Students' Reasoning about the Future of Disturbed or Protected Ecosystems & the Idea of the `Balance of Nature'
This paper is part of a larger study that aims at highlighting students' interpretations of the idea of the `Balance of Nature', as well as its use in their reasoning about the future of an ecosystem, in order to subsequently develop a learning environment that might promote a reconsideration of its validity and usefulness. Our focus here is particularly set on whether and how non biology-major students use this idea when making predictions about (a) the future of an ecosystem that is supposed to have suffered a human-driven disturbance, and (b) the future of an ecosystem that is supposed to be protected against such disturbances. Administering a questionnaire of 12 items - 4 of which concern us here - to 61 1st-year educational sciences students at the University of Patras, we traced - among others - their reasoning about (a) the future of three ecosystems (forest, sea, lake), supposed to have suffered different human-driven disturbances (fire, oil spill, new population introduction), and (b) the future of a protected forest ecosystem of a national park. According to our findings, most of the students found it very likely for a disturbed ecosystem to fully recover its initial state - mainly due to a `recovery process' or inherent `recovery mechanisms' - showing a strong belief in an extremely resilient `Balance of Nature'. Moreover, most of them appeared to believe that if human-protected, an ecosystem will be in a continuous `balance', while very few were skeptical enough to claim a non-predictable future for it.