Portal:Ecology

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Ecology
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Ecology (from Greek: οἶκος, "house", or "environment"; -λογία, "study of") is a branch of biology concerning the spatial and temporal patterns of the distribution and abundance of organisms, including the causes and consequences. Topics of interest include the biodiversity, distribution, biomass, and populations of organisms, as well as cooperation and competition within and between species. Ecosystems are dynamically interacting systems of organisms, the communities they make up, and the non-living components of their environment. Ecosystem processes, such as primary production, pedogenesis, nutrient cycling, and niche construction, regulate the flux of energy and matter through an environment. These processes are sustained by organisms with specific life history traits.

Ecology is not synonymous with environmentalism or strictly natural history. Ecology overlaps with the closely related sciences of evolutionary biology, genetics, and ethology. An important focus for ecologists is to improve the understanding of how biodiversity affects ecological function. Ecologists seek to explain:

  • Life processes, interactions, and adaptations
  • The movement of materials and energy through living communities
  • The successional development of ecosystems
  • The abundance and distribution of organisms and biodiversity in the context of the environment.

Ecology has practical applications in conservation biology, wetland management, natural resource management (agroecology, agriculture, forestry, agroforestry, fisheries), city planning (urban ecology), community health, economics, basic and applied science, and human social interaction (human ecology). It is not treated as separate from humans. Organisms (including humans) and resources compose ecosystems which, in turn, maintain biophysical feedback mechanisms that moderate processes acting on living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) components of the planet. Ecosystems sustain life-supporting functions and produce natural capital 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.

The word "ecology" ("Ökologie") was coined in 1866 by the German scientist Ernst Haeckel. Ecological thought is derivative of established currents in philosophy, particularly from ethics and politics. Ancient Greek philosophers such as Hippocrates and Aristotle laid the foundations of ecology in their studies on natural history. Modern ecology became a much more rigorous science in the late 19th century. Evolutionary concepts relating to adaptation and natural selection became the cornerstones of modern ecological theory. Read more...

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Bighorn sheep (such as this lamb) have declined dramatically since European-American settlement of the Rocky Mountains.

The ecology of the Rocky Mountains is diverse due to the effects of a variety of environmental factors. The Rocky Mountains are the major mountain range in western North America, running from the far north of British Columbia in Canada to New Mexico in the southwestern United States, climbing from the Great Plains at or below 1,800 feet (550 m) to peaks of over 14,000 feet (4,300 m). Temperature and rainfall varies greatly also and thus the Rockies are home to a mixture of habitats including the alpine, subalpine and boreal habitats of the Northern Rocky Mountains in British Columbia and Alberta, the coniferous forests of Montana and Idaho, the wetlands and prairie where the Rockies meet the plains, a different mix of conifers on the Yellowstone Plateau in Wyoming and in the high Rockies of Colorado and New Mexico, and finally the alpine tundra of the highest elevations.

These habitats are home to a great deal of wildlife from herbivores, such as elk, moose, mule deer, mountain goat and bighorn sheep, to predators like cougar, Canada lynx, bobcat, black bear, grizzly bear, gray wolf, coyote, fox, and wolverine, along with a great variety of small mammals, fish, reptiles and amphibians, numerous bird species, and tens of thousands of species of terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates and soil organisms. Read more...
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Some Hydrothermal vents support peculiar ecosystems, based on dissolved minerals. Hydrothermal vent communities are able to sustain such vast amounts of life because vent organisms depend on chemosynthetic bacteria for food. The water that comes out of the hydrothermal vent is rich in dissolved minerals and supports a large population of chemo-autotrophic bacteria.

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A color satellite image of the lower two thirds of the Florida peninsula: large bodies of water are black, most chunk of land south of Lake Okeechobee is red, indicating the Everglades Agricultural Area; south of that is a solid swath of dark blue indicating where the Everglades flow in a southwesterly direction into the Gulf of Mexico
A satellite image of the lower Florida peninsula showing darkened portions south of Lake Okeechobee as the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp. The reddish area bordering the large inland lake is the Everglades Agricultural Area.

The geography and ecology of the Everglades involve the complex elements affecting the natural environment throughout the southern region of the U.S. state of Florida. Before drainage, the Everglades were an interwoven mesh of marshes and prairies covering 4,000 square miles (10,000 km2). The Everglades is simultaneously a vast watershed that has historically extended from Lake Okeechobee 100 miles (160 km) south to Florida Bay (around one-third of the southern Florida peninsula), and many interconnected ecosystems within a geographic boundary. It is such a unique meeting of water, land, and climate that the use of either singular or plural to refer to the Everglades is appropriate. When Marjory Stoneman Douglas wrote her definitive description of the region in 1947, she used the metaphor "River of Grass" to explain the blending of water and plant life.

Although sawgrass and sloughs are the enduring geographical icons of the Everglades, other ecosystems are just as vital, and the borders marking them are subtle or nonexistent. Pinelands and tropical hardwood hammocks are located throughout the sloughs; the trees, rooted in soil inches above the peat, marl, or water, support a variety of wildlife. The oldest and tallest trees are cypresses, whose roots are specially adapted to grow underwater for months at a time. The Big Cypress Swamp is well known for its 500-year-old cypresses, though cypress domes can appear throughout the Everglades. As the fresh water from Lake Okeechobee makes its way to Florida Bay, it meets salt water from the Gulf of Mexico; mangrove forests grow in this transitional zone, providing nursery and nesting conditions for many species of birds, fish, and invertebrates. The marine environment of Florida Bay is also considered part of the Everglades because its sea grasses and aquatic life are attracted to the constant discharge of fresh water. Read more...

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Edward Flanders Robb Ricketts (May 14, 1897 – May 11, 1948) commonly known as Ed Ricketts, was an American marine biologist, ecologist, and philosopher. He is best known for Between Pacific Tides (1939), a pioneering study of intertidal ecology, and for his influence on writer John Steinbeck, which resulted in their collaboration and coauthorship of the Sea of Cortez (1941), later republished as The Log from the Sea of Cortez (1951). Read more...

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...paleoecology uses data from fossils and subfossils to reconstruct the ecosystems of the past? It involves the study of fossil organisms and their associated remains, including their life cycle, living interactions, natural environment, and manner of death and burial to reconstruct the paleoevironment.
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A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Crop Biotech Update is a weekly e-newsletter published by the Global Knowledge Center on Crop Biotechnology that summarizes global news on agricultural biotechnology with implications for developing countries, highlights of research, documents and events. CBU also comes with a bi-monthly Biofuels Supplement that features new developments in energy crops production, processing, policy, and economics.

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