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Topics Explored: Aquatic Biomes, Carbon Cycle, Nitrogen Cycle, Phosphorus Cycle, Hydrologic Cycle, Solar Energy, Trophic Levels, Keystone Species, Food Chains and Food Webs

This case study explores the significant relationships that sea otters have with marine invertebrates such as sea urchin populations and kelp forests in the North Pacific Ocean. As sea otters are a keystone species within their aquatic biome, this case study is a keystone activity for APES Unit 1.   Answer key included.

Case Study: Sea Otters (Teacher & Student Edition)

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  • ZIP file containing 2 PDF files 
    (1 Teacher Edition and 1 Student Edition)

  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS):
    HS-LS2-7. Design, evaluate, and refine a solution for reducing the impacts of human activities on the environment and biodiversity.
    HS-ESS2-2. Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
    HS-ESS3-1. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity.
    HS-ESS3-2. Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios.*
    HS-ESS3-3. Create a computational simulation to illustrate the relationships among management of natural resources, the sustainability of human populations, and biodiversity.

    AP® Environmental Science Learning Objectives:

    1.1   Explain how the availability of resources influences species interactions.
    1.3   Describe the global distribution and principal environmental aspects of aquatic biomes.
    1.4   Explain the steps and reservoir interactions in the carbon cycle.
    1.5   Explain the steps and reservoir interactions in the nitrogen cycle.
    1.6   Explain the steps and reservoir interactions in the phosphorus cycle.
    1.7   Explain the steps and reservoir interactions in the hydrologic cycle.
    1.8   Explain how solar energy is acquired and transferred by living organisms.
    1.9   Explain how energy flows and matter cycles through trophic levels.
    1.10   Determine how the energy decreases as it flows through ecosystems.
    1.11   Describe food chains and food webs, and their constituent members by trophic level.

    AP® Environmental Science Practices:
    1: Explain environmental concepts, processes, and models presented in written format. 
    2: Analyze visual representations of environmental concepts and processes. 
    3: Analyze sources of information about environmental issues. 
    4: Analyze research studies that test environmental principles. 
    5: Analyze and interpret quantitative data represented in tables, charts, and graphs.
    6: Apply quantitative methods to address environmental concepts.
    7: Propose and justify solutions to environmental problems.


    AP® is a registered trademark registered by the College Board®. IB® is a trademark registered by the International Baccalaureate Organization®. This work/product/service has been developed independently from and is not endorsed by the College Board® or the International Baccalaureate Organization®. 

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