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Ecology (from el, οἶκος, "house" and el, -λογία, label=none, "study of") is the study of the relationships between living organisms, including humans, and their physical environment. Ecology considers
organisms In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological me ...

organisms
at the individual,
population Population typically refers the number of people in a single area whether it be a city or town, region, country, or the world. Governments typically quantify the size of the resident population within their jurisdiction by a process called a ...

population
,
community A community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as Norm (social), norms, religion, values, Convention (norm), customs, or Identity (social science), identity. Communities may share a sense of place (geography), plac ...
,
ecosystems An ecosystem (or ecological system) consists of all the organisms and the physical environment with which they interact. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Energy enters the syste ...
, and
biosphere The biosphere (from βίος ''bíos'' "life" and σφαῖρα ''sphaira'' "sphere"), also known as the ecosphere (from Greek οἶκος ''oîkos'' "environment" and σφαῖρα), is the worldwide sum of all s. It can also be termed the zo ...
level. Ecology overlaps with the closely related sciences of
biogeography Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defin ...

biogeography
,
evolutionary biology Evolutionary biology is the subfield of biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interacti ...
,
genetics Genetics is a branch of biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, p ...

genetics
,
ethology Ethology is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, testable explanations and predictions about the universe."... modern science is ...
and
natural history Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, including animals, fungus, fungi, and plants, in their natural environment, leaning more towards observational than experimental methods of study. A person who studies natural history ...

natural history
. Ecology is a branch of
biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological mechanisms, Development ...

biology
, and it is not synonymous with
environmentalism Environmentalism or environmental rights is a broad philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about existence Existence is the ability of an entity to interact with physical real ...
. Among other things, ecology is the study of: * Life processes, antifragility, interactions, and
adaptations In biology, adaptation has three related meanings. Firstly, it is the dynamic evolutionary process that fits organisms to their environment, enhancing their Fitness (biology), evolutionary fitness. Secondly, it is a state reached by the popula ...
* The movement of materials and
energy In , energy is the that must be to a or to perform on the body, or to it. Energy is a ; the law of states that energy can be in form, but not created or destroyed. The unit of measurement in the (SI) of energy is the , which is the ...

energy
through living communities * The successional development of ecosystems * Cooperation, competition and predation within and between
species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individu ...

species
. * The abundance,
biomass Biomass is plant or animal material used as fuel to produce electricity Electricity is the set of physical phenomena associated with the presence and motion Image:Leaving Yongsan Station.jpg, 300px, Motion involves a change in position ...
, and distribution of organisms in the context of the
environment Environment most often refers to: __NOTOC__ * Natural environment, all living and non-living things occurring naturally * Biophysical environment, the physical and biological factors along with their chemical interactions that affect an organism or ...
. * Patterns of biodiversity and its effect on ecosystem processes Ecology has practical applications in
conservation biology Conservation biology is the study of the conservation of nature and of Earth's biodiversity with the aim of protecting species, their habitats, and ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction and the erosion of biotic interactions. It is an int ...
,
wetland A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently (for years or decades) or seasonally (for weeks or months). Flooding results in oxygen-free (Anoxic waters, anoxic) processes prevailing, especially in the soils. ...

wetland
management,
natural resource management Natural resource management (NRM) is the management of natural resource , Malaysia is an example of undisturbed natural resource. Waterfalls provide spring water for humans, animals and plants for survival and also habitat for marine organism ...
(
agroecology Agroecology (a-grō-ē-ˈkä-lə-jē) is an applied science Applied science is the use of the scientific method The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, empirical method of acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development ...
,
agriculture Agriculture is the science, art and practice of cultivating plants and livestock. Agriculture was the key development in the rise of , whereby farming of species created food that enabled people to live in cities. The began thousands of ...

agriculture
,
forestry Forestry is the science and craft of creating, managing, planting, using, conserving and repairing forest A forest is an area of land dominated by s. Hundreds of definitions of forest are used throughout the world, incorporating fac ...
,
agroforestry Agroforestry is a management system in which trees or shrubs are grown around or among crops or pastureland. This diversification of the farming system initiates an agroecological succession, like that in natural ecosystems, and so starts a cha ...

agroforestry
,
fisheries Fishery is the enterprise of raising or harvesting fish and other aquatic life. Commercial fisheries include wild fisheries and Fish farming, fish farms, both in fresh water (about 10% of all catch) and the oceans (about 90%). About 500 million pe ...
), city planning (
urban ecology Urban ecology is the scientific study of the relation of living organisms with each other and their surroundings in the context of an urban environment. The urban environment refers to environments dominated by population density, high-density re ...
),
community health Community health is a branch of public health Public health has been defined as "the science and art of Preventive healthcare, preventing disease”, prolonging life and improving quality of life through organized efforts and informed choices ...

community health
,
economics Economics () is a social science Social science is the Branches of science, branch of science devoted to the study of society, societies and the Social relation, relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was fo ...
,
basic Basic or BASIC may refer to: Science and technology * BASIC BASIC (Beginners' All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) is a family of General-purpose programming language, general-purpose, high-level programming languages whose design philosophy ...
and
applied science Applied science is the use of the scientific method The scientific method is an Empirical evidence, empirical method of acquiring knowledge that has characterized the development of science since at least the 17th century. It involves caref ...
, and human social interaction (
human ecology 275px, Part of the '' built environment'' suburban tract housing">suburb.html" ;"title="built environment'' suburb">built environment'' suburban tract housing in Colorado Springs, Colorado Human ecology is an interdisciplinary and transdiscipli ...
). The word "ecology" ("Ökologie") was coined in 1866 by the German scientist
Ernst Haeckel Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel (; 16 February 1834 – 9 August 1919) was a German zoologist Zoology ()The pronunciation of zoology as is typically regarded as nonstandard, though it is not uncommon. is the branch of biology that stu ...

Ernst Haeckel
, and it became a rigorous
science Science () is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or something, such as facts ( descriptive knowledge), skills (procedural knowledge), or objects ...
in the late 19th century.
Evolution Evolution is change in the heritable Heredity, also called inheritance or biological inheritance, is the passing on of Phenotypic trait, traits from parents to their offspring; either through asexual reproduction or sexual reproduction, ...

Evolution
ary concepts relating to adaptation and
natural selection Natural selection is the differential survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype right , Here the relation between genotype and phenotype is illustrated, using a Punnett square, for the character of peta ...
are cornerstones of modern
ecological theory 300px, Life on Earth-Flow of Energy and Entropy Theoretical ecology is the scientific discipline devoted to the study of ecological systems using theoretical methods such as simple conceptual model A conceptual model is a representation of a syste ...
.
Ecosystems An ecosystem (or ecological system) consists of all the organisms and the physical environment with which they interact. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Energy enters the syste ...
are dynamically interacting systems of
organisms In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological me ...

organisms
, the
communities A community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as norms, religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, beliefs, wor ...
they make up, and the non-living components of their environment. Ecosystem processes, such as
primary production In ecology, primary production is the synthesis of organic compounds from atmospheric or aqueous carbon dioxide. It principally occurs through the process of photosynthesis, which uses light as its source of energy, but it also occurs through ch ...
,
nutrient cycling A nutrient cycle (or ecological recycling) is the movement and exchange of organic matter, organic and inorganic matter back into the Productivity (ecology), production of matter. Energy flow is a unidirectional and noncyclic pathway, whereas the ...
, and
niche construction Niche construction is the process by which an organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual contiguous system that embodies the Life#Biology, properties of life. It is ...
, regulate the flux of energy and matter through an environment. Ecosystems have
biophysical uses protein domain dynamics on nanoscales to walk along a microtubule Microtubules are polymers of tubulin that form part of the cytoskeleton and provide structure and shape to Eukaryote, eukaryotic cells. Microtubules can grow as long as 50&n ...
feedback mechanisms that moderate processes acting on living (
biotic Biotics describe living or once living components of a community; for example organisms, such as animals and plants. Biotic may refer to: *Life, the condition of living organisms *Biology, the study of life *Biotic material, which is derived from l ...
) and non-living (
abiotic
abiotic
) components of the planet.
Ecosystem An ecosystem (or ecological system) consists of all the organisms and the physical environment with which they interact. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Energy enters the syst ...

Ecosystem
s sustain life-supporting functions and provide
ecosystem services Ecosystem services are the many and varied benefits to humans provided by the natural environment and from healthy . Such ecosystems include, for example, s, s, s and s. These ecosystems, functioning in healthy relationship, offer such things ...
like
biomass production
biomass production
(food, fuel, fiber, and medicine), the regulation of
climate Climate is the long-term pattern of weather Weather is the state of the atmosphere An atmosphere (from the greek words ἀτμός ''(atmos)'', meaning 'vapour', and σφαῖρα ''(sphaira)'', meaning 'ball' or 'sphere') is a la ...

climate
, global biogeochemical cycles,
water filtration A water filter removes impurities by lowering contamination of water Water (chemical formula H2O) is an , transparent, tasteless, odorless, and , which is the main constituent of 's and the s of all known living organisms (in which i ...
,
soil formation Pedogenesis (from the Greek ''pedo''-, or ''pedon'', meaning 'soil, earth,' and ''genesis'', meaning 'origin, birth') (also termed soil development, soil evolution, soil formation, and soil genesis) is the process of soil formation as regulated b ...

soil formation
,
erosion In earth science Earth science or geoscience includes all fields of natural science Natural science is a branch of science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that Scientific ...

erosion
control, flood protection, and many other natural features of scientific, historical, economic, or intrinsic value.


