Objects of study include interactions of organisms that include biotic and abiotic components of their environment. These processes are sustained by organisms with specific life history traits. Biodiversity means the varieties of species, genes, and ecosystems, enhances certain ecosystem services. Ecology is not synonymous with environmentalism, natural history, or environmental science. The successional development of ecosystems Evolutionary concepts relating to adaptation and natural selection became the cornerstones of modern ecological theory.
Ecosystems, for example, contain abiotic resources and interacting life forms (i.e., individual organisms that aggregate into populations which aggregate into distinct ecological communities). The main subdisciplines of ecology, population (or community) ecology and ecosystem ecology, exhibit a difference not only of scale, but also of two contrasting paradigms in the field. Biodiversity includes species diversity, ecosystem diversity, and genetic diversity and scientists are interested in the way that this diversity affects the complex ecological processes operating at and among these respective levels. Species have functional traits that are uniquely adapted to the ecological niche. The ecosystem engineering concept has stimulated a new appreciation for the influence that organisms have on the ecosystem and evolutionary process. The largest scale of ecological organization is the biosphere: the total sum of ecosystems on the planet. Population ecology studies the dynamics of species populations and how these populations interact with the wider environment. Population ecology builds upon these introductory models to further understand demographic processes in real study populations. The ecology of metapopulations is a dynamic process of extinction and colonization. Community ecology examines how interactions among species and their environment affect the abundance, distribution and diversity of species within communities. Community ecology is the study of the interactions among a collections of species that inhabit the same geographic area. Community ecologists study the determinants of patterns and processes for two or more interacting species. Research in community ecology might measure species diversity in grasslands in relation to soil fertility. Ecosystem ecology is the science of determining the fluxes of materials (e.g. carbon, phosphorus) between different pools (e.g., tree biomass, soil organic material). Ecosystems are complex adaptive systems where the interaction of life processes form self-organizing patterns across different scales of time and space. A food web is the archetypal ecological network. The larger interlocking pattern of food chains in an ecological community creates a complex food web. Despite these limitations, food webs remain a valuable tool in understanding community ecosystems. Links in food webs primarily connect feeding relations or trophism among species. Trophic levels are part of the holistic or complex systems view of ecosystems. Long-term ecological studies provide important track records to better understand the complexity and resilience of ecosystems over longer temporal and broader spatial scales. Ecological studies are necessarily holistic as opposed to reductionistic. Natural selection, life history, development, adaptation, populations, and inheritance are examples of concepts that thread equally into ecological and evolutionary theory. All organisms can exhibit behaviours. Behavioural ecology is the study of an organism's behaviour in its environment and its ecological and evolutionary implications. Adaptation is the central unifying concept in behavioural ecology. Predator-prey interactions are an introductory concept into food-web studies as well as behavioural ecology. Ecology and evolution provide the explanatory context for biogeographical studies. Biogeographical patterns result from ecological processes that influence range distributions, such as migration and dispersal. and from historical processes that split populations or species into different areas. A population ecology concept is r/K selection theory, one of the first predictive models in ecology used to explain life-history evolution. Different species evolve different life-history strategies spanning a continuum between these two selective forces. Molecular ecology uses various analytical techniques to study genes in an evolutionary and ecological context. Molecular ecology engendered a new research paradigm for investigating ecological questions considered otherwise intractable. Human ecology is an interdisciplinary investigation into the ecology of our species. Ecological science has boomed in the industrial investment of restoring ecosystems and their processes in abandoned sites after disturbance. The environment of ecosystems includes both physical parameters and biotic attributes. Like ecology, the term environment has different conceptual meanings and overlaps with the concept of nature. Change in one ecological or environmental factor can concurrently affect the dynamic state of an entire ecosystem.
Ecological resilience is a cornerstone theory in ecosystem management. Turbulent forces in air and water affect the environment and ecosystem distribution, form and dynamics. Most ecosystems are adapted to natural fire cycles. As organisms feed and migrate through soils they physically displace materials, an ecological process called bioturbation. The relative abundance and distribution of biodiversity alters the dynamics between organisms and their environment such that ecosystems can be both cause and effect in relation to climate change. Human-driven modifications to the planet's ecosystems Evolutionary theory changed the way that researchers approached the ecological sciences.
In the early 20th century, ecology transitioned from a more descriptive form of natural history to a more analytical form of scientific natural history. Elton defined ecological relations using concepts of food chains, food cycles, and food size, and described numerical relations among different functional groups and their relative abundance. Carson used ecological science to link the release of environmental toxins to human and ecosystem health.
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