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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Animated global map of monthly long term mean surface air temperature (Mollweide projection)
Pictured left: Animated global map of monthly long term mean surface air temperature (Mollweide projection)

Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a given region over long periods. Climate can be contrasted to weather, which is the present condition of these elements and their variations over shorter periods. A region's climate is generated by the climate system, which has five components: Atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, land surface, and biosphere.

The climate of a location is affected by its latitude, terrain, and altitude, as well as nearby water bodies and their currents. Climates can be classified according to the average and the typical ranges of different variables, most commonly temperature and precipitation, the most commonly used classification scheme was originally developed by Wladimir Köppen. The Thornthwaite system, in use since 1948, incorporates evapotranspiration along with temperature and precipitation information and is used in studying animal species diversity and potential effects of climate changes, the Bergeron and Spatial Synoptic Classification systems focus on the origin of air masses that define the climate of a region.

There are several ways to classify climates into similar regimes. Modern climate classification methods can be broadly divided into genetic methods, which focus on the causes of climate, and empiric methods, which focus on the effects of climate. Examples of genetic classification include methods based on the relative frequency of different air mass types or locations within synoptic weather disturbances. Examples of empiric classifications include climate zones defined by plant hardiness, evapotranspiration, or more generally the Köppen climate classification which was originally designed to identify the climates associated with certain biomes. A common shortcoming of these classification schemes is that they produce distinct boundaries between the zones they define, rather than the gradual transition of climate properties more common in nature.


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Carbon cycle-cute diagram.jpeg
Credit: NASA

The carbon cycle is the biogeochemical cycle by which carbon is exchanged between the biosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere of the Earth. Burning fossil fuels leads to the addition of extra carbon into the cycle over what naturally occurs and is a major cause of climate change.

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Eugene Pleasants Odum (September 17, 1913 – August 10, 2002) was an American scientist known for his pioneering work on ecosystem ecology. He wrote and published, along with his brother, Howard T. Odum, the first ecology textbook: Fundamentals of Ecology. They continued to collaborate, in research as well as writing, for the rest of their lives.

Life depend on adequate conditions of food, water, and shelter from inclement elements and also that weather, geological, and biological factors (among others) are involved in the web of life that affords this environment. In the 1940s and 1950s, "ecology" was not yet a field of study that had been defined as a separate discipline. Even professional biologists seemed to Odum to be generally under-educated about how the Earth's ecological systems interact with one another. Odum brought forward the importance of ecology as a discipline that should be a fundamental dimension of the training of a biologist.

Odum adopted and developed further the term "ecosystem", although sometimes said to have been coined by Raymond Lindeman in 1942, the term "ecosystem" first appeared in a 1935 publication by the British ecologist Arthur Tansley, and had in 1930 been coined by Tansley's colleague, Roy Clapham. Before Odum, the ecology of specific organisms and environments had been studied on a more limited scale within individual sub-disciplines of biology. Many scientists doubted that it could be studied on a large scale, or as a discipline in itself. Odum wrote a textbook on ecology with his brother, Howard Thomas Odum, a graduate student at Yale, the Odum brothers' book (first edition, 1953), Fundamentals of Ecology, was the only textbook in the field for about ten years. Among other things, the Odums explored how one natural system can interact with another, their book has since been revised and expanded.

In 2007 the Institute of Ecology, which Odum founded at the University of Georgia, became the Odum School of Ecology, the first stand-alone academic unit of a research university dedicated to ecology.


Did you know...

...systems ecology is an interdisciplinary field of ecology, taking a holistic approach to the study of ecological systems, especially ecosystems? Systems ecology can be seen as an application of general systems theory to ecology. Central to the systems ecology approach is the idea that an ecosystem is a complex system exhibiting emergent properties.
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Man has been endowed with reason, with the power to create, so that he can add to what he's been given. But up to now he hasn't been a creator, only a destroyer. Forests keep disappearing, rivers dry up, wild life's become extinct, the climate's ruined and the land grows poorer and uglier every day.


Anton Chekhov, Uncle Vanya, 1897

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Ecology Letters is a peer-reviewed scientific journal published by Wiley-Blackwell and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. Marcel Holyoak (University of California, Davis) took over as editor in chief from Michael Hochberg in 2008. It is published monthly in print and online.

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