Levels, scope, and scale of organization

The scope of ecology contains a wide array of interacting levels of organization spanning micro-level (e.g.,
cells Cell most often refers to: * Cell (biology), the functional basic unit of life Cell may also refer to: Closed spaces * Monastic cell, a small room, hut, or cave in which a monk or religious recluse lives * Prison cell, a room used to hold peopl ...
) to a planetary scale (e.g.,
biosphere The biosphere (from βίος ''bíos'' "life" and σφαῖρα ''sphaira'' "sphere"), also known as the ecosphere (from Greek οἶκος ''oîkos'' "environment" and σφαῖρα), is the worldwide sum of all s. It can also be termed the zo ...
)
phenomena A phenomenon (; plural phenomena) is an observable fact or event. The term came into its modern philosophical Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, existence, knowledge ...

phenomena
. Ecosystems, for example, contain abiotic
resources A resource is a source or supply from which a benefit is produced and that has some utility. Resources can broadly be classified upon their availability — they are classified into renewable and non-renewable resources. They can also be classif ...
and interacting life forms (i.e., individual organisms that aggregate into
population Population typically refers the number of people in a single area whether it be a city or town, region, country, or the world. Governments typically quantify the size of the resident population within their jurisdiction by a process called a ...

population
s which aggregate into distinct ecological communities). Ecosystems are dynamic, they do not always follow a linear successional path, but they are always changing, sometimes rapidly and sometimes so slowly that it can take thousands of years for ecological processes to bring about certain successional stages of a forest. An ecosystem's area can vary greatly, from tiny to vast. A single tree is of little consequence to the classification of a forest ecosystem, but critically relevant to organisms living in and on it. Several generations of an
aphid Aphids are small sap-sucking insects and members of the Taxonomic rank, superfamily Aphidoidea. Common names include greenfly and blackfly, although individuals within a species can vary widely in color. The group includes the fluffy white Erio ...

aphid
population can exist over the lifespan of a single leaf. Each of those aphids, in turn, support diverse
bacteria Bacteria (; common noun bacteria, singular bacterium) are ubiquitous, mostly free-living organisms often consisting of one Cell (biology), biological cell. They constitute a large domain (biology), domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typ ...

bacteria
l communities. The nature of connections in ecological communities cannot be explained by knowing the details of each species in isolation, because the emergent pattern is neither revealed nor predicted until the ecosystem is studied as an integrated whole. Some ecological principles, however, do exhibit collective properties where the sum of the components explain the properties of the whole, such as birth rates of a population being equal to the sum of individual births over a designated time frame. The main subdisciplines of ecology,
population Population typically refers the number of people in a single area whether it be a city or town, region, country, or the world. Governments typically quantify the size of the resident population within their jurisdiction by a process called a ...
(or
community A community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as Norm (social), norms, religion, values, Convention (norm), customs, or Identity (social science), identity. Communities may share a sense of place (geography), plac ...
) ecology and
ecosystem ecology in the White Mountains (New Hampshire), White Mountains, New Hampshire (USA). Ecosystem ecology is the integrated study of living (Biotic component, biotic) and non-living (Abiotic component, abiotic) components of ecosystems and their interaction ...
, exhibit a difference not only of scale but also of two contrasting paradigms in the field. The former focuses on organisms' distribution and abundance, while the latter focuses on materials and energy fluxes.


Hierarchy

The scale of ecological dynamics can operate like a closed system, such as aphids migrating on a single tree, while at the same time remain open with regard to broader scale influences, such as atmosphere or climate. Hence, ecologists classify
ecosystems An ecosystem (or ecological system) consists of all the organisms and the physical environment with which they interact. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Energy enters the syste ...
hierarchically by analyzing data collected from finer scale units, such as
vegetation associationA plant community is a collection or Association (ecology), association of plant species within a designated geographical unit, which forms a relatively uniform patch, distinguishable from neighboring patches of different vegetation types. The compon ...
s, climate, and
soil type A soil type is a taxonomic unit in soil science Soil science is the study of soil File:Stagnogley.JPG, Surface-water-Gley soil, gley developed in glacial till, Northern Ireland. Soil is a mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquid ...
s, and integrate this information to identify emergent patterns of uniform organization and processes that operate on local to regional,
landscape A landscape is the visible features of an area of , its s, and how they integrate with or man-made features.''New Oxford American Dictionary''. A landscape includes the physical elements of ly defined s such as (ice-capped) , , such as s, s, ...

landscape
, and chronological scales. To structure the study of ecology into a conceptually manageable framework, the biological world is organized into a nested hierarchy, ranging in scale from
gene In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological mecha ...

gene
s, to
cells Cell most often refers to: * Cell (biology), the functional basic unit of life Cell may also refer to: Closed spaces * Monastic cell, a small room, hut, or cave in which a monk or religious recluse lives * Prison cell, a room used to hold peopl ...
, to tissues, to
organs An organ is a group of tissues with similar functions. Plant life and animal life rely on many organs that co-exist in organ systems. A given organ's tissues can be broadly categorized as parenchyma Parenchyma () is the bulk of functional ...
, to
organism In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological ...

organism
s, to
species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group of organisms in which any two individu ...

species
, to
populations In biology, a population is a number A number is a mathematical object used to counting, count, measurement, measure, and nominal number, label. The original examples are the natural numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, and so forth. Numbers can be represen ...
, to
communities A community is a social unit (a group of living things) with commonality such as norms, religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, morals, beliefs, wor ...
, to
ecosystem An ecosystem (or ecological system) consists of all the organisms and the physical environment with which they interact. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Energy enters the syst ...

ecosystem
s, to
biome A biome is a collection of plants Plants are predominantly photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants and other organisms to Energy transformation, convert light energy into chemical energy that, through cellular respi ...
s, and up to the level of the
biosphere The biosphere (from βίος ''bíos'' "life" and σφαῖρα ''sphaira'' "sphere"), also known as the ecosphere (from Greek οἶκος ''oîkos'' "environment" and σφαῖρα), is the worldwide sum of all s. It can also be termed the zo ...
. This framework forms a
panarchy Panarchy (from pan- and -archy), coined by Paul Émile de Puydt in 1860, is a form of governance that would encompass all others.P. E. de PuydtPanarchy first published in French in the Revue Trimestrielle, Bruxelles, July 1860. The Oxford Eng ...
and exhibits
non-linear In mathematics Mathematics (from Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as numbers ( and ), formulas and related structures (), shapes and spaces in which they are contained (), and quantities and their changes ( and ). There is no ge ...
behaviors; this means that "effect and cause are disproportionate, so that small changes to critical variables, such as the number of nitrogen fixers, can lead to disproportionate, perhaps irreversible, changes in the system properties."


Biodiversity

Biodiversity (an abbreviation of "biological diversity") describes the diversity of life from genes to ecosystems and spans every level of biological organization. The term has several interpretations, and there are many ways to index, measure, characterize, and represent its complex organization. Biodiversity includes
species diversity Species diversity is the number of different species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the ...
,
ecosystem diversity Ecosystem diversity deals with the variations in ecosystem An ecosystem is a community (ecology), community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment, interacting as a system. These Biotic componen ...
, and
genetic diversity Genetic diversity is the total number of genetic characteristics in the genetic makeup of a species, it ranges widely from the number of species to differences within species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classificati ...
and scientists are interested in the way that this diversity affects the complex ecological processes operating at and among these respective levels. Biodiversity plays an important role in
ecosystem service Social forestry in Andhra Pradesh, India, providing fuel, soil protection, shade and even well-being to travellers. Ecosystem services are the many and varied benefits to humans provided by the natural environment and from healthy ecosystems ...
s which by definition maintain and improve human quality of life. Conservation priorities and management techniques require different approaches and considerations to address the full ecological scope of biodiversity.
Natural capital on "natural capital" and "balancing the budget of our resources" File:Fires along the Rio Xingu, Brazil - NASA Earth Observatory.jpg, Fires along the Rio Xingu, Brazil - NASA Earth Observatory. Loss of natural capital assets may have significant ...
that supports populations is critical for maintaining
ecosystem services Ecosystem services are the many and varied benefits to humans provided by the natural environment and from healthy . Such ecosystems include, for example, s, s, s and s. These ecosystems, functioning in healthy relationship, offer such things ...
and species
migration Migration, migratory, or migrate may refer to: Human migration * Human migration, physical movement by humans from one region to another ** International migration, when peoples cross state boundaries and stay in the host state for some minimum len ...
(e.g., riverine fish runs and avian insect control) has been implicated as one mechanism by which those service losses are experienced. An understanding of biodiversity has practical applications for species and ecosystem-level conservation planners as they make management recommendations to consulting firms, governments, and industry.


Habitat

The habitat of a species describes the environment over which a species is known to occur and the type of community that is formed as a result. More specifically, "habitats can be defined as regions in environmental space that are composed of multiple dimensions, each representing a biotic or abiotic environmental variable; that is, any component or characteristic of the environment related directly (e.g. forage biomass and quality) or indirectly (e.g. elevation) to the use of a location by the animal." For example, a habitat might be an aquatic or terrestrial environment that can be further categorized as a
montane Montane ecosystems are found on the slopes of mountain A mountain is an elevated portion of the Earth's crust, generally with steep sides that show significant exposed bedrock. A mountain differs from a plateau in having a limited summit area ...
or
alpine Alpine may refer to: Places * Alps, a European mountain range * Alpine states, associated with the mountain range, or relating to any lofty mountain areas * Mountainous or alpine; the mountains. Australia * Alpine, New South Wales, a Northern Vill ...

alpine
ecosystem. Habitat shifts provide important evidence of competition in nature where one population changes relative to the habitats that most other individuals of the species occupy. For example, one population of a species of tropical lizard (''Tropidurus hispidus'') has a flattened body relative to the main populations that live in open savanna. The population that lives in an isolated rock outcrop hides in crevasses where its flattened body offers a selective advantage. Habitat shifts also occur in the developmental life history of amphibians, and in insects that transition from aquatic to terrestrial habitats.
Biotope A biotope is an area of uniform environmental conditions providing a living place for a specific assemblage of plants Plants are mainly multicellular organisms, predominantly photosynthetic Photosynthesis is a process used by plants a ...

