What is Ecology?
Ecology is a branch of biology concerned with understanding how organisms relate with each other and their environment. This branch of biology mainly deals with the relationships between the organisms, their relationships among each other, their relationships towards the shared resources, their relationships with the space they share, and even their relationships with the non-living aspects in the environment.
In understanding the given relationship, ecology encompasses aspects such as population growth, competition, symbiotic ecologic relationships (mutualism), trophic relations (energy transfer from one section of the food chain to the next), biodiversity, migration and physical environment interactions. Because ecology includes all the living organisms on earth and their physical as well as chemical surroundings, it is divided into several categories which bring about different types of ecology as discussed below:
Types of Ecology
1. Microbial Ecology
Microbial ecology looks at the smallest fundamental levels of life, that is, the cellular level. It involves mainly the first two life kingdoms which are; Kingdom Monera and Kingdom Protista. Here, the connections are made between microbes and their relationships with each other and their environments.
Microbial ecology is particularly important in the analysis of evolutionary connections and events leading to existence (known as phylogeny). These connections help us understand the relationships shared among organisms. It is particularly interested in DNA and RNA structures as they carry most of the information passed along from organisms to their progeny, providing the data ecologists need.
2. Organism/Behavioural Ecology
This is the study of the organism at its fundamental levels and can encompass microbial ecology. In this type of ecology, the main goal is to understand the organism’s behaviours, adaptations for such behaviours, reason for those behaviours as explained through the lens of evolution, and the way all these aspects mesh together.
In this case, the main concern is the individual organism and all its different nuances, especially in trying to understand how it all ties together to enhance the survival of the organism or any beneficial adaptations.
3. Population Ecology
Population ecology is the next rank on the ecological ladder. Population ecology focuses on the population, defined as a group of organisms of the same species living in the same area at the same time. Here, attention is given to things such as population size, its density, the structure of the population, migration patterns, and the interaction between organisms of the same population.
It tries to explain the different changes in each of the dynamics of the population such as why numbers would increase and whether this affects any other aspects of the population such as its density.
4. Community Ecology
Community ecology takes a look at the community, defined as all the populations that live in a given area. This includes all the different species populations. The focus here is usually on the interactions between the different species and how their numbers and sizes all mesh together and how change in one population change the dynamic of the whole community.
The animal populations here are exposed to more complex interactions given their increased species numbers which give rise to dynamics such as trophic relationships (who eats who), space dynamics, migration patterns and the most important ecological driving force when it comes to inter/intra species interaction.
5. Ecosystem Ecology
Ecosystem ecology makes a unique contribution to understanding ecology by adding abiotic (non-living) factors to the items analysed, alongside the biotic (living) factors involved. This interaction therefore involves all aspects of the environment and how they interact.
It includes understanding how things like climate and soil composition affect the behaviours and interactions of populations from different species. It also includes a wide range of factors to better understand the whole aspect of interaction between the living things and their environments/habitats.
6. Global Ecology (Biosphere)
The global ecology is principally important in understanding all the ecosystems affecting the entire globe. This includes all the different biomes, with considerations of aspects such as climate and other environmental geography.
It means, global ecology takes into account the whole world’s biosphere while considering all living organisms from the microscopic to higher lifeforms, the environments they leave in, the interactions that they have with each other, the influences that their environments have on these interactions and vice versa, and finally, how they are all interconnected under the common ground that they all share a single planet – the Earth.
Importance of Ecology
The study of ecology is important in ensuring people understand the impact of their actions on the life of the planet as well as on each other. Here are the reasons why ecology is important:
1. It helps in environmental conservation
Ecology allows us to understand the effects our actions have on our environment. With this information, it helps guide conservation efforts by first showing the primary means by which the problems we experience within our environment begin and by following this identification process, it shows us where our efforts would have the biggest effect.
Ecology also shows individuals the extent of the damage we cause to the environment and provides predictive models on how bad the damage can get. These indicators instil a sense of urgency among the population, pushing people to actively take part in conservation efforts and ensure the longevity of the planet.
2. Ensures proper resource allocation
Ecology equally allows us to see the purpose of each organism in the web of connectivity that makes up the ecosystem. With this knowledge, we are able to ascertain which resources are essential for the survival of the different organisms. This is very fundamental when it comes to assessing the needs of human beings who have the biggest effect on the ecosystem.
An example is human dependency on fossil fuels that has led to the increase of carbon footprint in the ecosystem. It is ecology that allows humans to see these problems which then calls for the need to make informed decisions on how to adjust our resource demands to ensure that we do not burden the environment with demands that are unsustainable.
3. Enhances energy conservation
Energy conservation and ecology is connected in that, it aids in understanding the demands different energy sources have on the environment. Consequently, it is good for decision making in terms of deciding resources for use as well as how to efficiently convert them into energy.
Without proper understanding of energy facts through ecology, humans can be wasteful in their use of allotted resources such as indiscriminate burning of fuels or the excessive cutting down of trees. Staying informed about the ecological costs allows people to be more frugal with their energy demands and adopt practices that promote conservation such as switching of lights during the day and investing in renewable energy.
4. Promotes eco-friendliness
With all the information and research obtained from ecology, it ultimately promotes eco-friendliness. It makes people aware of their environment and encourages the adoption of a lifestyle that protects the ecology of life owing to the understanding they have about it.
This means that in the long-term, people tend to live less selfishly and make strides towards protecting the interest of all living things with the realization that survival and quality life depends on environment sustainability. Hence, it fosters a harmonious lifestyle and assures longevity for all organisms.
5. Aids in disease and pest control
A great number of diseases are spread by vectors. The study of ecology offers the world novel ways of understanding how pests and vectors behave thereby equipping humans with knowledge and techniques on how to manage pests and diseases.
For example, malaria which is one of the leading killer diseases is spread by the female Anopheles mosquito. In a bid to control malaria, humans must first understand how the insect interacts with its environment in terms of competition, sex, and breeding preferences. The same applies to other diseases and pests. By understanding the life cycles and preferred methods of propagation of different organisms in the ecosystem, it has created impressive ways to device controls measures.
Examples of Ecology
Examples of ecology are simply aspects that seek to study how the various types of ecology come about. For instance, the study of humans and their relationship with the environment gives us human ecology. Alternatively, studying a food chain in a wetland area gives wetland ecology while the study of how termites or other small organisms interact with their habitat brings about niche construction ecology. Here are two basic examples to elaborate examples of ecology in details.
1. Human ecology
This aspect of ecology looks at the relationship between humans and the ecosystem as a whole. It is centred on human beings, studying their behaviour and hypothesises the evolutionary reasons why we might have taken up some traits.
Emphasis is placed on this due to the impact human beings have on the environment and it also gives us knowledge about the shortcomings of the entire human population and how to better ourselves for our own sake and that of the environment.
2. Niche construction
Niche construction is an example of ecology dealing with the study of how organisms are able to alter their environment for their benefit and also for the benefit of other living things. It is of particular interest to ecologists who desire to understand how some organisms overcome the challenges presented to them.
A prime example is how termites are well organized and equipped to erect mound that stand over 6 feet tall while at the same time protecting and feeding their entire population. In going about their niche, ants also recycle nutrients for plants. This presents a good example of ecology because it is all about evolution and other several aspects regarding population, community and ecosystem ecology.