Introduction to Ecology and Environemnt for IAS – Lesson 1 I Ecology for upsc

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Introduction to Ecology

Key Points

• In ecology, ecosystems are composed of organisms, the communities they comprise, and the non-living aspects of their environment.
• The four main levels of study in ecology are the organism, population, community, and ecosystem.
• Ecosystem processes are those that sustain and regulate the environment.
• Ecological areas of study include topics ranging from the interactions and adaptations of organisms within an ecosystem to the abiotic processes that drive the development of those ecosystems.

Key Terms

Ecology: the branch of biology dealing with the relationships of organisms with their environment and with each other
Ecosystem: a system formed by an ecological community and its environment that functions as a unit
Ecophysiology: the study of the relationships between, and adaptation of, the physiology of an organism and its environment

An Introduction to Ecology

Ecology is the study of the interactions of living organisms with their environment. Within the discipline of ecology, researchers work at four specific levels, sometimes discretely and sometimes with overlap. These levels are organism, population, community, and ecosystem. In ecology, ecosystems are composed of dynamically-interacting parts, which include organisms, the communities they comprise, and the non-living (abiotic) components of their environment.

The scope of ecology are:

In essence, ecologists seek to explain:
• life processes
• interactions, interrelationships, behaviors, and adaptations of organisms
• the movement of materials and energy through living communities
• the successional development of ecosystems
• the abundance and distribution of organisms and biodiversity in the context of the environment

There are many practical applications of ecology in conservation biology, wetland management, natural resource management (agro ecology, agriculture, forestry, agroforestry, and fisheries), city planning (urban ecology), community health, economics, basic and applied science, and human social interaction (human ecology).

Various branches of ecology are:

Organismal Ecology and Population Ecology

Organismal and population ecology study the adaptations that allow organisms to live in a habitat and organisms’ relationships to one another.
Describe populations as studied in population ecology and organisms as studied in organismal ecology

Organismal Ecology

Researchers studying ecology at the organismal level are interested in the adaptations that enable individuals to live in specific habitats. These adaptations can be morphological (pertaining to the study of form or structure), physiological, and behavioral.

Population Ecology

A population is a group of interbreeding organisms that are members of the same species living in the same area at the same time. Organisms that are all members of the same species, a population, are called conspecifics.

Community Ecology and Ecosystem Ecology

Community ecology studies interactions between different species; abiotic and biotic factors affect these on an ecosystem level.

Distinguish between community ecology and ecosystem ecology

Community Ecology

A biological community consists of the different species within an area, typically a three-dimensional space, and the interactions within and among these species. Ecologists also study interactions among various species; members of different species are called hetero-specifics.

Ecosystem Ecology

Ecosystem ecology is an extension of organismal, population, and community ecology. The ecosystem is composed of all the biotic components (living things) in an area along with that area’s abiotic components (non-living things). Some of the abiotic components include air, water, and soil.

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