Biotope
and habitat are sometimes used interchangeably, but the former applies to a community's environment, whereas the latter applies to a species' environment.


Niche

Definitions of the niche date back to 1917, but G. Evelyn Hutchinson made conceptual advances in 1957 by introducing a widely adopted definition: "the set of biotic and abiotic conditions in which a species is able to persist and maintain stable population sizes." The ecological niche is a central concept in the ecology of organisms and is sub-divided into the ''fundamental'' and the ''realized'' niche. The fundamental niche is the set of environmental conditions under which a species is able to persist. The realized niche is the set of environmental plus ecological conditions under which a species persists. The Hutchinsonian niche is defined more technically as a "
Euclidean Euclidean (or, less commonly, Euclidian) is an adjective derived from the name of Euclid, an ancient Greek mathematician. It is the name of: Geometry *Euclidean space, the two-dimensional plane and three-dimensional space of Euclidean geometry a ...
hyperspace Hyperspace is a concept from science fiction File:Imagination 195808.jpg, Space exploration, as predicted in August 1958 in the science fiction magazine ''Imagination (magazine), Imagination.'' Science fiction (sometimes shortened to sci-fi or ...
whose ''dimensions'' are defined as environmental variables and whose ''size'' is a function of the number of values that the environmental values may assume for which an organism has ''positive fitness''."
Biogeographical Biogeography is the study of the distribution of species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often define ...

Biogeographical
patterns and
range Range may refer to: Geography * Range (geographic)A range, in geography, is a chain of hill A hill is a landform A landform is a natural or artificial feature of the solid surface of the Earth or other planetary body. Landforms together ...
distributions are explained or predicted through knowledge of a species'
traits Trait may refer to: * Phenotypic trait in biology, which involve genes and characteristics of organisms * Trait (computer programming), a model for structuring object-oriented programs (a template class in the C++ programming language) * Trait the ...
and niche requirements. Species have functional traits that are uniquely adapted to the ecological niche. A trait is a measurable property,
phenotype In genetics Genetics is a branch of biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular inter ...

phenotype
, or
characteristic Characteristic (from the Greek word for a property, attribute or trait Trait may refer to: * Phenotypic trait in biology, which involve genes and characteristics of organisms * Trait (computer programming), a model for structuring object-oriented ...
of an organism that may influence its survival. Genes play an important role in the interplay of development and environmental expression of traits. Resident species evolve traits that are fitted to the selection pressures of their local environment. This tends to afford them a competitive advantage and discourages similarly adapted species from having an overlapping geographic range. The
competitive exclusion principle In ecology Ecology (from el, οἶκος, "house" and el, -λογία, label=none, "study of") is the study of the relationships between living organisms, including humans, and their physical environment. Ecology considers organisms ...
states that two species cannot coexist indefinitely by living off the same limiting
resource Resource refers to all the materials available in our environment which help us to satisfy our needs and wants. Resources can broadly be classified upon their availability — they are classified into renewable File:Global Vegetation.jpg, Global ...
; one will always out-compete the other. When similarly adapted species overlap geographically, closer inspection reveals subtle ecological differences in their habitat or dietary requirements. Some models and empirical studies, however, suggest that disturbances can stabilize the co-evolution and shared niche occupancy of similar species inhabiting species-rich communities. The habitat plus the niche is called the ecotope, which is defined as the full range of environmental and biological variables affecting an entire species.


Niche construction

Organisms are subject to environmental pressures, but they also modify their habitats. The regulatory feedback between organisms and their environment can affect conditions from local (e.g., a
beaver Beavers are large, semiaquatic In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interaction ...

beaver
pond A pond is an area filled with water, either natural or Artificiality, artificial, that is smaller than a lake. Ponds are small bodies of freshwater with shallow and still water, marsh, and aquatic plants.Clegg, J. (1986). Observer's Book of ...

pond
) to global scales, over time and even after death, such as decaying logs or
silica Silicon dioxide, also known as silica, is an oxide An oxide () is a chemical compound A chemical compound is a chemical substance A chemical substance is a form of matter In classical physics and general chemistry, matter is any su ...

silica
skeleton deposits from marine organisms. The process and concept of ecosystem engineering are related to
niche construction Niche construction is the process by which an organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανισμός, ''organismos'') is any individual contiguous system that embodies the Life#Biology, properties of life. It is ...
, but the former relates only to the physical modifications of the habitat whereas the latter also considers the evolutionary implications of physical changes to the environment and the feedback this causes on the process of natural selection. Ecosystem engineers are defined as: "organisms that directly or indirectly modulate the availability of resources to other species, by causing physical state changes in biotic or abiotic materials. In so doing they modify, maintain and create habitats." The ecosystem engineering concept has stimulated a new appreciation for the influence that organisms have on the ecosystem and evolutionary process. The term "niche construction" is more often used in reference to the under-appreciated feedback mechanisms of natural selection imparting forces on the abiotic niche. An example of natural selection through ecosystem engineering occurs in the nests of
social insects Eusociality (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 mil ...
, including ants, bees, wasps, and termites. There is an emergent homeostasis or homeorhesis in the structure of the nest that regulates, maintains and defends the physiology of the entire colony. Termite mounds, for example, maintain a constant internal temperature through the design of air-conditioning chimneys. The structure of the nests themselves is subject to the forces of natural selection. Moreover, a nest can survive over successive generations, so that progeny inherit both genetic material and a legacy niche that was constructed before their time.


Biome

Biomes are larger units of organization that categorize regions of the Earth's ecosystems, mainly according to the structure and composition of vegetation. There are different methods to define the continental boundaries of biomes dominated by different functional types of vegetative communities that are limited in distribution by climate, precipitation, weather and other environmental variables. Biomes include tropical rainforest, temperate broadleaf and mixed forest, temperate deciduous forest, taiga, tundra, hot desert, and polar desert. Other researchers have recently categorized other biomes, such as the human and oceanic microbiomes. To a microorganism, microbe, the human body is a habitat and a landscape. Microbiomes were discovered largely through advances in molecular genetics, which have revealed a hidden richness of microbial diversity on the planet. The oceanic microbiome plays a significant role in the ecological biogeochemistry of the planet's oceans.


Biosphere

The largest scale of ecological organization is the biosphere: the total sum of ecosystems on the planet. Ecological relationships regulate the flux of energy, nutrients, and climate all the way up to the planetary scale. For example, the dynamic history of the planetary atmosphere's CO2 and O2 composition has been affected by the biogenic flux of gases coming from respiration and photosynthesis, with levels fluctuating over time in relation to the ecology and evolution of plants and animals. Ecological theory has also been used to explain self-emergent regulatory phenomena at the planetary scale: for example, the Gaia hypothesis is an example of holism applied in ecological theory. The Gaia hypothesis states that there is an emergent feedback loop generated by the metabolic theory of ecology, metabolism of living organisms that maintains the core temperature of the Earth and atmospheric conditions within a narrow self-regulating range of tolerance.


Population ecology

Population ecology studies the dynamics of species populations and how these populations interact with the wider environment. A population consists of individuals of the same species that live, interact, and migrate through the same niche and habitat. A primary law of population ecology is the Malthusian growth model which states, "a population will grow (or decline) exponentially as long as the environment experienced by all individuals in the population remains constant." Simplified population Scientific modelling, models usually start with four variables: death, birth, immigration, and emigration. An example of an introductory population model describes a closed population, such as on an island, where immigration and emigration does not take place. Hypotheses are evaluated with reference to a null hypothesis which states that random processes create the observed data. In these island models, the rate of population change is described by: : \frac = bN(t) - dN(t) = (b - d)N(t) = rN(t), where ''N'' is the total number of individuals in the population, ''b'' and ''d'' are the per capita rates of birth and death respectively, and ''r'' is the per capita rate of population change. Using these modeling techniques, Malthus' population principle of growth was later transformed into a model known as the Law of population growth, logistic equation by Pierre Verhulst: : \frac = rN(t) - \alpha N(t)^2 = rN(t)\left(\frac\right), where ''N(t)'' is the number of individuals measured as biomass (ecology), biomass density as a function of time, ''t'', ''r'' is the maximum per-capita rate of change commonly known as the intrinsic rate of growth, and \alpha is the crowding coefficient, which represents the reduction in population growth rate per individual added. The formula states that the rate of change in population size (\mathrmN(t)/\mathrmt) will grow to approach equilibrium, where (\mathrmN(t)/\mathrmt = 0), when the rates of increase and crowding are balanced, r/\alpha. A common, analogous model fixes the equilibrium, r/\alpha as ''K'', which is known as the "carrying capacity." Population ecology builds upon these introductory models to further understand demographic processes in real study populations. Commonly used types of data include Biological life cycle, life history, fecundity, and survivorship, and these are analysed using mathematical techniques such as matrix (mathematics), matrix algebra. The information is used for managing wildlife stocks and setting harvest quotas. In cases where basic models are insufficient, ecologists may adopt different kinds of statistical methods, such as the Akaike information criterion, or use models that can become mathematically complex as "several competing hypotheses are simultaneously confronted with the data."


