A Complex Network — An Ecosystem
The organisms of the Bull Creek Nature Preserve, as well as the physical environment, interact continuously, forming a complex network or web known as an ecosystem. Components of an ecosystem, or strands in this web, can be either living or non-living.
"Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself." – Chief Seattle
Examples of the living (biotic) components of an ecosystem include plants, animals, and bacteria. Examples of the non-living (abiotic) components include soil, temperature, and rainfall.
All components of an ecosystem, living and non-living, are interdependent—connected through food chains and the cycling of important nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus.
A Delicate Balance
When a strand of the web is altered or removed, such as the loss of a species or a decline in rainfall levels, it affects the whole ecosystem. For instance, the placement of backyard bird feeders in an area can cause an increase in the number of blue jays. As a predator, this additional presence of blue jays could cause the population of golden-cheeked warblers to drop significantly. This in turn could influence the local insect populations and so on. Over time, as more strands are lost, the web begins to weaken and unravel, which can cause the entire ecosystem to come apart.
While learning about the Bull Creek Nature Preserve, it is important to remember that while the Preserve was created to protect endangered species, these species are intricately linked to the rest of the ecosystem. Even though the golden-cheeked warblers are not here year round, it is critical that a healthy and functioning habitat is maintained within the Preserve for their annual return. The unique geology, habitats, and species of the Bull Creek Nature Preserve all contribute to the welfare and conservation of endangered species such as the golden-cheeked warbler—and thus must be protected as well.