Ecology and Its Organization

The people, place, and things in nature that surround living organisms in totality form environment. Basically, the term environment means the surroundings of an organism. It is a combination of both the natural and human-made phenomenon. The environment includes both the living and the non-living components, which influence the lives of organisms present in a specific area at a given point of time.

Ecology And Its Organization

  • The term ecology (Oekologie) was coined by a German biologist, Hanns Reiter in 1868 by combining two Greek words Oikos (house) and logos (a study of).
  • Ecology is the scientific study of animals and plants in relation to their environment and to each other.
  • Ecology is one of the disciplines of environmental science which studies reciprocal relationship between organisms within their environment.

 

Levels of Organisation in Ecology

Organism

  • An organism is an individual living being which can function independently
  • It is a fundamental functional unit in ecology because it interacts directly with the environment as well as with other organisms, e.g., a rabbit, fungi etc.

Population

  • It refers to a group organism of the same species that are in proximity to one another, e.g., a group of rabbits.
  • Population density which is the number of individuals of a population in a unit area may vary in different regions or during different times in the same region.

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Community

  • It includes all the populations occupying a given area.
  • A community may have one or several species.
  • The size of a community depends on our scale of reference.
  • We might use the community to refer to all of the living things in a particular area like a pond, or we might restrict our interest to the fish community or the plant community.

Ecosystem

  • The community and the non-living environment together are referred to as an ecological system or ecosystem, e.g., a pond with fish and plants.
  • The term ecosystem was coined by Sir Arthur Tansley in 1935
  • An ecosystem has two basic components biotic or living components and abiotic or non-living components.
  • The living or biotic components include the community with all the animals and plants.
  • The non-living or abiotic component includes the organic and inorganic substances together with climatic factors.

Biomes

  • It refers to a large regional or sub-continental ecosystem characterized by similarity in vegetation and climate.
  • It is made of many similar ecosystems.
  • An ecosystem is much smaller than a biome which is enormous in size.
  • For example, a grassland biome implies many ecosystems that are similar because grasses are their principal plants and grazer are their predominant animals

Biosphere

  • The biosphere is a relatively thin layer around the planet earth where life exists.
  • It is also referred to as the Zone of Life , comprising of the atmosphere (air), hydrosphere (water), and lithosphere (land).
  • It extends from few kilometres into the atmosphere to the depth of the oceans including many trenches.
  • The biosphere is unique as so far, the existence of life has not been found elsewhere in the universe.
  • The energy required to support life on earth comes from the sun in the form of solar energy which is captured by producers like green plants to produce food through photosynthesis.
  • Water is another major factor on which all life forms depend.
  • The biosphere is characterized by continuous cycles of matter which is continuously recycled for life to continue.

Classification of Ecosystem

Basically, there are two types of ecosystems Natural Ecosystems and Artificial Ecosystem. However, there are several subtypes of these two types of ecosystem.

Natural Ecosystem

  • They are self-regulating systems without much direct human interferences and manipulations.
  • There are several examples of natural ecosystem Viz. River, pond, lake, ocean, forest, desert, and grassland etc.
  • Based on the type of habitat, the natural ecosystems are further categorized into terrestrial and aquatic.
  • Terrestrial ecosystems include deserts, forests, and grasslands.
  • Aquatic ecosystems can be either freshwater like lakes, ponds, streams, or salt water like marine, estuaries type.
A forest - an example of a natural ecosystem

Artificial Ecosystem

  • They are man-made.
  • Human activities modify or convert natural ecosystems into man-made ecosystems.
  • For example, natural forests are cut and the land is used for tree plantations or agricultural activities.
  • Other examples of artificial ecosystems include gardens, parks, and aquaria. In these ecosystems, man manipulates the physio-chemical environment for his own benefit.
A city park - an example of an artificial or man-made ecosystem

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