Metapopulations and migration

The concept of metapopulations was defined in 1969 as "a population of populations which go extinct locally and recolonize". Metapopulation ecology is another statistical approach that is often used in conservation biology, conservation research. Metapopulation models simplify the landscape into patches of varying levels of quality, and metapopulations are linked by the migratory behaviours of organisms. Animal migration is set apart from other kinds of movement because it involves the seasonal departure and return of individuals from a habitat. Migration is also a population-level phenomenon, as with the migration routes followed by plants as they occupied northern post-glacial environments. Plant ecologists use pollen records that accumulate and stratify in wetlands to reconstruct the timing of plant migration and dispersal relative to historic and contemporary climates. These migration routes involved an expansion of the range as plant populations expanded from one area to another. There is a larger taxonomy of movement, such as commuting, foraging, territorial behaviour, stasis, and ranging. Dispersal is usually distinguished from migration because it involves the one-way permanent movement of individuals from their birth population into another population. In metapopulation terminology, migrating individuals are classed as emigrants (when they leave a region) or immigrants (when they enter a region), and sites are classed either as sources or sinks. A site is a generic term that refers to places where ecologists sample populations, such as ponds or defined sampling areas in a forest. Source patches are productive sites that generate a seasonal supply of Juvenile (organism), juveniles that migrate to other patch locations. Sink patches are unproductive sites that only receive migrants; the population at the site will disappear unless rescued by an adjacent source patch or environmental conditions become more favourable. Metapopulation models examine patch dynamics over time to answer potential questions about spatial and demographic ecology. The ecology of metapopulations is a dynamic process of extinction and colonization. Small patches of lower quality (i.e., sinks) are maintained or rescued by a seasonal influx of new immigrants. A dynamic metapopulation structure evolves from year to year, where some patches are sinks in dry years and are sources when conditions are more favourable. Ecologists use a mixture of computer models and field study, field studies to explain metapopulation structure.


Community ecology

Community ecology is the study of the interactions among a collection of species that inhabit the same geographic area. Community ecologists study the determinants of patterns and processes for two or more interacting species. Research in community ecology might measure
species diversity Species diversity is the number of different species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the ...
in grasslands in relation to soil fertility. It might also include the analysis of predator-prey dynamics, competition among similar plant species, or mutualistic interactions between crabs and corals.


Ecosystem ecology

Ecosystems may be habitats within biomes that form an integrated whole and a dynamically responsive system having both physical and biological complexes. Ecosystem ecology is the science of determining the fluxes of materials (e.g. carbon, phosphorus) between different pools (e.g., tree biomass, soil organic material). Ecosystem ecologists attempt to determine the underlying causes of these fluxes. Research in ecosystem ecology might measure
primary production In ecology, primary production is the synthesis of organic compounds from atmospheric or aqueous carbon dioxide. It principally occurs through the process of photosynthesis, which uses light as its source of energy, but it also occurs through ch ...
(g C/m^2) in a
wetland A wetland is a distinct ecosystem that is flooded by water, either permanently (for years or decades) or seasonally (for weeks or months). Flooding results in oxygen-free (Anoxic waters, anoxic) processes prevailing, especially in the soils. ...

wetland
in relation to decomposition and consumption rates (g C/m^2/y). This requires an understanding of the community connections between plants (i.e., primary producers) and the decomposers (e.g., fungi and bacteria), The underlying concept of an ecosystem can be traced back to 1864 in the published work of George Perkins Marsh ("Man and Nature"). Within an ecosystem, organisms are linked to the physical and biological components of their environment to which they are adapted. Ecosystems are complex adaptive systems where the interaction of life processes form self-organizing patterns across different scales of time and space. Ecosystems are broadly categorized as Terrestrial ecosystem, terrestrial, Freshwater ecosystem, freshwater, atmospheric, or Marine ecosystem, marine. Differences stem from the nature of the unique physical environments that shapes the biodiversity within each. A more recent addition to ecosystem ecology are technoecosystems, which are affected by or primarily the result of human activity.


Food webs

A food web is the archetypal ecological network. Plants capture solar energy and use it to synthesize simple sugars during photosynthesis. As plants grow, they accumulate nutrients and are eaten by grazing herbivores, and the energy is transferred through a chain of organisms by consumption. The simplified linear feeding pathways that move from a basal trophic species to a top consumer is called the food chain. The larger interlocking pattern of food chains in an ecological community creates a complex food web. Food webs are a type of concept map or a heuristic device that is used to illustrate and study pathways of energy and material flows. Food webs are often limited relative to the real world. Complete empirical measurements are generally restricted to a specific habitat, such as a cave or a pond, and principles gleaned from food web Microcosm (experimental ecosystem), microcosm studies are extrapolated to larger systems. Feeding relations require extensive investigations into the gut contents of organisms, which can be difficult to decipher, or stable isotopes can be used to trace the flow of nutrient diets and energy through a food web. Despite these limitations, food webs remain a valuable tool in understanding community ecosystems. Food webs exhibit principles of ecological emergence through the nature of trophic relationships: some species have many weak feeding links (e.g., omnivores) while some are more specialized with fewer stronger feeding links (e.g., predator, primary predators). Theoretical and empirical studies identify Random#In biology, non-random emergent patterns of few strong and many weak linkages that explain how ecological communities remain stable over time. Food webs are composed of subgroups where members in a community are linked by strong interactions, and the weak interactions occur between these subgroups. This increases food web stability. Step by step lines or relations are drawn until a web of life is illustrated.


Trophic levels

A trophic level (from Greek ''troph'', τροφή, trophē, meaning "food" or "feeding") is "a group of organisms acquiring a considerable majority of its energy from the lower adjacent level (according to ecological pyramids) nearer the abiotic source." Links in food webs primarily connect feeding relations or trophism among species. Biodiversity within ecosystems can be organized into trophic pyramids, in which the vertical dimension represents feeding relations that become further removed from the base of the food chain up toward top predators, and the horizontal dimension represents the Relative species abundance, abundance or biomass at each level. When the relative abundance or biomass of each species is sorted into its respective trophic level, they naturally sort into a 'pyramid of numbers'. Species are broadly categorized as autotrophs (or primary producers), heterotrophs (or consumer (food chain), consumers), and Detritivores (or decomposers). Autotrophs are organisms that produce their own food (production is greater than respiration) by photosynthesis or chemosynthesis. Heterotrophs are organisms that must feed on others for nourishment and energy (respiration exceeds production). Heterotrophs can be further sub-divided into different functional groups, including primary consumers (strict herbivores), Trophic dynamics, secondary consumers (carnivorous predators that feed exclusively on herbivores), and tertiary consumers (predators that feed on a mix of herbivores and predators). Omnivores do not fit neatly into a functional category because they eat both plant and animal tissues. It has been suggested that omnivores have a greater functional influence as predators because compared to herbivores, they are relatively inefficient at grazing. Trophic levels are part of the holistic or complex systems view of ecosystems. Each trophic level contains unrelated species that are grouped together because they share common ecological functions, giving a macroscopic view of the system. While the notion of trophic levels provides insight into energy flow and top-down control within food webs, it is troubled by the prevalence of omnivory in real ecosystems. This has led some ecologists to "reiterate that the notion that species clearly aggregate into discrete, homogeneous trophic levels is fiction." Nonetheless, recent studies have shown that real trophic levels do exist, but "above the herbivore trophic level, food webs are better characterized as a tangled web of omnivores."


Keystone species

A keystone species is a species that is connected to a disproportionately large number of other species in the food-web. Keystone species have lower levels of biomass in the trophic pyramid relative to the importance of their role. The many connections that a keystone species holds means that it maintains the organization and structure of entire communities. The loss of a keystone species results in a range of dramatic cascading effects that alters trophic dynamics, other food web connections, and can cause the extinction of other species. Sea otters (''Enhydra lutris'') are commonly cited as an example of a keystone species because they limit the density of sea urchins that feed on kelp. If sea otters are removed from the system, the urchins graze until the kelp beds disappear, and this has a dramatic effect on community structure. Hunting of sea otters, for example, is thought to have led indirectly to the extinction of the Steller's sea cow (''Hydrodamalis gigas''). While the keystone species concept has been used extensively as a Conservation biology, conservation tool, it has been criticized for being poorly defined from an operational stance. It is difficult to experimentally determine what species may hold a keystone role in each ecosystem. Furthermore, food web theory suggests that keystone species may not be common, so it is unclear how generally the keystone species model can be applied.


Complexity

Complexity is understood as a large computational effort needed to piece together numerous interacting parts exceeding the iterative memory capacity of the human mind. Global patterns of biological diversity are complex. This biocomplexity stems from the interplay among ecological processes that operate and influence patterns at different scales that grade into each other, such as transitional areas or ecotones spanning landscapes. Complexity stems from the interplay among levels of biological organization as energy, and matter is integrated into larger units that superimpose onto the smaller parts. "What were wholes on one level become parts on a higher one." Small scale patterns do not necessarily explain large scale phenomena, otherwise captured in the expression (coined by Aristotle) 'the sum is greater than the parts'. "Complexity in ecology is of at least six distinct types: spatial, temporal, structural, process, behavioral, and geometric." From these principles, ecologists have identified emergence, emergent and Self-organization#Biology, self-organizing phenomena that operate at different environmental scales of influence, ranging from molecular to planetary, and these require different explanations at each integrative level. Ecological complexity relates to the dynamic resilience of ecosystems that transition to multiple shifting steady-states directed by random fluctuations of history. Long-term ecological studies provide important track records to better understand the complexity and resilience of ecosystems over longer temporal and broader spatial scales. These studies are managed by the International Long Term Ecological Network (LTER). The longest experiment in existence is the Park Grass Experiment, which was initiated in 1856. Another example is the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest, Hubbard Brook study, which has been in operation since 1960.


