Ecology and Ecosystem
The place where living organisms live with their surrounding forms its environment. Both physical and biotic environment together forms environment. Soil, water, air, light, temperature, topography, biogenic salt, pH, humidity, pressure, etc. form physical environment, whereas the plants, animals, microorganisms, food, parasites, enemies, etc. form the biotic environment. Living organisms and environments are interdependent. With the combined interaction of these components, nature maintains a steady and stable continuity of life flow in the environment.
The branch of science which reveals the interrelationship between the living organism and the environment is known as ecology. German biologist Ernst Haeckel first proposed the term ecology in 1869. The term ‘Ecology’ is derived from the Greek word “Oikos” meaning ‘dwelling place’ or ‘house’ and “logos” meaning ‘knowledge.
Branches of Ecology
It is concerned with the study of the interactions of the individual organism or an individual species with the non-living and living factors of its environment. It is also known as species ecology or population ecology. The term “Autecology” was first established in the late 19th century by German Botanist. By studying the Autecology we understand the relationships between the environment and individual organism.
It is concerned with the study of groups of organisms of different species that are associated together as a unit in the form of a community. By studying the “Synecology”, we understand the relationships between the environment and communities. Synecology is also known as community ecology.
Importance of Ecology
The study of ecology is important because we understand the impact of natural resources on the earth and their interaction with biotic and abiotic factors. Here we make some reasons why ecology is important:
The ecosystem is the functional unit of ecology, which deals with the interrelation between the living and the non-living objects of the environment. The term ecosystem was first used by Cristian Scientist Arthur Tansley in 1935. Almost all biotic community is formed from plants, animals, and microbes. The plants and animals of a particular area related to each other are called biotic community or simply community.
Important Terms Related to Ecosystem
Autotrophs: Chlorophyll-containing green plants are known as autotrophs. They act as producer in an ecosystem.
Homeostasis: It is the process during which the biological system tend to resist change and to remain in a state of equilibrium.
Biosphere: The parts of the earth i.e. the different strata of air, soil, and water, where living organisms survive or live together is known as the biosphere.
Plankton: The term “Plankton” was first introduced by German Ecologist Victor Hensen in 1887. The term plankton indicates any dead or living organism (plants and animals) that floats passively in water and which are more or less dependent on water currents or wind action for their movement. Plankton is of two types such as phytoplankton and zooplankton. Here autotrophic components are known as phytoplankton while heterotrophic components are known as zooplankton.
Benthos: The organisms attached with or resting on the bottom or living in the bottom sediments are known as benthos.
Nekton: Aquatic animals which can swim freely in water are known as nekton such as fish, whale, aquatic insects, etc.
Population: Population is defined as a group of organisms of the same species occupying a particular area. The term population is derived from the Latin word ‘populous’ meaning people. E.P. Odum (1971) defined the population as, “a population is a group of organisms of the same species occupying a specific area having characteristics, which are statistical measures that cannot be applied to individuals”.
Biotic Community: A biotic community is any assemblage of populations of living organisms in a prescribed area of habitat.
Types of Ecosystems
There are many types of ecosystems. Among them, some general types of ecosystems are described below:
Aquatic plants and animals form the aquatic ecosystem. It is the largest ecosystem because they represent 75% of the total ecosystem. It varies in size from an ocean to a pond or pool of water. The aquatic ecosystem can be further divided into two types such as Freshwater and saltwater ecosystem. The freshwater ecosystem includes ponds, lakes, streams, rivers, etc while the saltwater ecosystem includes seas.
It is a certain terrestrial space or place where animals and plants live and develop. According to abiotic factors, terrestrial ecosystem comprises of the forest ecosystem, an ecosystem of grassland, desert regions, etc. It is one of the larger ecosystems which are also known as biomass or ecological regions.
It is a community of living and non-living beings, where every part cooperates together as a unit through a biological, physical and chemical process. The uniqueness of the natural ecosystem is that they are simply characteristic and their developments are not at all impacted by human activities. Forests, lakes, deserts, etc form the natural ecosystem.
An artificial ecosystem is a man-made an ecosystem where animals, plants, and people live together in a specific area with their surroundings. Zoo parks, gardens, aquarium, etc create an artificial ecosystem because it is a human-made area where you keep animals and plants similar to their natural habitat.
The ecosystem which occurs in very small space that may be only a few centimeters with critical environmental factors such as temperature, nutrient supply, chemical substances, solid substrates, gaseous substrates, etc. This type of ecosystem requires very exact conditions to exist.
The ecosystem occurs in a big space which encompasses huge amounts of flora and fauna associated with it. It is also called biomes and it has undergone changes throughout the history of the earth. Examples: Lake of Maracaibo, the mountain range of the Andes or the Caribbean Sea, etc.
Conservation of Ecosystems
At present many ecosystems have faced risky conditions due to human activities. To make a better ecosystem, awareness about the conservation of the ecosystem is very important. They have intrinsic values because healthy ecosystems reduce global warming and provide food and medicines for our well-being. In this case, the following points should be carefully kept in mind to make a better ecosystem.
You may also read: Wildlife and Its Conservation