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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Define ecology and the four levels of ecological research
  • Describe examples of the ways in which ecology requires the integration of different scientific disciplines
  • Distinguish between abiotic and biotic components of the environment
  • Recognize the relationship between abiotic and biotic components of the environment

Ecology is the study of the interactions of living organisms with their environment. One core goal of ecology is to understand the distribution and abundance of living things in the physical environment. Attainment of this goal requires the integration of scientific disciplines inside and outside of biology, such as biochemistry, physiology, evolution, biodiversity, molecular biology, geology, and climatology. Some ecological research also applies aspects of chemistry and physics, and it frequently uses mathematical models.

Climate change can alter where organisms live, which can sometimes directly affect human health. Watch the PBS video “Feeling the Effects of Climate Change” in which researchers discover a pathogenic organism living far outside of its normal range.

Levels of ecological study

When a discipline such as biology is studied, it is often helpful to subdivide it into smaller, related areas. For instance, cell biologists interested in cell signaling need to understand the chemistry of the signal molecules (which are usually proteins) as well as the result of cell signaling. Ecologists interested in the factors that influence the survival of an endangered species might use mathematical models to predict how current conservation efforts affect endangered organisms. To produce a sound set of management options, a conservation biologist needs to collect accurate data, including current population size, factors affecting reproduction (like physiology and behavior), habitat requirements (such as plants and soils), and potential human influences on the endangered population and its habitat (which might be derived through studies in sociology and urban ecology). Within the discipline of ecology, researchers work at four specific levels, sometimes discretely and sometimes with overlap: organism, population, community, and ecosystem ( [link] ).

A flow chart of three boxes shows the hierarchy of living organisms. The top box is labeled “Organisms, populations, and communities” and has a photograph of tall trees in a forest. The second box is labeled “ecosystems” and has a photograph of a body of water, behind which is a stand of tall grasses developing into more dense vegetation and trees as distance from the water increases. The third box is labeled “the biosphere” and shows a drawing of planet Earth.
Ecologists study within several biological levels of organization. (credit “organisms”: modification of work by "Crystl"/Flickr; credit “ecosystems”: modification of work by Tom Carlisle, US Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters; credit “biosphere”: NASA)

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, physiological, and behavioral. For instance, the Karner blue butterfly ( Lycaeides melissa samuelis ) ( [link] ) is considered a specialist because the females preferentially oviposit (that is, lay eggs) on wild lupine. This preferential adaptation means that the Karner blue butterfly is highly dependent on the presence of wild lupine plants for its continued survival.

Questions & Answers

what are the types of cell
Bernard Reply
prokaryotic and eukaryotic
Yazi
what is the protein found in the blood?
Tobias Reply
globin
Joelia
Globin
globulins
EZRA
globulins
SASMITA
what is parasitic movement
Emmanuel Reply
Parasitic movement is a problem for all of us. So is its companion, parasitic tension. Parasitic movement is the excess contraction of muscles that you don't actually need to complete an action.
freya
what are eukaryotic cells
Thiza Reply
eukaryotic cells which posses a true nucleus that is the DNA is enclosed and covered by a nuclear membrane
Grace
what is the mean of pair of chromosomes
Kazula Reply
hi
Lagos
23 haploid and 23diploid
Patson
how are you studying in this quarantine? .. how are you keeping yourselves motivated?
sivajijadhav @815.com
good morning guyz
Joelia
morning
Kazula
hi
Justin
Good
Angela
tell me if you know what can be used...than reading pls hint me pls 🙏🙏🙏
Angela
what is the important of sex
Aremu Reply
why did human being need sex?
Aremu
because he/she have feelings
Chripine
reproduction...to make more
Yazi
due to active harmon
Manish
One important of sex is to reproduce
Emma
to ensure the countinuty of life
Yusuf
all of you are right
Edith
what is momentum
Asiya Reply
The strength or force that allows something to continue or grow stronger or faster as time pass
Emma
What is Centripetal Force?
Justin
centrepital force is the inward force required to keep a body moving with constant speed in a circular path
Yusuf
what is the test for protein
Takii Reply
List four condition necessary for seed germination
Tedeka Reply
water,air(oxygen),light,temperature
Hassan
water, light, oxygen and temperature
lilchris
water, oxygen, light temperature
Mike
water oxygen light and temperature
John
importance of biology
Alabina Reply
importance of boilogy
Alabina
what is soil
Amina Reply
soil is the upper part of the earth
Alabina
what is importance of studying biology
Alabina
soil is the uppermost layer of the earth on which plant grows
Yusuf
soil is defined as the thin surface of the upper most layer of the earth crust on which plants grow
Thanni
soil is the upper part of the earth which plants grow on
Emma
differences between euglenoid and amoeboid
Grace Reply
what are the difference between aerobic and anaerobic respiration?
Maxwell Reply
Aerobic respiration involves the use of oxygen whiles anaerobic respiration does not involve the use of oxygen
Quabena
what is assmilation
Lucy Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Biology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 29, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11448/1.10
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