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Chapter 18 Gerlach, Marine Pollution, Springer-Verlag, Principle of Marine Science 1. The Science of Marine Biology The Science of Marine Biology arine biology is the scientific study of the organisms that live in the ocean.
The ocean is a vast realm that contains many strange and wonderful creatures. It is often the beauty, mystery, and variety of life in the sea that attracts students to a course in marine biology. Even professional marine biologists feel a sense of adventure and wonder in their studies.
There are also many practical reasons to study marine biology. Marine life represents a vast source of human wealth.
It provides food, medicines, and raw materials, in addition to offering recreation to millions and supporting tourism all over the world. On the other hand, marine organisms can also create problems. For example, some organisms harm humans directly by causing disease or attacking people. Others may harm us indirectly by injuring or killing other marine organisms that we value for food or other purposes. Marine organisms may erode piers, walls, and other structures we build in the ocean, foul the bottoms of ships, and clog pipes.
They may even interfere with our weapons of war, for better or for worse. At a much more fundamental level, marine life helps determine the very nature of our planet. Our shorelines are shaped and protected by marine life, at least in part, and some marine organisms even help create new land. This is the challenge, the adventure, of marine biology.
Nearly all the disciplines of biology are represented in marine biology. There are marine biologists who study the basic chemistry of living things, for example.
Others are interested in marine life as whole organisms: the way they behave, where they live and why, and so on. Other marine biologists adopt a global perspective and look at the way entire oceans function as systems. Marine biology is thus both part of a broader science and itself made up of many different disciplines, approaches, and viewpoints. Marine biology is closely related to oceanography, the scientific study of the oceans.
Like marine biology, oceanography has many branches. Chemical oceanographers study ocean chemistry, and physical oceanographers study waves, tides, currents, and other physical aspects of the sea. Marine biology is most closely related to biological oceanography, so closely in fact that the two are difficult to separate. Sometimes they are distinguished on the basis that marine biologists tend to study organisms living relatively close to shore, while biological oceanographers focus on life in the open ocean, far from land.
Another common distinction is that marine biologists tend to study marine life from the perspective of the organisms for example, studying how organisms produce organic matter , while biological oceanographers tend to take the perspective of the ocean for example, studying how organic matter cycles through the system. In practice there are so many exceptions to these distinctions that many marine scientists consider marine biology and biological oceanography to be the same.
The disciplines are sometimes divided for administrative rather than scientific reasons. Many of the basic ways in which living things make use of energy, for example, are similar whether an organism lives on land or in the sea.
Nevertheless, marine biology does have a flavor all its own, partly because of its history. The History of Marine Biology People probably started learning about marine life from the first time they saw the ocean. After all, the sea is full of good things to eat.
The fish at the right is an electric ray Torpedo , which the ancient Greeks used to deliver the first electrical stimulation therapy. While they gathered food, people learned through experience which things were good to eat and which were badtasting or harmful.
The tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh, for example, bears a warning against eating a pufferfish, a kind of poisonous fish. Coastal peoples in virtually every culture developed a store of practical knowledge about marine life and the oceans. Knowledge of the ocean and its organisms developed as people gained skills in seamanship and navigation. Ancient Pacific Islanders had detailed knowledge of marine life, which their descendants still retain Fig.
They were consummate mariners, using clues such as wind, wave, and current patterns to navigate over vast distances. Some groups recorded these clues on unusual three-dimensional maps made of sticks and shells.
The Phoenicians were the first accomplished Western navigators. By B. By the time of the ancient Greeks, a fair amount was known about the things that live near shore Fig. The Greek philosopher Aristotle, who lived in the fourth century B. He described many forms of marine life, and many of his descriptions are considered valid to this day. Aristotle made other studies as well. During the centuries popularly known as the Dark Ages, scientific inquiry in most of Europe came to a grinding halt.
Progress in the study of marine biology ceased. Indeed, much of the knowledge of the ancient Greeks was lost or distorted. Not all exploration of the ocean stopped, however. During the ninth and tenth centuries the Vikings continued to explore the northern Atlantic. In the process they learned about wind and current patterns, including the monsoons, strong winds that reverse direction with the seasons.
In the Far East and the Pacific, people also continued to explore and learn about the sea. In the Renaissance, spurred in part by the rediscovery of ancient knowledge preserved by the Arabs, Europeans again began to investigate the world around them.
At first there were mainly voyages of exploration. In Ferdinand Magellan embarked on the first expedition to sail around the globe. Many other epic voyages contributed to our knowledge of the oceans. Before long, explorers became curious about the ocean they sailed and the things that lived in it. An English sea captain, James Cook, was one of the first to make scientific observations along the way and to include a full-time naturalist among his crew.
In a series of three great voyages, beginning in , he explored all the oceans. Cook was the first to make use of the chronometer, an accurate timepiece. This new technology enabled him to accurately determine his longitude, and therefore prepare reliable charts.
From the Arctic to the Antarctic, from Alaska to Australia, Cook extended and reshaped the European conception of the world. He brought back specimens of plants and animals and tales of strange new lands. Perhaps the most famous of these shipboard naturalists was Charles Darwin Fig.
Beginning in , Darwin sailed around the world on HMS Beagle for five years, horribly seasick most of the time. Though best known for the theory of evolution, Darwin made many other contributions to marine biology.
For example, he proposed an explanation for the formation of atolls, distinctive rings of coral reef. He also used nets to capture the tiny drifting creatures known as plankton.
By the middle of the nineteenth century a few scientists were able to undertake voyages for the specific purpose of studying the oceans. One was Edward Forbes, who in the s and s carried out extensive dredging of the sea floor, mostly around his native Britain but also in the Aegean Sea and other places. Forbes died prematurely in , at the age of 39, but was the most influential marine biologist of his day. Perhaps his most important contribution, however, was to inspire new interest in the life of the sea floor.
Though their ships were poorly equipped and the voyages short, their studies yielded many interesting results. They were so successful, in fact, that in British scientists managed to convince their government to fund the first major oceanographic expedition, under the scientific leadership of Charles Wyville Thompson. The British navy supplied a light warship to be fitted out for the purpose.
The ship was named HMS Challenger.
Challenger underwent extensive renovations in preparation for the voyage. Most of her guns were removed—two were left, probably for moral support more than anything else. Laboratories and quarters for the scientific crew were added, and gear for dredging and taking water samples in deep water was installed.
Though primitive by modern standards, the scientific equipment on board was the best of its day. Finally, in December , Challenger set off. Do not just kneel a undesirable frighten amused down.
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