Biology Ecology Project

Topics: Soil, Water, Soil texture Pages: 75 (22627 words) Published: June 16, 2012
Organisms are open systems that interact continuously with their environment. The study of the interaction between organisms and the environment; the connectedness between living systems and non-living systems on the Earth is called ecology. The term “ecology” which was coined by Ernst Haeckel comes from the Greek root words oikos logos literally meaning “the study of household”. Haeckel was referring to the interactions within the house of nature and we have used the word ecology (translated from the German Oekologie or Ökologie) to describe complex systems of life both extant and extinct. These interactions determine both the distribution of organism and their abundance, leading to three questions ecologists often ask about organisms : Where do they live? Why do they live where they do? And how many are there? Because of it’s great scope, ecology is an enormously complex and exciting area of biology, as well as one of critical importance. Ecology reveals the richness of the biosphere—the entire portion of Earth inhabited by life—and can provide the basic understanding that will help us conserve and sustain that richness, now threatened more than ever by human activity. The richness is particularly apparent in tropical forests, such as the Panamanian forests, home to the Hercules scarab beetle (Dynastes Hercules).

Picture shows the Dynastes hercules

Humans have always had an interest in the distribution and abundance of other organisms. As hunters and gatherers, prehistoric people had to learn where game and edible plants could be found in abundance. With the development of agriculture and the domestication of animals, people learned more about how the environment affects the growth , survival and reproduction of plants and animals. Later, naturalists from Aristotle to Darwin and beyond observed and described organisms in their natural habitats and systematically recorded their observations. Because extraordinary insight can still be gained through this descriptive approach, natural history remains a fundamental part of the science of ecology. Ecology is, in a sense, a historical field, founded upon the Earth's far reaching and ever evolving natural history.

The sheer range of fields that the term "ecology" encompasses is staggering. Why? Think about how many levels of biological interaction can be described by focusing on one animal, a red panda (Ailurus fulgens). At the individual level, the red panda itself, an ecologist could look at a particular panda's ability to thermoregulate, or absorb and expel heat within its environment. Within a population of red pandas, the next step up, an ecologist could analyze the gene flow within the population and how this particular group of red pandas is distinct in adaptations from a neighboring one. Communities of organisms are composed of two or more populations. At this level, an ecologist could take a closer look at the cohabitation of red pandas and giant pandas in a certain area, studying how the animals share food and space. The distinction between a community and an ecosystem is slight, but essential to understand. While a community describes interaction between organisms in an area, an ecosystem describes the entirety of the area, including chemical and physical factors. Research at this level would concentrate on things like nutrient cycling (i.e. the phosphorus or carbon cycle) or the distribution of energy within the slope forests of the Himalayas. As we expand, things become more generalized. We are not longer talking specifically about the red panda, but about the living/nonliving system of which the red panda is a part. Landscape ecology looks at a certain heterogeneous conglomerate of ecosystems, their composition ("patches" of forests, plains, etc.) and the interaction between these ecosystems. A geographic ecologist (who studies regions of interaction) might take a look at the geologic history of an island or lake and try to explain the distribution...
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