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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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Some mushrooms are very poisonous to humans. Pictured is Omphalotus olearius, commonly known as the Jack-o'-lantern mushroom. This poisonous mushroom is sometimes mistaken for a chanterelle due to similarities in appearances. Its bioluminescence, a blue-green color, is only observable in low light conditions when the eye becomes dark-adapted. The whole mushroom doesn't glow — only the gills do so.
Pictured left: Some mushrooms are very poisonous to humans. Pictured is Omphalotus olearius, commonly known as the Jack-o'-lantern mushroom. This poisonous mushroom is sometimes mistaken for a chanterelle due to similarities in appearances. Its bioluminescence, a blue-green color, is only observable in low light conditions when the eye becomes dark-adapted. The whole mushroom doesn't glow — only the gills do so.

Mycology (from the Greek μύκης, mukēs, meaning "fungus") is the branch of biology concerned with the study of fungi, including their genetic and biochemical properties, their taxonomy and their use to humans as a source for tinder, medicinals (e.g., penicillin), food (e.g., beer, wine, cheese, edible mushrooms) and entheogens, as well as their dangers, such as poisoning or infection. From mycology arose the field of phytopathology, the study of plant diseases, and the two disciplines remain closely related because the vast majority of plant pathogens are fungi. A biologist who studies mycology is called a mycologist. Historically, mycology was a branch of botany because, although fungi are evolutionarily more closely related to animals than to plants, this was not recognized until a few decades ago. Pioneer mycologists included Elias Magnus Fries, Christian Hendrik Persoon, Anton de Bary and Lewis David von Schweinitz. Today the most comprehensively studied and understood fungi are yeasts and eukaryotic model organisms Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Schizosaccharomyces pombe.

Many fungi produce toxins, antibiotics and other secondary metabolites. For example the cosmopolitan (worldwide) genus Fusarium and their toxins associated with fatal outbreaks of alimentary toxic aleukia in humans were extensively studied by Abraham Joffe. Fungi are fundamental for life on earth in their roles as symbionts, e.g. in the form of mycorrhizae, insect symbionts and lichens. Many fungi are able to break down complex organic biomolecules such as lignin, the more durable component of wood, and pollutants such as xenobiotics, petroleum, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. By decomposing these molecules, fungi play a critical role in the global carbon cycle. Fungi and other organisms traditionally recognized as fungi, such as oomycetes and myxomycetes (slime molds), often are economically and socially important as some cause diseases of animals (such as histoplasmosis) as well as plants (such as Dutch elm disease and Rice blast).

Field meetings to find interesting species of fungi are known as 'forays', after the first such meeting organized by the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club in 1868 and entitled "a foray among the fungi."


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Credit: Nicolas Pourcelot

A limule (Horseshoe crab) in the Hạ Long Bay, Quảng Ninh province, Vietnam. Horseshoe crabs are arthropods that live primarily in shallow ocean waters on soft sandy or muddy bottoms.

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Ramensky-Leonty 1884-1953.jpg
Leonty Grigoryevich Ramensky June 16 [O.S. June 6] 1884 – January 27, 1953) was a Russian plant ecologist. He was a proponent of the view that biotic communities consist of species behaving individualistically (much like Henry Gleason in the U.S.A.). This was in strong contrast to the prevailing view of communities as super-organisms, held by the powerful V.N.Sukachov and his consorts (much like Frederic Clements in the U.S.A.). Hence, Ramensky was marginalized within the Russian scientific community and was only posthumously rehabilitated by Russian ecologists. Much later, the significance of his ideas was discovered by ecologists in the West.

In his 1929 scientific publication On methods for comparative analysis and ordering of plant lists and other objects determined by multiple factors, Ramensky criticized the use of hierarchical classifications of plant communities and advocated ordination ("Ordnung") of communities (and other complex objects with multiple determining factors, such as soil profile and weather data) instead. He was explicit about assuming unimodal responses of species to underlying gradients in the environment. This was long before Correspondence analysis was first used (1952), the now classic applications of ordination to plant communities by J. Roger Bray and John T. Curtis and David W. Goodall and the theoretical foundations of gradient analysis was developed by Whittaker and others (1970s onwards).


Did you know...

...chemical ecology is the study of the chemicals involved in the interactions of living organisms? It focuses on the production of and response to signaling molecules (i.e. semiochemicals) and toxins.
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The primary threat to nature and people today comes from centralising and monopolising power and control. Not until diversity is made the logic of production will there be a chance for sustainability, justice and peace. Cultivating and conserving diversity is no luxury in our times: it is a survival imperative.
— Vandana Shiva

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African Invertebrates is a peer-reviewed scientific journal that covers the taxonomy, systematics, biogeography, ecology, conservation, and palaeontology of Afrotropical invertebrates, whether terrestrial, freshwater, or marine. African Invertebrates is currently published twice a year and accepts large revisionary works, as well as review papers and smaller contributions.

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