Holism

Holism remains a critical part of the theoretical foundation in contemporary ecological studies. Holism addresses the Biological organisation, biological organization of life that Systems biology, self-organizes into layers of emergent whole systems that function according to non-reducible properties. This means that higher-order patterns of a whole functional system, such as an
ecosystem An ecosystem (or ecological system) consists of all the organisms and the physical environment with which they interact. These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Energy enters the syst ...

ecosystem
, cannot be predicted or understood by a simple summation of the parts. "New properties emerge because the components interact, not because the basic nature of the components is changed." Ecological studies are necessarily holistic as opposed to reductionistic. Holism has three scientific meanings or uses that identify with ecology: 1) the mechanistic complexity of ecosystems, 2) the practical description of patterns in quantitative reductionist terms where correlations may be identified but nothing is understood about the causal relations without reference to the whole system, which leads to 3) a metaphysics, metaphysical hierarchy whereby the causal relations of larger systems are understood without reference to the smaller parts. Scientific holism differs from mysticism that has appropriated the same term. An example of metaphysical holism is identified in the trend of increased exterior thickness in shells of different species. The reason for a thickness increase can be understood through reference to principles of natural selection via predation without the need to reference or understand the biomolecular properties of the exterior shells.


Relation to evolution

Ecology and evolutionary biology are considered sister disciplines of the life sciences. Natural selection, Biological life cycle, life history, Developmental biology, development, adaptation, populations, and heredity, inheritance are examples of concepts that thread equally into ecological and evolutionary theory. Morphological, behavioural, and genetic traits, for example, can be mapped onto evolutionary trees to study the historical development of a species in relation to their functions and roles in different ecological circumstances. In this framework, the analytical tools of ecologists and evolutionists overlap as they organize, classify, and investigate life through common systematic principles, such as phylogenetics or the Linnaean taxonomy, Linnaean system of taxonomy. The two disciplines often appear together, such as in the title of the journal ''Trends in Ecology and Evolution''. There is no sharp boundary separating ecology from evolution, and they differ more in their areas of applied focus. Both disciplines discover and explain emergent and unique properties and processes operating across different spatial or temporal scales of organization. While the boundary between ecology and evolution is not always clear, ecologists study the abiotic and biotic factors that influence evolutionary processes, and evolution can be rapid, occurring on ecological timescales as short as one generation.


Behavioural ecology

All organisms can exhibit behaviours. Even plants express complex behaviour, including memory and communication. Behavioural ecology is the study of an organism's behaviour in its environment and its ecological and evolutionary implications. Ethology is the study of observable movement or behaviour in animals. This could include investigations of motile sperm of plants, mobile phytoplankton, zooplankton swimming toward the female egg, the cultivation of fungi by weevils, the mating dance of a salamander, or social gatherings of amoeba. Adaptation is the central unifying concept in behavioural ecology. Behaviours can be recorded as traits and inherited in much the same way that eye and hair colour can. Behaviours can evolve by means of natural selection as adaptive traits conferring functional utilities that increases reproductive fitness. Predator-prey interactions are an introductory concept into food-web studies as well as behavioural ecology. Prey species can exhibit different kinds of behavioural adaptations to predators, such as avoid, flee, or defend. Many prey species are faced with multiple predators that differ in the degree of danger posed. To be adapted to their environment and face predatory threats, organisms must balance their energy budgets as they invest in different aspects of their life history, such as growth, feeding, mating, socializing, or modifying their habitat. Hypotheses posited in behavioural ecology are generally based on adaptive principles of conservation, optimization, or efficiency. For example, "[t]he threat-sensitive predator avoidance hypothesis predicts that prey should assess the degree of threat posed by different predators and match their behaviour according to current levels of risk" or "[t]he optimal Escape distance, flight initiation distance occurs where expected postencounter fitness is maximized, which depends on the prey's initial fitness, benefits obtainable by not fleeing, energetic escape costs, and expected fitness loss due to predation risk." Elaborate sexual display (zoology), displays and posturing are encountered in the behavioural ecology of animals. The birds-of-paradise, for example, sing and display elaborate ornaments during courtship. These displays serve a dual purpose of signalling healthy or well-adapted individuals and desirable genes. The displays are driven by sexual selection as an advertisement of quality of traits among suitors.


Cognitive ecology

Cognitive ecology integrates theory and observations from evolutionary ecology and neurobiology, primarily cognitive science, in order to understand the effect that animal interaction with their habitat has on their cognitive systems and how those systems restrict behavior within an ecological and evolutionary framework. "Until recently, however, cognitive scientists have not paid sufficient attention to the fundamental fact that cognitive traits evolved under particular natural settings. With consideration of the selection pressure on cognition, cognitive ecology can contribute intellectual coherence to the multidisciplinary study of cognition." As a study involving the 'coupling' or interactions between organism and environment, cognitive ecology is closely related to enactivism, a field based upon the view that "...we must see the organism and environment as bound together in reciprocal specification and selection...".


Social ecology

Social-ecological behaviours are notable in the
social insects Eusociality (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 mil ...
, slime moulds, social spiders, human society, and naked mole-rats where eusocialism has evolved. Social behaviours include reciprocally beneficial behaviours among kin and nest mates and evolve from kin and group selection. Kin selection explains altruism through genetic relationships, whereby an altruistic behaviour leading to death is rewarded by the survival of genetic copies distributed among surviving relatives. The social insects, including ants, bees, and wasps are most famously studied for this type of relationship because the male drones are Cloning, clones that share the same genetic make-up as every other male in the colony. In contrast, group selectionists find examples of altruism among non-genetic relatives and explain this through selection acting on the group; whereby, it becomes selectively advantageous for groups if their members express altruistic behaviours to one another. Groups with predominantly altruistic members survive better than groups with predominantly selfish members.


Coevolution

Ecological interactions can be classified broadly into a host (biology), host and an associate relationship. A host is any entity that harbours another that is called the associate. Relationships Interspecific interaction, within a species that are mutually or reciprocally beneficial are called mutualisms. Examples of mutualism include fungus-growing ants employing agricultural symbiosis, bacteria living in the guts of insects and other organisms, the fig wasp and yucca moth pollination complex, lichens with fungi and photosynthetic algae, and corals with photosynthetic algae. If there is a physical connection between host and associate, the relationship is called symbiosis. Approximately 60% of all plants, for example, have a symbiotic relationship with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi living in their roots forming an exchange network of carbohydrates for nutrients, mineral nutrients. Indirect mutualisms occur where the organisms live apart. For example, trees living in the equatorial regions of the planet supply oxygen into the atmosphere that sustains species living in distant polar regions of the planet. This relationship is called commensalism because many others receive the benefits of clean air at no cost or harm to trees supplying the oxygen. If the associate benefits while the host suffers, the relationship is called parasitism. Although parasites impose a cost to their host (e.g., via damage to their reproductive organs or propagules, denying the services of a beneficial partner), their net effect on host fitness is not necessarily negative and, thus, becomes difficult to forecast. Co-evolution is also driven by competition among species or among members of the same species under the banner of reciprocal antagonism, such as grasses competing for growth space. The Red Queen Hypothesis, for example, posits that parasites track down and specialize on the locally common genetic defense systems of its host that drives the evolution of sexual reproduction to diversify the genetic constituency of populations responding to the antagonistic pressure.


Biogeography

Biogeography (an amalgamation of ''biology'' and ''geography'') is the comparative study of the geographic distribution of organisms and the corresponding evolution of their traits in space and time. The ''Journal of Biogeography'' was established in 1974. Biogeography and ecology share many of their disciplinary roots. For example, Island biogeography, the theory of island biogeography, published by the Robert MacArthur and Edward O. Wilson in 1967 is considered one of the fundamentals of ecological theory. Biogeography has a long history in the natural sciences concerning the spatial distribution of plants and animals. Ecology and evolution provide the explanatory context for biogeographical studies. Biogeographical patterns result from ecological processes that influence range distributions, such as
migration Migration, migratory, or migrate may refer to: Human migration * Human migration, physical movement by humans from one region to another ** International migration, when peoples cross state boundaries and stay in the host state for some minimum len ...
and Biological dispersal, dispersal. and from historical processes that split populations or species into different areas. The biogeographic processes that result in the natural splitting of species explain much of the modern distribution of the Earth's biota. The splitting of lineages in a species is called Allopatric speciation, vicariance biogeography and it is a sub-discipline of biogeography. There are also practical applications in the field of biogeography concerning ecological systems and processes. For example, the range and distribution of biodiversity and invasive species responding to climate change is a serious concern and active area of research in the context of global warming.


r/K selection theory

A population ecology concept is r/K selection theory, one of the first predictive models in ecology used to explain Life history theory, life-history evolution. The premise behind the r/K selection model is that natural selection pressures change according to population densities, population density. For example, when an island is first colonized, density of individuals is low. The initial increase in population size is not limited by competition, leaving an abundance of available
resources A resource is a source or supply from which a benefit is produced and that has some utility. Resources can broadly be classified upon their availability — they are classified into renewable and non-renewable resources. They can also be classif ...
for rapid population growth. These early phases of population growth experience ''density-independent'' forces of natural selection, which is called ''r''-selection. As the population becomes more crowded, it approaches the island's carrying capacity, thus forcing individuals to compete more heavily for fewer available resources. Under crowded conditions, the population experiences density-dependent forces of natural selection, called ''K''-selection. In the ''r/K''-selection model, the first variable ''r'' is the intrinsic rate of natural increase in population size and the second variable ''K'' is the carrying capacity of a population. Different species evolve different life-history strategies spanning a continuum between these two selective forces. An ''r''-selected species is one that has high birth rates, low levels of parental investment, and high rates of mortality before individuals reach maturity. Evolution favours high rates of fecundity in ''r''-selected species. Many kinds of insects and invasive species exhibit ''r''-selected Phenotypic trait, characteristics. In contrast, a ''K''-selected species has low rates of fecundity, high levels of parental investment in the young, and low rates of mortality as individuals mature. Humans and elephants are examples of species exhibiting ''K''-selected characteristics, including longevity and efficiency in the conversion of more resources into fewer offspring.


