Portal:Ecology

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Ecology
Unique plants in the Ruwenzori Mountains, SW Uganda, Bujuku Valley, at about 12,139 feet (3,700 metre) elevation)
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Ecology, also referred to as ecological science, is the scientific study of the distribution and abundance of living organisms and how the distribution and abundance are affected by interactions between the organisms and their environment. The environment of an organism includes both physical properties, which can be described as the sum of local abiotic factors such as solar insolation, climate and geology, as well as the other organisms that share its habitat. The term Ökologie was coined in 1866 by the German biologist Ernst Haeckel; the word is derived from the Greek οικος (oikos, "household") and λόγος (logos, "study"); therefore "ecology" means the "study of the household (of nature)".

Ecology is also a human science. There are many practical applications of ecology in conservation biology, wetland management, natural resource management (agriculture, forestry, fisheries), city planning (urban ecology), community health, economics, basic and applied science and human social interaction (human ecology)

(Pictured left: Unique plants in the Ruwenzori Mountains, SW Uganda, Bujuku Valley, at about 12,139 feet (3,700 metre) elevation)

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A coral reef, an example of a marine ecosystem
Pictured left: a coral reef, an example of a marine ecosystem.

An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving (abiotic), physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight. Ecosystems are functional units consisting of living things in a given area, non-living chemical and physical factors of their environment, linked together through nutrient cycle and energy flow.

The entire array of organisms inhabiting a particular ecosystem is called a community. The number of species making up such a community may vary from a myriad to a single species such as Desulforudis. In a typical ecosystem, plants and other photosynthetic organisms are the producers that provide the food. Ecosystems can be permanent or temporary. Ecosystems usually form a number of food webs.

Ecosystem services are “fundamental life-support services upon which human civilization depends,”i and can be direct or indirect. Examples of direct ecosystem services are: pollination, wood and erosion prevention. Indirect services could be considered climate moderation, nutrient cycles and detoxifying natural substances. The services and goods an ecosystem provides are often undervalued as many of them are without market value.

Broad examples include:

  • Regulating (climate, floods, nutrient balance, water filtration)
  • Provisioning (food, medicine, fur, minerals)
  • Cultural (science, spiritual, ceremonial, recreation, aesthetic)
  • Supporting (nutrient cycling, photosynthesis, soil formation).

Central to the ecosystem concept is the idea that living organisms interact with every other element in their local environment. Eugene Odum, a founder of ecology, stated: "Any unit that includes all of the organisms (ie: the "community") in a given area interacting with the physical environment so that a flow of energy leads to clearly defined trophic structure, biotic diversity, and material cycles (i.e.: exchange of materials between living and nonliving parts) within the system is an ecosystem.

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Pangea animation 03.gif
Credit: U.S. Geological Survey

An animation of the Earth's hypothesized Pangaea separation. Pangaea is hypothesized as a supercontinent that existed during the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras about 250 million years ago, before the component continents were separated into their current configuration.

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William Skinner Cooper (August 25, 1894 – October 8, 1978) was an American ecologist.

Cooper received his B.S. in 1906 from Alma College in Michigan. In 1909, he entered graduate school at the University of Chicago, where he studied with Henry Chandler Cowles, and completed his Ph.D. in 1911. His first major publication, "The Climax Forest of Isle Royale, Lake Superior, and Its Development" appeared in 1913.

Cooper served briefly in 1914-1915 as a lecturer in plant ecology at Stanford University before beginning his long career in the botany department at the University of Minnesota, where he taught from 1915 to 1951. Among his students at Minnesota was Frank Edwin Egler and Arnold M. Schultz; the latter went on to teach "Ecosystemology" at U.C. Berkeley, and received U.C. Berkeley's "Distinguished Teaching Award" in 1992. Cooper was the president of the Ecological Society of America in 1936 and the president of the Minnesota Academy of Science in 1937. Other professional accolades included receipt of the Botanical Society of America's Merit Award in 1956 and the Eminent Ecologist Award from the Ecological Society of America in 1963.

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IndustrialSymbiosisWasteHeatExchange.png
...industrial Ecology is the study of material and energy flows through industrial systems? The global industrial economy can be modeled as a network of industrial processes that extract resources from the Earth and transform those resources into commodities which can be bought and sold to meet the needs of humanity.
(Pictured left: Example of Industrial Symbiosis. Waste steam from a waste incinerator (right) is piped to an ethanol plant (left) where it is used as in input to their production process.)
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Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God.
George Washington Carver
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Polar Researchis a journal of the Norwegian Polar Institute, Norway's central institution for research, on the polar regions. The journal's articles are interdisciplinary and encompass a wide range of fields from biologyto oceanography. The journal also welcomes socio-economic papers and articles on management.
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