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Ecology

Ecology (from Ancient Greek οἶκος (oîkos) 'house', and -λογία (-logía) 'study of') is the natural science of the relationships among living organisms, including humans, and their physical environment. Ecology considers organisms at the individual, population, community, ecosystem, and biosphere levels. Ecology overlaps with the closely related sciences of biogeography, evolutionary biology, genetics, ethology, and natural history.

Ecology is a branch of biology, and is the study of abundance, biomass, and distribution of organisms in the context of the environment. It encompasses life processes, interactions, and adaptations; movement of materials and energy through living communities; successional development of ecosystems; cooperation, competition, and predation within and between species; and patterns of biodiversity and its effect on ecosystem processes.

Ecology has practical applications in conservation biology, wetland management, natural resource management (agroecology, agriculture, forestry, agroforestry, fisheries, mining, tourism), urban planning (urban ecology), community health, economics, basic and applied science, and human social interaction (human ecology).

The word ecology (German: Ökologie) was coined in 1866 by the German scientist Ernst Haeckel. The science of ecology as we know it today began with a group of American botanists in the 1890s. Evolutionary concepts relating to adaptation and natural selection are cornerstones of modern ecological theory.

Ecosystems are dynamically interacting systems of organisms, the communities they make up, and the non-living (abiotic) components of their environment. Ecosystem processes, such as primary production, nutrient cycling, and niche construction, regulate the flux of energy and matter through an environment. Ecosystems have biophysical feedback mechanisms that moderate processes acting on living (biotic) and abiotic components of the planet. Ecosystems sustain life-supporting functions and provide ecosystem services like biomass production (food, fuel, fiber, and medicine), the regulation of climate, global biogeochemical cycles, water filtration, soil formation, erosion control, flood protection, and many other natural features of scientific, historical, economic, or intrinsic value. (Full article...)

The storage effect is a coexistence mechanism proposed in the ecological theory of species coexistence, which tries to explain how such a wide variety of similar species are able to coexist within the same ecological community or guild. The storage effect was originally proposed in the 1980s to explain coexistence in diverse communities of coral reef fish, however it has since been generalized to cover a variety of ecological communities. The theory proposes one way for multiple species to coexist: in a changing environment, no species can be the best under all conditions. Instead, each species must have a unique response to varying environmental conditions, and a way of buffering against the effects of bad years. The storage effect gets its name because each population "stores" the gains in good years or microhabitats (patches) to help it survive population losses in bad years or patches. One strength of this theory is that, unlike most coexistence mechanisms, the storage effect can be measured and quantified, with units of per-capita growth rate (offspring per adult per generation).

The storage effect can be caused by both temporal and spatial variation. The temporal storage effect (often referred to as simply "the storage effect") occurs when species benefit from changes in year-to-year environmental patterns, while the spatial storage effect occurs when species benefit from variation in microhabitats across a landscape. (Full article...)
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Credit: User:Krokodild
Termite mounds in Tanzania with varied heights of chimneys regulate gas exchange, temperature and other environmental parameters that are needed to sustain the internal physiology of the entire termite colony.

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photo of a frogmouth in a tree
The coloration of the Papuan frogmouth Podargus papuensis, its outline disrupted by its plumage, its eye concealed in a stripe, is an effective anti-predator adaptation.

Disruptive coloration (also known as disruptive camouflage or disruptive patterning) is a form of camouflage that works by breaking up the outlines of an animal, soldier or military vehicle with a strongly contrasting pattern. It is often combined with other methods of crypsis including background colour matching and countershading; special cases are coincident disruptive coloration and the disruptive eye mask seen in some fishes, amphibians, and reptiles. It appears paradoxical as a way of not being seen, since disruption of outlines depends on high contrast, so the patches of colour are themselves conspicuous.

The importance of high-contrast patterns for successful disruption was predicted in general terms by the artist Abbott Thayer in 1909 and explicitly by the zoologist Hugh Cott in 1940. Later experimental research has started to confirm these predictions. Disruptive patterns work best when all their components match the background. (Full article...)

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Ann Fowler Rhoads (born 1938) is an American botanist who worked as a plant pathologist at Morris Arboretum for 36 years, retiring in 2013. She is the co-founder (with Timothy A. Block) of the Pennsylvania Flora Project of Morris Arboretum. In addition, Rhoads is a former Adjunct Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and a former Research Associate at the Academy of Natural Sciences.

Rhoads has written and edited 6 books. Her most important work is The Plants of Pennsylvania: An Illustrated Manual, which she coauthored with Timothy Block. It has been called the "Bible of our state's plant life". It is particularly significant “because most states simply don’t have such a comprehensive work on regional flora. Relevant to plant life found in much of the Northeast, the book has also been requested in neighboring states." A second edition was published in 2007. (Full article...)

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The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.
— John Muir

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Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment is a peer-reviewed scientific journal. It is published ten times per year by the Ecological Society of America and is its official journal. Its focus is on present day concerns pertaining to ecological and environmental issues. (Full article...)

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... antarctic krill, a species of krill found in the Antarctic waters of the Southern Ocean, lives in large schools, called swarms, sometimes reaching densities of 10,000–30,000 individual animals per cubic metre?
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