What is Ecological?

About Ecology
October 28, 2014 – 11:42 am

Students working on the beach

What is Ecology?

Ecology is the study of the distribution and abundance of organisms, the interaction between organisms, the interaction between organisms and their environment, and structure and function of ecosystems.

Why is Ecology Important?

The purpose of ecology is to provide knowledge about the way the world works and provide evidence on the interdependence between the natural world and people. A better understanding of ecological systems will allow society to predict the consequences of human activity on the environment.

Below are just a few examples of the many which could be used to illustrate why ecology is a science that matters.

How can we conserve a habitat and its biodiversity?

Heathland is a valued landscape and vegetation type that is fast disappearing thoughout much of Western Europe. Ecological studies of heathland and heather, the dominant plant, have helped us to understand the effects of traditional management; by grazing, burning and cutting. Studies have helped us to develop systems of management directed towards the conservation of this important habitat and its characteristic plants, insects, birds, reptiles and mammals. Maintaining a mosaic of habitats ensures the survival of a rich variety of wildlife. Ecology provides the essential basis for nature conservation.

fishing boatHow can we predict the ecological effects of pollution and climate change?

Governments and citizens around the world are increasingly aware of the ecological consequences of atmospheric pollution and climate change. Much of the pollution is caused by burning fossil fuel. In large-scale experiments, plants and animals are exposed to carefully controlled atmospheres and different ecological conditions. These include raised levels of sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, ozone and carbon dioxide. Scientists have discovered how plants and the insects that feed on them respond to pollution and climate change. Predictions can then be made about changes in distribution of plants and animals and how crop and forestry yields might be affected.

Can we fish the ocean without destroying its riches?

Southern Ocean food webs are dominated by krill (the shrimp-like animal eaten by birds, seals, whales and fish). Fishing takes place for krill, fish and squid. To ensure that fishing does not disrupt the food web and affect bird and seal populations, the marine ecosystem is managed as a whole under an international agreement to conserve living resources in the Antarctic. This makes it essential to understand marine communities and their interactions. Taking too many fish would affect albatross and penguin populations, whereas overfishing of krill could affect whales and seals, as well as some birds. International monitoring programmes keep a check on bird populations.

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Source: www.britishecologicalsociety.org
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