The Principles of Ecology

“Cooperation for mutual benefit, a survival strategy very common in natural systems, is one that humanity needs to emulate,” said the father of modern ecology. In this topic, we will look back to how living beings interact with each other and their environment; how the environment shapes populations of living beings; and problems being faced by our own environment.

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Table of Contents

 

What is Ecology?

Ecology is the science of interactions between organisms and their environment. Because the environment is complex, organisms are affected by many different variables.

Ecologists classify these variables or factors into two major types. Biotic factors are the living components of the environment and include all organisms living in the area. Abiotic factors are the nonliving components, which refer to physical and chemical factors such as temperature, water, and nutrients.

An organism’s habitat refers to the specific environment it lives in and includes all the biotic and abiotic factors present in its surroundings.

introduction to ecology 1
 This image of Asia and Australia at night is a composite assembled from data acquired by the Suomi NPP satellite in April and October 2012. Source: NASA Image and Video Library.

We have mentioned in a previous article how life is made of a hierarchy. In ecology, the basic component is the organism. When individuals of the same species live in a particular area, they will form a population.

Different populations, regardless of species, assemble and interact with each other and form a community. Communities, when taken along with the biotic and abiotic components of the environment, already establish an ecosystem.

Arrays of ecosystems form a landscape where no defined ecosystem boundary is observed and energy, matter, and organisms can exchange between the ecosystems. At the highest ecological hierarchy is the biosphere which extends from the atmosphere down to the depths of the oceans that are inhabited by life.

 

Basic Principles of Ecology

1. Abiotic Factors in the Environment

Organisms can’t live without light, air, water, soil, and other abiotic factors. This article summarizes these abiotic factors and how integral they are to the survival of ecosystems. Click here to go to the article.

2. Climate and the Environment

The distribution of organisms is mainly influenced by climate. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how the Earth’s shape and movement in space influence climate patterns which, in turn, profoundly affect how and where ecosystems are formed. Click here to go to the article.

3. Biomes of Planet Earth

Our planet is teeming with life whether on land or underwater. This article offers a glimpse of the wide and complex world of terrestrial and aquatic organisms, distributed to a variety of biomes that are shaped by climate, salinity, and other critical abiotic factors. Click here to go to the article.

4. Concepts of Population Ecology

Understanding the dynamics of the population is at the core of ecology. Through this article, you’ll be able to explore the fundamental concepts of population ecology and learn how this knowledge can be applied to help us use our natural resources without damaging them. Click here to go to the article.

5. Community Structure and Dynamics

From an ecological perspective, communities are composed of populations of different species that live close to and interact with each other. Let’s delve into how these interactions, which may either be harmful or helpful, affect population structure and dynamics. Click here to go to the article.

6. Ecological Succession

Change is inevitable. In the case of biological communities, changes can be brought about by either natural or man-made disturbances resulting in the gradual replacement of a species by another species. Learn more about this process known as ecological succession, its two types, and how it impacts ecosystems. Click here to go to the article.

7. Ecosystem Structure and Dynamics

Energy is neither created nor destroyed. In the context of ecosystems, energy flows through and out of them, decreasing in quantity as it moves up the energy pyramid. Learn more about the flow of energy in ecosystems through this article. Click here to go to the article.

8. The Biogeochemical Cycles

Life on Earth depends on the recycling of chemical elements essential to life. These biogeochemical cycles include processes that recycle elements like the carbon cycle, the phosphorus cycle, and the nitrogen cycle. Familiarize yourself with these important natural processes with the help of this article. Click here to go to the article.

9. Conservation Biology and Restoration Ecology

Many environmental problems we face today are a result of various human disturbances in nature. Ecology is not just useful for telling us how things went wrong, it can also show us different means of finding solutions to these problems and reverse the negative consequences of these different disturbances. Click here to go to the article.

 

References

Campbell, N. A., Cain, M. L., Minorsky, P. V., Reece, J. B., Urry, L. A., & Wasserman, S. A. (2018). Biology: A global approach. Harlow, Essex, England: Pearson Education Limited.

Cardinale, B. J., Primack, R. B., & Murdoch, J. D. (2020). Conservation Biology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Fowler, S., Roush, R., & Wise, J. (2013). Concepts of Biology. Houston, Texas: OpenStax. Available at https://openstax.org/books/concepts-biology/pages/1-introduction.

Greipsson, S. (2011). Restoration Ecology. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Hine, R. (2019). A Dictionary of Biology. Oxford, US: Oxford University Press.

Jennings, T. J. (2010). Ecology. Irvine, Calif.: Saddleback Educational Pub.

Quammen, D., & Roy, J. (2019). The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions.

Reece, J. B., & Campbell, N. A. (2011). Campbell Biology. Boston: Benjamin Cummings/Pearson.

Rockwood, L. L., & Witt, J. W. (2015). Introduction to Population Ecology. NJ, USA: Wiley Blackwell.

Taylor, M. R., Simon, E. J., Dickey, J., Hogan, K. A., & Reece, J. B. (2018). Campbell Biology: Concepts & connections. NY: Pearson.

 

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Earl Jeroh Bacabac

Earl’s love for the sea fueled his goal to become a marine biologist. He obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from the University of the Philippines Visayas while also being a DOST scholar. His passion for the marine environment is rivaled by his diverse interests in music, the arts, and video games.

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