Molecular ecology

The important relationship between ecology and genetic inheritance predates modern techniques for molecular analysis. Molecular ecological research became more feasible with the development of rapid and accessible genetic technologies, such as the Polymerase chain reaction, polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The rise of molecular technologies and the influx of research questions into this new ecological field resulted in the publication ''Molecular Ecology'' in 1992. Molecular ecology uses various analytical techniques to study genes in an evolutionary and ecological context. In 1994, John Avise also played a leading role in this area of science with the publication of his book, ''Molecular Markers, Natural History and Evolution''. Newer technologies opened a wave of genetic analysis into organisms once difficult to study from an ecological or evolutionary standpoint, such as bacteria, fungi, and nematodes. Molecular ecology engendered a new research paradigm for investigating ecological questions considered otherwise intractable. Molecular investigations revealed previously obscured details in the tiny intricacies of nature and improved resolution into probing questions about behavioural and biogeographical ecology. For example, molecular ecology revealed promiscuous sexual behaviour and multiple male partners in tree swallows previously thought to be socially monogamous. In a biogeographical context, the marriage between genetics, ecology, and evolution resulted in a new sub-discipline called phylogeography.


Human ecology

Ecology is as much a biological science as it is a human science. Human ecology is an interdisciplinary investigation into the ecology of our species. "Human ecology may be defined: (1) from a bioecological standpoint as the study of man as the ecological dominant in plant and animal communities and systems; (2) from a bioecological standpoint as simply another animal affecting and being affected by his physical environment; and (3) as a human being, somehow different from animal life in general, interacting with physical and modified environments in a distinctive and creative way. A truly interdisciplinary human ecology will most likely address itself to all three." The term was formally introduced in 1921, but many sociologists, geographers, psychologists, and other disciplines were interested in human relations to natural systems centuries prior, especially in the late 19th century. The ecological complexities human beings are facing through the technological transformation of the planetary biome has brought on the Anthropocene. The unique set of circumstances has generated the need for a new unifying science called coupled human and natural systems that builds upon, but moves beyond the field of human ecology. Ecosystems tie into human societies through the critical and all-encompassing life-supporting functions they sustain. In recognition of these functions and the incapability of traditional economic valuation methods to see the value in ecosystems, there has been a surge of interest in social capital, social-natural capital, which provides the means to put a value on the stock and use of information and materials stemming from ecosystem services, ecosystem goods and services. Ecosystems produce, regulate, maintain, and supply services of critical necessity and beneficial to human health (cognitive and physiological), economies, and they even provide an information or reference function as a living library giving opportunities for science and cognitive development in children engaged in the complexity of the natural world. Ecosystems relate importantly to human ecology as they are the ultimate base foundation of global economics as every commodity, and the capacity for exchange ultimately stems from the ecosystems on Earth.


Restoration and management

Ecology is an employed science of restoration, repairing disturbed sites through human intervention, in natural resource management, and in environmental impact assessments. Edward O. Wilson predicted in 1992 that the 21st century "will be the era of restoration in ecology". Ecological science has boomed in the industrial investment of restoring ecosystems and their processes in abandoned sites after disturbance. Natural resource managers, in silviculture, forestry, for example, employ ecologists to develop, adapt, and implement Ecosystem management, ecosystem based methods into the planning, operation, and restoration phases of land-use. Ecological science is used in the methods of sustainable harvesting, disease, and fire outbreak management, in fisheries stock management, for integrating land-use with protected areas and communities, and conservation in complex geo-political landscapes.


Relation to the environment

The environment of ecosystems includes both physical parameters and biotic attributes. It is dynamically interlinked and contains
resources A resource is a source or supply from which a benefit is produced and that has some utility. Resources can broadly be classified upon their availability — they are classified into renewable and non-renewable resources. They can also be classif ...
for organisms at any time throughout their life cycle. Like ecology, the term environment has different conceptual meanings and overlaps with the concept of nature. Environment "includes the physical world, the social world of human relations and the built world of human creation." The physical environment is external to the level of biological organization under investigation, including factors such as temperature, radiation, light, chemistry,
climate Climate is the long-term pattern of weather Weather is the state of the atmosphere An atmosphere (from the greek words ἀτμός ''(atmos)'', meaning 'vapour', and σφαῖρα ''(sphaira)'', meaning 'ball' or 'sphere') is a la ...

climate
and geology. The biotic environment includes genes, cells, organisms, members of the same species (conspecifics) and other species that share a habitat. The distinction between external and internal environments, however, is an abstraction parsing life and environment into units or facts that are inseparable in reality. There is an interpenetration of cause and effect between the environment and life. The laws of thermodynamics, for example, apply to ecology by means of its physical state. With an understanding of metabolic and thermodynamic principles, a complete accounting of energy and material flow can be traced through an ecosystem. In this way, the environmental and ecological relations are studied through reference to conceptually manageable and isolated materialism, material parts. After the effective environmental components are understood through reference to their causes; however, they conceptually link back together as an integrated whole, or ''holocoenotic'' system as it was once called. This is known as the dialectical approach to ecology. The dialectical approach examines the parts but integrates the organism and the environment into a dynamic whole (or umwelt). Change in one ecological or environmental factor can concurrently affect the dynamic state of an entire ecosystem.


Disturbance and resilience

Ecosystems are regularly confronted with natural environmental variations and disturbances over time and geographic space. A disturbance is any process that removes biomass from a community, such as a fire, flood, drought, or predation. Disturbances occur over vastly different ranges in terms of magnitudes as well as distances and time periods, and are both the cause and product of natural fluctuations in death rates, species assemblages, and biomass densities within an ecological community. These disturbances create places of renewal where new directions emerge from the patchwork of natural experimentation and opportunity. Ecological resilience is a cornerstone theory in ecosystem management. Biodiversity fuels the resilience of ecosystems acting as a kind of regenerative insurance.


Metabolism and the early atmosphere

The Earth was formed approximately 4.5 billion years ago. As it cooled and a crust and oceans formed, its atmosphere transformed from being dominated by hydrogen to one composed mostly of methane and ammonia. Over the next billion years, the metabolic activity of life transformed the atmosphere into a mixture of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water vapor. These gases changed the way that light from the sun hit the Earth's surface and greenhouse effects trapped heat. There were untapped sources of free energy within the mixture of Redox, reducing and oxidizing gasses that set the stage for primitive ecosystems to evolve and, in turn, the atmosphere also evolved. Throughout history, the Earth's atmosphere and biogeochemical cycles have been in a dynamic equilibrium with planetary ecosystems. The history is characterized by periods of significant transformation followed by millions of years of stability. The evolution of the earliest organisms, likely anaerobic methanogen microbes, started the process by converting atmospheric hydrogen into methane (4H2 + CO2 → CH4 + 2H2O). Anoxygenic photosynthesis reduced hydrogen concentrations and increased atmospheric methane, by converting hydrogen sulfide into water or other sulfur compounds (for example, 2H2S + CO2 + h''v'' → CH2O + H2O + 2S). Early forms of Fermentation (biochemistry), fermentation also increased levels of atmospheric methane. The transition to an oxygen-dominant atmosphere (the ''Great Oxygenation Event, Great Oxidation'') did not begin until approximately 2.4–2.3 billion years ago, but photosynthetic processes started 0.3 to 1 billion years prior.


Radiation: heat, temperature and light

The biology of life operates within a certain range of temperatures. Heat is a form of energy that regulates temperature. Heat affects growth rates, activity, behaviour, and
primary production In ecology, primary production is the synthesis of organic compounds from atmospheric or aqueous carbon dioxide. It principally occurs through the process of photosynthesis, which uses light as its source of energy, but it also occurs through ch ...
. Temperature is largely dependent on the incidence of solar radiation. The latitudinal and longitudinal spatial variation of temperature greatly affects climates and consequently the distribution of biodiversity and levels of primary production in different ecosystems or biomes across the planet. Heat and temperature relate importantly to metabolic activity. Poikilotherms, for example, have a body temperature that is largely regulated and dependent on the temperature of the external environment. In contrast, homeotherms regulate their internal body temperature by expending food energy, metabolic energy. There is a relationship between light, primary production, and ecological energy budgets. Sunlight is the primary input of energy into the planet's ecosystems. Light is composed of electromagnetic energy of different wavelengths. Radiant energy from the sun generates heat, provides photons of light measured as active energy in the chemical reactions of life, and also acts as a catalyst for genetic mutation. Plants, algae, and some bacteria absorb light and assimilate the energy through photosynthesis. Organisms capable of assimilating energy by photosynthesis or through inorganic fixation of hydrogen sulfide, H2S are autotrophs. Autotrophs—responsible for primary production—assimilate light energy which becomes metabolically stored as potential energy in the form of biochemical Enthalpy, enthalpic bonds.


