What is Ecology
Ecology is one of the largest areas of biology. What is ecology and how do you divide it into different levels?
What is Ecology
Ecology is the science that studies the relationship between organisms and their environment. It is one of the largest fields of study in biology, because you can study ecology at all levels. You can also distinguish between plants and their environment and animals and their environment.
What is the environment
By the environment we mean the environment in which organisms live. This can be divided into an abiotic part and a biotic part. The abiotic part represents non-living nature, where you have to think of factors such as the amount, light, water, temperature and, for example, the soil condition. In the biotic part you have to think of living nature, for example predators, prey animals, partner to mate with and possible pathogens.
Ecology classified from major to minor
As mentioned above, you can study ecology at different levels. Then you start with the biosphere from large to small.
- The biosphere represents everything where organisms occur. Basically the whole earth. An example of a study could be climate change, which affects the entire earth.
- The biosphere is divided into ecosystems, these are separate areas on earth with a corresponding living environment. For example, the tropics, desert, savannah and in Western Europe, dunes, deciduous forest, heath and polder.
- Ecosystems are divided into the biotic community and the biotope. The ecological community concerns all populations in the relevant ecosystem, for example the lions, giraffes and elephants on the savannah and their mutual relationships. The biotope is about the abiotic factors in the ecosystem.
- The ecological community consists of loose populations. A population is a group of animals of the same species. For example, you can study the population of elephants on the savanna, the number of old males present in the population or the number of fertile females.
- A population consists of individuals of the same species. You are a species when two individuals can produce fertile offspring. In this way the species does not die out. In the field of the individual, you can, for example, research causes of death or ages.
Ecology can be studied at all these levels, which explains why it is one of the largest and most interesting areas of biology.
Food relationships within the ecosystem
Organisms eat each other within ecosystems. You can represent these food relationships in two ways.
- A food chain. This is a series of species that eat each other. A food chain is usually quite simple and always starts with a plant. A food series can consist of three links, but also ten. This depends on the number of species that occur in the chain. At the end of the food chain is the top predator. In the sea the top predator is the shark, on land the human being. An example of a food chain looks like this: grass → rabbit → fox
- A food web. This contains all organisms of the relevant ecosystem and is much more complicated in structure. A food web also always starts with a plant. In a food web, organisms can be eaten by several predators. A simplified food web would arise if we add grass → goose → fox to the above food chain.
A food chain or food web always starts with a plant. Plants are also called producers. With the help of sunlight, they can make glucose, or produce energy, from water and carbon dioxide. Consumers like humans cannot do that and therefore need a producer to make a living. Even if you eat a piece of meat, the animal from which that meat came has eaten plants or had prey that lived off plants.
So in ecology you not only do not look at the relationship between organisms and their environment, you can also study and map food relationships.