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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Water lilies, aquatic plants in the family Nymphaeaceae. Picture taken in Verona, Italy
Pictured left: Water lilies, aquatic plants in the family Nymphaeaceae. Picture taken in Verona, Italy

Botany, plant science(s), or plant biology is a branch of biology that involves the scientific study of plant life. Botany covers a wide range of scientific disciplines including structure, growth, reproduction, metabolism, development, diseases, chemical properties, and evolutionary relationships among taxonomic groups. Botany began with early human efforts to identify edible, medicinal and poisonous plants, making it one of the oldest sciences. Today botanists study over 550,000 species of living organisms.

The term "botany" comes from Greek βοτάνη, meaning "pasture, grass, fodder", perhaps via the idea of a livestock keeper needing to know which plants are safe for livestock to eat.

As with other life forms in biology, plant life can be studied from different perspectives, from the molecular, genetic and biochemical level through organelles, cells, tissues, organs, individuals, plant populations, and communities of plants. At each of these levels a botanist might be concerned with the classification (taxonomy), structure (anatomy and morphology), or function (physiology) of plant life. The study of plants is vital because they are a fundamental part of life on Earth, which generates the oxygen, food, fibres, fuel and medicine that allow humans and other life forms to exist. Through photosynthesis, plants absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that in large amounts can affect global climate. Additionally, they prevent soil erosion and are influential in the water cycle.

Plants can also help us understand changes in on our environment in many ways:

In many different ways, plants can act a little like the 'miners' canary', an early warning system alerting us to important changes in our environment. In addition to these practical and scientific reasons, plants are extremely valuable as recreation for millions of people who enjoy gardening, horticultural and culinary uses of plants every day.

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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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Aldo Leopold (January 11, 1887 – April 21, 1948) was an American author, scientist ecologist, forester, and environmentalist. He was a professor at the University of Wisconsin and is best known for his book A Sand County Almanac (1949), which has sold over two million copies. He was influential in the development of modern environmental ethics and in the movement for wilderness conservation. His ethics of nature and wildlife preservation had a profound impact on the environmental movement, with his biocentric or holistic ethics regarding land. He emphasized biodiversity and ecology and was a founder of the science of wildlife management.

Early on Leopold was assigned to hunt and kill bears, wolves, and mountain lions in New Mexico. Local ranchers hated these predators because of livestock losses. However, Leopold came to respect the animals. He developed an ecological ethic that replaced the earlier wilderness ethic that stressed the need for human dominance. Rethinking the importance of predators in the balance of nature resulted in the return of bears and mountain lions to New Mexico wilderness areas.

By the 1930s Leopold was the nation's foremost expert on wildlife management. He advocated the scientific management of wildlife habitats by both public and private landholders rather than a reliance on game refuges, hunting laws, and other methods intended to protect specific species of desired game. Leopold viewed wildlife management as a technique for restoring and maintaining diversity in the environment rather than primarily as a means of producing a shootable surplus.

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Did you know...

The Sun by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory - 20100819.jpg
...that the highest recorded temperature on Earth was 136 °F (57.8 °C), which was recorded in Al 'Aziziyah, Libya on September 13, 1922?

(Pictured left: A false-color image of the sun, photographed by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA 304) of NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory)

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For many of us, water simply flows from a faucet, and we think little about it beyond this point of contact. We have lost a sense of respect for the wild river, for the complex workings of a wetland, for the intricate web of life that water supports.
Sandra Postel

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