Portal:Ecology

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Ecology

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:

  • The abundance, biomass, and distribution of organisms in the context of the environment
  • 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
  • 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, mining, tourism), 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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A restored cienega in Balmorhea State Park

A ciénega (also spelled ciénaga) is a wetland system unique to the American Southwest. Ciénagas are alkaline, freshwater, spongy, wet meadows with shallow-gradient, permanently saturated soils in otherwise arid landscapes that often occupy nearly the entire widths of valley bottoms. That description satisfies historic, pre-damaged ciénagas, although few can be described that way now. Incised ciénagas are common today. Ciénagas are usually associated with seeps or springs, found in canyon headwaters or along margins of streams. Ciénagas often occur because the geomorphology forces water to the surface, over large areas, not merely through a single pool or channel. In a healthy ciénaga, water slowly migrates through long, wide-scale mats of thick, sponge-like wetland sod. Ciénaga soils are squishy, permanently saturated, highly organic, black in color or anaerobic. Highly adapted sedges, rushes and reeds are the dominant plants, with succession plants—Goodding's willow, Fremont cottonwoods and scattered Arizona walnuts—found on drier margins, down-valley in healthy ciénagas where water goes underground or along the banks of incised ciénagas.

Ciénagas are not considered true swamps due to their lack of trees, which will drown in historic ciénagas. However, trees do grow in many damaged or drained ciénagas, making the distinction less clear. (Full article...)
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TerracesBuffers.JPG
Credit: Lynn Betts, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Topsoil is the upper, outermost layer of soil, usually the top 2 inches (5.1 cm) to 8 inches (20 cm). It has the highest concentration of organic matter and microorganisms and is where most of the Earth's biological soil activity occurs. Pictured: Terraces, conservation tillage, and conservation buffers save soil, control erosion and improve water quality on this Iowa farm. 1999.

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The following are images from various ecology-related articles on Wikipedia.

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The peacock flounder can change its pattern and colours to match its environment.

Camouflage is the use of any combination of materials, coloration, or illumination for concealment, either by making animals or objects hard to see, or by disguising them as something else. Examples include the leopard's spotted coat, the battledress of a modern soldier, and the leaf-mimic katydid's wings. A third approach, motion dazzle, confuses the observer with a conspicuous pattern, making the object visible but momentarily harder to locate, as well as making general aiming easier. The majority of camouflage methods aim for crypsis, often through a general resemblance to the background, high contrast disruptive coloration, eliminating shadow, and countershading. In the open ocean, where there is no background, the principal methods of camouflage are transparency, silvering, and countershading, while the ability to produce light is among other things used for counter-illumination on the undersides of cephalopods such as squid. Some animals, such as chameleons and octopuses, are capable of actively changing their skin pattern and colours, whether for camouflage or for signalling. It is possible that some plants use camouflage to evade being eaten by herbivores.

Military camouflage was spurred by the increasing range and accuracy of firearms in the 19th century. In particular the replacement of the inaccurate musket with the rifle made personal concealment in battle a survival skill. In the 20th century, military camouflage developed rapidly, especially during the First World War. On land, artists such as André Mare designed camouflage schemes and observation posts disguised as trees. At sea, merchant ships and troop carriers were painted in dazzle patterns that were highly visible, but designed to confuse enemy submarines as to the target's speed, range, and heading. During and after the Second World War, a variety of camouflage schemes were used for aircraft and for ground vehicles in different theatres of war. The use of radar since the mid-20th century has largely made camouflage for fixed-wing military aircraft obsolete. (Full article...)

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E. Ezcurra Isla San Pedro Mártir.jpg
Dr. Exequiel Ezcurra on Isla San Pedro Mártir

Exequiel Ezcurra (born March 21, 1950, Buenos Aires, Argentina) is a Mexican plant ecologist and conservationist. His highly interdisciplinary work spans desert plant ecology, mangroves, island biogeography, sea birds, fisheries, oceanography, and deep-sea ecosystems.

Between 2008 and 2019 he was director of the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States (UC MEXUS). He is now Professor of Plant Ecology at UC Riverside. (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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The International Journal of Plant Sciences covers botanical research including genetics and genomics, developmental and cell biology, biochemistry and physiology, morphology and structure, systematics, plant-microbe interactions, paleobotany, evolution, and ecology. The journal also regularly publishes important symposium proceedings. (Full article...)

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... paleoecology uses data from fossils and subfossils to reconstruct the ecosystems of the past? It involves the study of fossil organisms and their associated remains, including their life cycle, living interactions, natural environment, and manner of death and burial to reconstruct the paleoevironment.
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