Portal:Ecology

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Ecology
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Ecology (from Ancient Greek οἶκος (oîkos) 'house', and -λογία (-logía) 'study of') is the study of the relationships between living organisms, including humans, and their physical environment. Ecology considers organisms at the individual, population, community, ecosystem, and biosphere level. Ecology overlaps with the closely related sciences of biogeography, evolutionary biology, genetics, ethology, and natural history. Ecology is a branch of biology, and it is not synonymous with environmentalism.

Among other things, ecology is the study of:

  • Life processes, antifragility, interactions, and adaptations
  • The movement of materials and energy through living communities
  • The successional development of ecosystems
  • Cooperation, competition, and predation within and between species
  • The abundance, biomass, and distribution of organisms in the context of the environment
  • 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), 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, and it became a rigorous science in the late 19th century. 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...)

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Taylor's power law is an empirical law in ecology that relates the variance of the number of individuals of a species per unit area of habitat to the corresponding mean by a power law relationship. It is named after the ecologist who first proposed it in 1961, Lionel Roy Taylor (1924–2007). Taylor's original name for this relationship was the law of the mean. The name Taylor's law was coined by Southwood in 1966. (Full article...)
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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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The jaguar: a keystone, flagship, and umbrella species, and an apex predator

A keystone species is a species which has a disproportionately large effect on its natural environment relative to its abundance, a concept introduced in 1969 by the zoologist Robert T. Paine. Keystone species play a critical role in maintaining the structure of an ecological community, affecting many other organisms in an ecosystem and helping to determine the types and numbers of various other species in the community. Without keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether. Some keystone species, such as the wolf, are also apex predators.

The role that a keystone species plays in its ecosystem is analogous to the role of a keystone in an arch. While the keystone is under the least pressure of any of the stones in an arch, the arch still collapses without it. Similarly, an ecosystem may experience a dramatic shift if a keystone species is removed, even though that species was a small part of the ecosystem by measures of biomass or productivity.

It became a popular concept in conservation biology, alongside flagship and umbrella species. Although the concept is valued as a descriptor for particularly strong inter-species interactions, and has allowed easier communication between ecologists and conservation policy-makers, it has been criticized for oversimplifying complex ecological systems. (Full article...)

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Liz Chicaje
Liz Chicaje Churay (born 1982) is an indigenous Peruvian leader who has contributed significantly to the protection of rainforests and rivers in the Loreto area of northeastern Peru, safeguarding the rights of the Yagua people. Thanks to her efforts, the Yaguas National Park was established in 2018. In January 2019 in Lima, she was awarded the Franco-German prize for human rights by the French and German ambassadors. (Full article...)

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To secure our environmental legacy for future generations, we must find ways to reconcile humanity more satisfactorily with the natural systems upon which all human life and civilizations depend. We must recognize that the natural systems of which we are part have an intrinsic worth transcending narrow utilitarian values. They must be preserved for their own sake. No philosopher or religious thinker has been more sensitive to this intimate relationship between humanity and nature than St. Francis of Assisi. The powerful contemporary environmental tradition of preservation, of reverence for wilderness and protection for all living things - the ideal that sees, as John Muir said, ‘in God’s wildness... the hope of the world’ - virtually began with St. Francis.
— William K. Reilly

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Oikos is an international scientific journal published monthly by the Nordic Society Oikos in the field of ecology. It was previously known as Acta Oecologica Scandinavica. Oikos is published in collaboration with Ecography, Lindbergia, the Journal of Avian Biology, and with the monograph series Ecological Bulletins. (Full article...)

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... before drainage, the Everglades were an interwoven mesh of marshes and prairies covering 4,000 square miles (10,000 km2)?
(Pictured left: An alligator amid strands of periphyton in the Everglades)
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