Physical environments


Water

Diffusion of carbon dioxide and oxygen is approximately 10,000 times slower in water than in air. When soils are flooded, they quickly lose oxygen, becoming Hypoxia (environmental), hypoxic (an environment with O2 concentration below 2 mg/liter) and eventually completely Anoxic waters, anoxic where anaerobic bacteria thrive among the roots. Water also influences the intensity and Electromagnetic spectrum, spectral composition of light as it reflects off the water surface and submerged particles. Aquatic plants exhibit a wide variety of morphological and physiological adaptations that allow them to survive, compete, and diversify in these environments. For example, their roots and stems contain large air spaces (aerenchyma) that regulate the efficient transportation of gases (for example, CO2 and O2) used in respiration and photosynthesis. Salt water plants (halophytes) have additional specialized adaptations, such as the development of special organs for shedding salt and osmoregulation, osmoregulating their internal salt (NaCl) concentrations, to live in Estuary, estuarine, brackish, or oceanic environments. Anaerobic soil microorganisms in aquatic environments use nitrate, Manganese, manganese ions, ferric, ferric ions, sulfate, carbon dioxide, and some organic compounds; other microorganisms are facultative anaerobes and use oxygen during respiration when the soil becomes drier. The activity of soil microorganisms and the chemistry of the water reduces the Reduction potential, oxidation-reduction potentials of the water. Carbon dioxide, for example, is reduced to methane (CH4) by methanogenic bacteria. The physiology of fish is also specially adapted to compensate for environmental salt levels through osmoregulation. Their gills form electrochemical gradients that mediate salt excretion in salt water and uptake in fresh water.


Gravity

The shape and energy of the land are significantly affected by gravitational forces. On a large scale, the distribution of gravitational forces on the earth is uneven and influences the shape and movement of tectonic plates as well as influencing geomorphic processes such as orogeny and
erosion In earth science Earth science or geoscience includes all fields of natural science Natural science is a branch of science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that Scientific ...

erosion
. These forces govern many of the geophysical properties and distributions of ecological biomes across the Earth. On the organismal scale, gravitational forces provide directional cues for plant and fungal growth (gravitropism), orientation cues for animal migrations, and influence the biomechanics and size of animals. Ecological traits, such as allocation of biomass in trees during growth are subject to mechanical failure as gravitational forces influence the position and structure of branches and leaves. The Circulatory system, cardiovascular systems of animals are functionally adapted to overcome the pressure and gravitational forces that change according to the features of organisms (e.g., height, size, shape), their behaviour (e.g., diving, running, flying), and the habitat occupied (e.g., water, hot deserts, cold tundra).


Pressure

Climatic and osmotic pressure places physiological constraints on organisms, especially those that fly and respire at high altitudes, or dive to deep ocean depths. These constraints influence vertical limits of ecosystems in the biosphere, as organisms are physiologically sensitive and adapted to atmospheric and osmotic water pressure differences. For example, oxygen levels decrease with decreasing pressure and are a limiting factor for life at higher altitudes. Xylem, Water transportation by plants is another important ecophysiology, ecophysiological process affected by osmotic pressure gradients. Fluid pressure, Water pressure in the depths of oceans requires that organisms adapt to these conditions. For example, diving animals such as whales, dolphins, and seal (animal), seals are specially adapted to deal with changes in sound due to water pressure differences. Differences between hagfish species provide another example of adaptation to deep-sea pressure through specialized protein adaptations.


Wind and turbulence

Turbulent forces in air and water affect the environment and ecosystem distribution, form, and dynamics. On a planetary scale, ecosystems are affected by circulation patterns in the global trade winds. Wind power and the turbulent forces it creates can influence heat, nutrient, and biochemical profiles of ecosystems. For example, wind running over the surface of a lake creates turbulence, mixing the water column and influencing the environmental profile to create thermally layered zones, affecting how fish, algae, and other parts of the aquatic ecosystem are structured. Wind speed and turbulence also influence evapotranspiration rates and energy budgets in plants and animals. Wind speed, temperature and moisture content can vary as winds travel across different land features and elevations. For example, the westerlies come into contact with the coastal and interior mountains of western North America to produce a rain shadow on the leeward side of the mountain. The air expands and moisture condenses as the winds increase in elevation; this is called orographic lift and can cause precipitation. This environmental process produces spatial divisions in biodiversity, as species adapted to wetter conditions are range-restricted to the coastal mountain valleys and unable to migrate across the xeric ecosystems (e.g., of the Columbia River Drainage Basin, Columbia Basin in western North America) to intermix with sister lineages that are segregated to the interior mountain systems.


Fire

Plants convert carbon dioxide into biomass and emit oxygen into the atmosphere. By approximately 350 million years ago (the end of the Devonian period), photosynthesis had brought the concentration of atmospheric oxygen above 17%, which allowed combustion to occur. Fire releases CO2 and converts fuel into ash and tar. Fire is a significant ecological parameter that raises many issues pertaining to its control and suppression. While the issue of fire in relation to ecology and plants has been recognized for a long time, Charles F. Cooper (ecologist), Charles Cooper brought attention to the issue of forest fires in relation to the ecology of forest fire suppression and management in the 1960s. Indigenous peoples of the Americas, Native North Americans were among the first to influence fire regimes by controlling their spread near their homes or by lighting fires to stimulate the production of herbaceous foods and basketry materials. Fire creates a heterogeneous ecosystem age and canopy structure, and the altered soil nutrient supply and cleared canopy structure opens new ecological niches for seedling establishment. Most ecosystems are adapted to natural fire cycles. Plants, for example, are equipped with a variety of adaptations to deal with forest fires. Some species (e.g., ''Pinus halepensis'') cannot germination, germinate until after their seeds have lived through a fire or been exposed to certain compounds from smoke. Environmentally triggered germination of seeds is called serotiny. Fire plays a major role in the persistence and Resilience (ecology), resilience of ecosystems.


Soils

Soil is the living top layer of mineral and organic dirt that covers the surface of the planet. It is the chief organizing centre of most ecosystem functions, and it is of critical importance in agricultural science and ecology. The decomposition of dead organic matter (for example, leaves on the forest floor), results in soils containing minerals and nutrients that feed into plant production. The whole of the planet's soil ecosystems is called the pedosphere where a large biomass of the Earth's biodiversity organizes into trophic levels. Invertebrates that feed and shred larger leaves, for example, create smaller bits for smaller organisms in the feeding chain. Collectively, these organisms are the detritivores that regulate soil formation. Tree roots, fungi, bacteria, worms, ants, beetles, centipedes, spiders, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and other less familiar creatures all work to create the trophic web of life in soil ecosystems. Soils form composite phenotypes where inorganic matter is enveloped into the physiology of a whole community. As organisms feed and migrate through soils they physically displace materials, an ecological process called bioturbation. This aerates soils and stimulates heterotrophic growth and production. Soil microorganisms are influenced by and are fed back into the trophic dynamics of the ecosystem. No single axis of causality can be discerned to segregate the biological from geomorphological systems in soils. Paleoecology, Paleoecological studies of soils places the origin for bioturbation to a time before the Cambrian period. Other events, such as the Tree#Evolutionary history, evolution of trees and the Evolutionary history of life#Colonization of land, colonization of land in the Devonian period played a significant role in the early development of ecological trophism in soils.


Biogeochemistry and climate

Ecologists study and measure nutrient budgets to understand how these materials are regulated, flow, and recycling (ecological), recycled through the environment. This research has led to an understanding that there is global feedback between ecosystems and the physical parameters of this planet, including minerals, soil, pH, ions, water, and atmospheric gases. Six major elements (hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur, and phosphorus; H, C, N, O, S, and P) form the constitution of all biological macromolecules and feed into the Earth's geochemical processes. From the smallest scale of biology, the combined effect of billions upon billions of ecological processes amplify and ultimately regulate the biogeochemical cycles of the Earth. Understanding the relations and cycles mediated between these elements and their ecological pathways has significant bearing toward understanding global biogeochemistry. The ecology of global carbon budgets gives one example of the linkage between biodiversity and biogeochemistry. It is estimated that the Earth's oceans hold 40,000 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon, that vegetation and soil hold 2070 Gt, and that fossil fuel emissions are 6.3 Gt carbon per year. There have been major restructurings in these global carbon budgets during the Earth's history, regulated to a large extent by the ecology of the land. For example, through the early-mid Eocene volcanic outgassing, the oxidation of methane stored in wetlands, and seafloor gases increased atmospheric CO2 (carbon dioxide) concentrations to levels as high as 3500 Parts per million, ppm. In the Oligocene, from twenty-five to thirty-two million years ago, there was another significant restructuring of the global carbon cycle as grasses evolved a new mechanism of photosynthesis, C4 carbon fixation, C4 photosynthesis, and expanded their ranges. This new pathway evolved in response to the drop in atmospheric CO2 concentrations below 550 ppm. The relative abundance and distribution of biodiversity alters the dynamics between organisms and their environment such that ecosystems can be both cause and effect in relation to climate change. Human-driven modifications to the planet's ecosystems (e.g., disturbance, biodiversity loss, agriculture) contributes to rising atmospheric greenhouse gas levels. Transformation of the global carbon cycle in the next century is projected to raise planetary temperatures, lead to more extreme fluctuations in weather, alter species distributions, and increase extinction rates. The effect of global warming is already being registered in melting glaciers, melting mountain ice caps, and rising sea levels. Consequently, species distributions are changing along waterfronts and in continental areas where migration patterns and breeding grounds are tracking the prevailing shifts in climate. Large sections of permafrost are also melting to create a new mosaic of flooded areas having increased rates of soil decomposition activity that raises methane (CH4) emissions. There is concern over increases in atmospheric methane in the context of the global carbon cycle, because methane is a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more effective at absorbing long-wave radiation than CO2 on a 100-year time scale. Hence, there is a relationship between global warming, decomposition and respiration in soils and wetlands producing significant climate feedbacks and globally altered biogeochemical cycles.


