that massive demand from the oil sands is a major factor. In the future, this rising price trend is likely to lead to large increases in home heating costs. At the same time, many have questioned the logic of using a relatively clean-burning fuel (in terms of greenhouse gases and air pollutants) such as natural gas to aid in the extraction of an extremely dirty form of crude oil for the purposes of export. Faced with the rising cost of natural gas, and expected shortages due to increased demand from the oil sands, as a fuel source, nuclear power is now seriously being considered to help power oil sands extraction.

Effect on Canada's economy

The oil sands bring economic benefits to other areas of the country outside Alberta. Increasingly, however, development in the oil sands is having an overall net-negative economic impact. Attracted by record profits in the oil sands, investors are pulling their money from other economic sectors and concentrating their investments in the oil sands. This has created problems for other sectors as they struggle to attract required investment. At the same time, the rising Canadian dollar, caused in part by the economics of oil sands growth, is hurting export-orientated sectors. The forestry industry in BC and the Ontario manufacturing industry serve as two prominent examples. As a result, there is increasing discord, with some provinces – such as the Government of Ontario – becoming increasingly vocal in criticizing the federal government for allowing the oil sands to develop so rapidly without considering (or compensating) other important national economic sectors. Indeed, friction between the provinces around this issue, and also between specific provinces and the federal government, is likely to increase following a recent announcement by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper that it is not the federal government’s responsibility to bail out struggling industries.

Develop Alberta’s oil sands in an environmentally responsible way. The Provincial Energy Strategy states the Alberta government’s commitment to developing our energy resources in an environmentally responsible way. Through clean energy production and wise energy use, Alberta will remain a global leader. Significant steps have been taken on these fronts through strategies such as Water for Life and the Climate Change Strategy and more can and will be done. Increasing the focus on cumulative effects will help manage and minimize impacts of development. The new regional planning focus of the Land-use Framework will further ensure that the environmental, social, and economic implications for each region are considered. There is an increased focus on oil sands extraction processes to use less energy and water, reduce tailing ponds, and improve land reclamation. Sound policy and legislation will further minimize the risks of development to wildlife and the environment. Strategy one is intended to achieve ecological sustainability in oil sands development while considering impacts on quality of life. Implementation will allow for the further protection of human and ecosystem well-being as well as the modelling of environmental stewardship

Substantial growth in the oil sands industry relies on support for people and communities in Alberta. Fast-paced oil sands development has put pressure on infrastructure and essential services. Although the Government of Alberta has addressed all of the immediate priorities reflected in the report Investing in our Future: Responding to the Rapid Growth of Oil Sands Development, additional focus is required to sustain growth and plan for future development in Fort McMurray and other communities in the oil sands regions. Communities need additional capacity to absorb growth and support the pace of development. As well, all levels of government, local authorities, communities, and industry must work together to address the pressures related to growth. Strategy two further supports the Government of Alberta’s priorities by promoting the development of sustainable, healthy, safe, and vibrant communities through coordinated efforts to build community capacity, invest in social resources, and develop physical infrastructure.

The oil sands present many economic opportunities for Alberta. As outlined in the Provincial Energy Strategy, Alberta’s energy future will only be realized by balancing economic opportunities with environmental, social, and infrastructure challenges. Through this responsible approach, Alberta will optimize oil sands development and the full economic value for all Albertans while also addressing environmental and social needs. Both the Provincial Energy Strategy and The New Royalty Framework recognize that to build a stable and prosperous future, the province must get the best possible economic return on the long-term development of its energy resources. Extending our role along the value chain through upgrading and refining bitumen to transportation fuels and other products will further expand our economy. The Provincial Energy Strategy identifies, as an aspiration goal of the Government of Alberta’s Hydrocarbon Upgrading Task Force, an ultimate portfolio mix of one-third bitumen sales, one-third synthetic crude oil sales, and one-third sales of finished products and petrochemicals. Attracting and retaining a highly skilled and knowledgeable workforce is also a key element in sustaining a competitive advantage in our economy and ensuring future prosperity. This approach, along with diversifying our markets and selling more than products, will maximize the value of the resource for Albertans and mitigate potential risks posed by an economic downturn in any one region. Following the direction outlined in the Provincial Energy Strategy, strategy three is intended to actively increase the economic return to Albertans from the oil sands and ensure long-term benefits of development through partnerships, regulations, appropriate royalty structures, and other means.

Biotic and Abiotic

Food web is an important ecological concept. Basically, food web represents feeding relationships within a community (Smith and Smith 2009). It also implies the transfer of food energy from its source in plants through herbivores to carnivores (Krebs 2009). Normally, food webs consist of a number of food chains meshed together. Each food chain is a descriptive diagram including a series of arrows, each pointing from one species to another, representing the flow of food energy from one feeding group of organisms to another.

There are two types of food chains: the grazing food chain, beginning with autotrophs, and the detrimental food chain, beginning with dead organic matter (Smith & Smith 2009). In a grazing food chain, energy and nutrients move from plants to the herbivores consuming them, and to the carnivores or omnivores preying upon the herbivores. In a detrital food chain, dead organic matter of plants and animals is broken down by decomposers, e.g., bacteria and fungi, and moves to detritivores and then carnivores.

How do plants get their energy?

Photosynthesis is the process by which plants, some bacteria and some protestant use the energy from sunlight to produce glucose from carbon dioxide and water. This glucose can be converted into pyruvate which releases adenosine triphosphate (ATP) by cellular respiration. Oxygen is also formed.

Photosynthesis may be summarized by the word equation:

The conversion of usable sunlight energy into chemical energy is associated with the action of the green pigment chlorophyll.

Chlorophyll is a complex molecule. Several modifications of chlorophyll occur among plants and other photosynthetic organisms. All photosynthetic organisms have chlorophyll a. Accessory pigments absorb energy that chlorophyll a does not absorb. Accessory pigments include chlorophyll b (also c, d, and e in algae and protistans), xanthophylls, and carotenoids (such as beta-carotene). Chlorophyll a absorbs its energy from the violet-blue and reddish orange-red wavelengths, and little from the intermediate (green-yellow-orange) wavelengths.


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