The Scope of Ecology

Topics: Ecology, Natural environment, Ecosystem, Environment, Psychology, Sociology / Pages: 11 (2505 words) / Published: Feb 11th, 2011
1. Define ecology. Identify the two features of organisms studied by ecologists.
Ecology is the scientific study of the interactions between organisms and the environment, which in turn determine both the distribution of organisms and their abundance. Ecologists study how interactions between organisms and the environment affect phenomena such as the number of species living in a particular area, cycling of nutrients in a habitat, and the growth of populations.

2. Describe the relationship between ecology and evolutionary biology.
Darwin’s extensive observations (ecological studies) of the distribution of organisms and their adaptations to specific environments led him to propose that environmental factors interacting with variation within populations could cause evolutionary change. We now know that events that occur in the framework of ecological time (minutes, months, years) translate into effects over the longer scale of evolutionary time (decades, centuries, millenia, longer than that).
Example- Hawks eating mice reduce population size (ecological effect) and alter the gene pool (evolutionary effect). Long term effects may be selection for mice with fur coloration that camouflages the animals.

3 Distinguish between abiotic and biotic components of the environment.
Abiotic: Nonliving components; chemical and physical features such as temp, light, water, nutrients.
Biotic: Living components; the biota is all organisms.
Example- Abiotic factors may have indirect effect on organisms via biotic factors. Higher precipitation may impact kangaroo distribution in Australia (lower the better), or climate may influence through biotic factors such as pathogens, parasites, competitors, predators, food availability (increased biota as result of rain).

4 Distinguish among organismal ecology, population ecology, community ecology, ecosystem ecology, and landscape ecology.
Organismal Ecology: Concerns how an organism’s structure, physiology, and (for

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