History


Early beginnings

Ecology has a complex origin, due in large part to its interdisciplinary nature. Ancient Greek philosophers such as Hippocrates and Aristotle were among the first to record observations on natural history. However, they viewed life in terms of essentialism, where species were conceptualized as static unchanging things while varieties were seen as aberrations of an Idealism, idealized type. This contrasts against the modern understanding of
ecological theory 300px, Life on Earth-Flow of Energy and Entropy Theoretical ecology is the scientific discipline devoted to the study of ecological systems using theoretical methods such as simple conceptual model A conceptual model is a representation of a syste ...
where varieties are viewed as the real phenomena of interest and having a role in the origins of adaptations by means of
natural selection Natural selection is the differential survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype right , Here the relation between genotype and phenotype is illustrated, using a Punnett square, for the character of peta ...
. Early conceptions of ecology, such as a balance and regulation in nature can be traced to Herodotus (died ''c''. 425 BC), who described one of the earliest accounts of mutualism (biology), mutualism in his observation of "natural dentistry". Basking Nile crocodiles, he noted, would open their mouths to give sandpipers safe access to pluck leeches out, giving nutrition to the sandpiper and oral hygiene for the crocodile. Aristotle was an early influence on the philosophical development of ecology. He and his student Theophrastus made extensive observations on plant and animal migrations, biogeography, physiology, and their behavior, giving an early analogue to the modern concept of an ecological niche.
Ernst Haeckel Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel (; 16 February 1834 – 9 August 1919) was a German zoologist Zoology ()The pronunciation of zoology as is typically regarded as nonstandard, though it is not uncommon. is the branch of biology that stu ...

Ernst Haeckel
(left) and Eugenius Warming (right), two founders of ecology
Ecological concepts such as food chains, population regulation, and productivity were first developed in the 1700s, through the published works of microscopist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek (1632–1723) and botanist Richard Bradley (botanist), Richard Bradley (1688?–1732). Biogeographer Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) was an early pioneer in ecological thinking and was among the first to recognize ecological gradients, where species are replaced or altered in form along environmental gradients, such as a cline (biology), cline forming along a rise in elevation. Humboldt drew inspiration from Isaac Newton, as he developed a form of "terrestrial physics". In Newtonian fashion, he brought a scientific exactitude for measurement into natural history and even alluded to concepts that are the foundation of a modern ecological law on species-to-area relationships. Natural historians, such as Humboldt, James Hutton, and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (among others) laid the foundations of the modern ecological sciences. The term "ecology" (german: Oekologie, Ökologie) was coined by
Ernst Haeckel Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel (; 16 February 1834 – 9 August 1919) was a German zoologist Zoology ()The pronunciation of zoology as is typically regarded as nonstandard, though it is not uncommon. is the branch of biology that stu ...

Ernst Haeckel
in his book ''Generelle Morphologie der Organismen'' (1866). From p. 286: ''"Unter Oecologie verstehen wir die gesammte Wissenschaft von den Beziehungen des Organismus zur umgebenden Aussenwelt, wohin wir im weiteren Sinne alle "Existenz-Bedingungen" rechnen können."'' (By "ecology" we understand the comprehensive science of the relationships of the organism to its surrounding environment, where we can include, in the broader sense, all "conditions of existence".) Haeckel was a zoologist, artist, writer, and later in life a professor of comparative anatomy. Opinions differ on who was the founder of modern ecological theory. Some mark Haeckel's definition as the beginning; others say it was Eugenius Warming with the writing of Plantesamfund, Oecology of Plants: An Introduction to the Study of Plant Communities (1895), or Carl Linnaeus' principles on the economy of nature that matured in the early 18th century. Linnaeus founded an early branch of ecology that he called the economy of nature. His works influenced Charles Darwin, who adopted Linnaeus' phrase on the ''economy or polity of nature'' in ''The Origin of Species''. Linnaeus was the first to frame the balance of nature as a testable hypothesis. Haeckel, who admired Darwin's work, defined ecology in reference to the economy of nature, which has led some to question whether ecology and the economy of nature are synonymous. From Aristotle until Darwin, the natural world was predominantly considered static and unchanging. Prior to ''The Origin of Species'', there was little appreciation or understanding of the dynamic and reciprocal relations between organisms, their adaptations, and the environment. An exception is the 1789 publication ''Natural History of Selborne'' by Gilbert White (1720–1793), considered by some to be one of the earliest texts on ecology. While Charles Darwin is mainly noted for his treatise on evolution, he was one of the founders of soil ecology, and he made note of the first ecological experiment in ''The Origin of Species''. Evolutionary theory changed the way that researchers approached the ecological sciences.


Since 1900

Modern ecology is a young science that first attracted substantial scientific attention toward the end of the 19th century (around the same time that evolutionary studies were gaining scientific interest). The scientist Ellen Swallow Richards may have first introduced the term "oekology" (which eventually morphed into home economics) in the U.S. as early as 1892. In the early 20th century, ecology transitioned from a more metaphysics, descriptive form of
natural history Natural history is a domain of inquiry involving organisms, including animals, fungus, fungi, and plants, in their natural environment, leaning more towards observational than experimental methods of study. A person who studies natural history ...

natural history
to a more scientific method, analytical form of ''scientific natural history''. Frederic Clements published the first American ecology book in 1905, presenting the idea of plant communities as a superorganism. This publication launched a debate between ecological holism and individualism that lasted until the 1970s. Clements' superorganism concept proposed that ecosystems progress through regular and determined stages of seral development that are analogous to the developmental stages of an organism. The Clementsian paradigm was challenged by Henry Gleason, who stated that ecological communities develop from the unique and coincidental association of individual organisms. This perceptual shift placed the focus back onto the life histories of individual organisms and how this relates to the development of community associations. The Clementsian superorganism theory was an overextended application of an idealism, idealistic form of holism. The term "holism" was coined in 1926 by Jan Smuts, Jan Christiaan Smuts, a South African general and polarizing historical figure who was inspired by Clements' superorganism concept. Around the same time, Charles Sutherland Elton, Charles Elton pioneered the concept of food chains in his classical book ''Animal Ecology''. Elton defined ecological relations using concepts of food chains, food cycles, and food size, and described numerical relations among different functional groups and their relative abundance. Elton's 'food cycle' was replaced by 'food web' in a subsequent ecological text. Alfred J. Lotka brought in many theoretical concepts applying thermodynamic principles to ecology. In 1942, Raymond Lindeman wrote a landmark paper on the Trophic dynamics#Trophic dynamics, trophic dynamics of ecology, which was published posthumously after initially being rejected for its theoretical emphasis. Trophic dynamics became the foundation for much of the work to follow on energy and material flow through ecosystems. Robert MacArthur advanced mathematical theory, predictions, and tests in ecology in the 1950s, which inspired a resurgent school of theoretical mathematical ecologists. Ecology also has developed through contributions from other nations, including Russia's Vladimir Vernadsky and his founding of the biosphere concept in the 1920s and Japan's Kinji Imanishi and his concepts of harmony in nature and habitat segregation in the 1950s. Scientific recognition of contributions to ecology from non-English-speaking cultures is hampered by language and translation barriers. Ecology surged in popular and scientific interest during the 1960–1970s environmental movement. There are strong historical and scientific ties between ecology, environmental management, and protection. The historical emphasis and poetic naturalistic writings advocating the protection of wild places by notable ecologists in the history of
conservation biology Conservation biology is the study of the conservation of nature and of Earth's biodiversity with the aim of protecting species, their habitats, and ecosystems from excessive rates of extinction and the erosion of biotic interactions. It is an int ...
, such as Aldo Leopold and Arthur Tansley, have been seen as far removed from urban centres where, it is claimed, the concentration of pollution and environmental degradation is located. Palamar (2008) notes an overshadowing by mainstream environmentalism of pioneering women in the early 1900s who fought for urban health ecology (then called euthenics) and brought about changes in environmental legislation. Women such as Ellen Swallow Richards and Julia Lathrop, among others, were precursors to the more popularized environmental movements after the 1950s. In 1962, marine biologist and ecologist Rachel Carson's book ''Silent Spring'' helped to mobilize the environmental movement by alerting the public to toxic pesticides, such as DDT, Bioaccumulation, bioaccumulating in the environment. Carson used ecological science to link the release of environmental toxins to human and ecosystem health. Since then, ecologists have worked to bridge their understanding of the degradation of the planet's ecosystems with environmental politics, law, restoration, and natural resources management.


See also

* Chemical ecology * Climate justice * Circles of Sustainability * Cultural ecology * Dialectical naturalism * Ecological death * Ecological psychology * Ecology movement * Ecosophy * Ecopsychology * Industrial ecology * Information ecology * Landscape ecology * Natural resource * Normative science * Philosophy of ecology * Political ecology * Theoretical ecology * Sensory ecology * Sexecology * Spiritual ecology * Sustainable development ; Lists * Glossary of ecology * Index of biology articles * List of ecologists * Outline of biology * :Ecology terminology, Terminology of ecology


Notes

, meaning "dwelling place, distributional area" —quoted from Stauffer (1957).


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External links


Ecology (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

The Nature Education Knowledge Project: Ecology
{{Nature nav {{Branches of biology {{Biology nav {{Earth {{Environmental science {{Modelling ecosystems {{subject bar, Environment, Ecology, wikt=ecology, auto=1 {{Good article {{Authority control Ecology, Biogeochemistry Ecology terminology, Emergence