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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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the Gambia River in Senegal's Niokolo-Koba National Park. Rainforests are an example of biodiversity on the planet, and typically possess a great deal of species diversity.
Pictured left: the Gambia River in Senegal's Niokolo-Koba National Park. Rainforests are an example of biodiversity on the planet, and typically possess a great deal of species diversity.

Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life forms within a given ecosystem, biome, or an entire planet. Biodiversity is a measure of the health of ecosystems. Biodiversity is in part a function of climate. In terrestrial habitats, tropical regions are typically rich whereas polar regions support fewer species.

Rapid environmental changes typically cause mass extinctions. One estimate is that less than 1% of the species that have existed on Earth are extant.

Since life began on Earth, five major mass extinctions and several minor events have led to large and sudden drops in biodiversity. The Phanerozoic eon (the last 540 million years) marked a rapid growth in biodiversity via the Cambrian explosion—a period during which nearly every phylum of multicellular organisms first appeared. The next 400 million years included repeated, massive biodiversity losses classified as mass extinction events. In the Carboniferous, rainforest collapse led to a great loss of plant and animal life. The Permian–Triassic extinction event, 251 million years ago, was the worst; vertebrate recovery took 30 million years. The most recent, the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, occurred 65 million years ago, and has often attracted more attention than others because it resulted in the extinction of the dinosaurs.

The period since the emergence of humans has displayed an ongoing biodiversity reduction and an accompanying loss of genetic diversity. Named the Holocene extinction, the reduction is caused primarily by human impacts, particularly habitat destruction. Conversely, biodiversity impacts human health in a number of ways, both positively and negatively.

The United Nations designated 2011-2020 as the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity.


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Paddlefish Polyodon spathula.jpg
Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Drawing of an American paddlefish (Polyodon spathula). Also called the Mississippi paddlefish or spoonbill, they live in slow-flowing waters of the Mississippi River drainage system and may grow to 7 feet (220 cm) and weigh up to 220 pounds (100 kg). They appear to have been extirpated from Lake Erie and its tributaries.

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Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin (February 12, 1809 – April 19, 1882) FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.

He published his theory with compelling evidence for evolution in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species, overcoming scientific rejection of earlier concepts of transmutation of species. By the 1870s the scientific community and much of the general public accepted evolution as a fact. However, many favoured competing explanations and it was not until the emergence of the modern evolutionary synthesis from the 1930s to the 1950s that a broad consensus developed that natural selection was the basic mechanism of evolution. In modified form, Darwin's scientific discovery is the unifying theory of the life sciences, explaining the diversity of life.


Did you know...

Dmawsoni Head shot.jpg
...the Antarctic cod, or Antarctic toothfish, of the fish family Nototheniidae, is famous for producing antifreeze glycoprotein that allows it to survive in the ice-laden waters of the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica? With a heartbeat once every six seconds, research involving Antarctic toothfish may lead to advances in cardiac medicine involving conditions where human hearts beat slowly during certain medical procedures or fail to beat fast enough due to hypothermia.
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Human beings are made up mostly of water, in roughly the same percentage as water is to the surface of the earth. Our tissues and membranes, our brains and hearts, our sweat and tears—all reflect the same recipe for life, in which efficient use is made of those ingredients available on the surface of the earth. We are 23 percent carbon, 2.6 percent nitrogen, 1.4 percent calcium, 1.1 percent phosphorous, with tiny amounts of roughly three dozen other elements. But above all we are oxygen (61 percent) and hydrogen (10 percent), fused together in the unique molecular combination known as water, which makes up 71 percent of the human body.


Al Gore, Earth in the Balance

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The Journal of Ecology is a bimonthly peer-reviewed scientific journal covering all aspects of the ecology of plants. It was established in 1913 and is published by Wiley-Blackwell on behalf of the British Ecological Society. The Journal of Ecology publishes papers on plant ecology (including algae) in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. In addition to population and community ecology, articles on biogeochemistry, ecosystems ecology, microbial ecology, physiological plant ecology, climate change, molecular genetics, mycorrhizal ecology, and the interactions between plants and organisms such as animals or bacteria, are published regularly.

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