Portal:Ecology

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Ecology
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Ecology (from Greek: οἶκος, "house", or "environment"; -λογία, "study of")[A] is the branch of biology which studies the interactions among organisms and their environment. Objects of study include interactions of organisms with each other and with abiotic components of their environment. Topics of interest include the biodiversity, distribution, biomass, and populations of organisms, as well as cooperation and competition within and between species. Ecosystems are dynamically interacting systems of organisms, the communities they make up, and the non-living components of their environment. Ecosystem processes, such as primary production, pedogenesis, nutrient cycling, and niche construction, regulate the flux of energy and matter through an environment. These processes are sustained by organisms with specific life history traits. Biodiversity means the varieties of species, genes, and ecosystems, enhances certain ecosystem services.

Ecology is not synonymous with environmentalism, natural history, or environmental science. It overlaps with the closely related sciences of evolutionary biology, genetics, and ethology. An important focus for ecologists is to improve the understanding of how biodiversity affects ecological function. Ecologists seek to explain:

  • Life processes, interactions, and adaptations
  • The movement of materials and energy through living communities
  • The successional development of ecosystems
  • The abundance and distribution of organisms and biodiversity in the context of the environment.

Ecology has practical applications in conservation biology, wetland management, natural resource management (agroecology, agriculture, forestry, agroforestry, fisheries), city planning (urban ecology), community health, economics, basic and applied science, and human social interaction (human ecology). For example, the Circles of Sustainability approach treats ecology as more than the environment 'out there'. It is not treated as separate from humans. Organisms (including humans) and resources compose ecosystems which, in turn, maintain biophysical feedback mechanisms that moderate processes acting on living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) components of the planet. Ecosystems sustain life-supporting functions and produce natural capital 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.

The word "ecology" ("Ökologie") was coined in 1866 by the German scientist Ernst Haeckel. Ecological thought is derivative of established currents in philosophy, particularly from ethics and politics. Ancient Greek philosophers such as Hippocrates and Aristotle laid the foundations of ecology in their studies on natural history. Modern ecology became a much more rigorous science in the late 19th century. Evolutionary concepts relating to adaptation and natural selection became the cornerstones of modern ecological theory.

Selected article

Ecological economics is a transdisciplinary field of academic research that aims to address the interdependence and coevolution of human economies and natural ecosystems over time and space. It is distinguished from environmental economics, which is the mainstream economic analysis of the environment, by its treatment of the economy as a subsystem of the ecosystem and its emphasis upon preserving natural capital. One survey of German economists found that ecological and environmental economics are different schools of economic thought, with ecological economists emphasizing "strong" sustainability and rejecting the proposition that natural capital can be substituted by human-made capital.

Ecological economics was founded in the works of Kenneth E. Boulding, Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, Herman Daly, Robert Costanza, and others. The related field of green economics is, in general, a more politically applied form of the subject.

According to ecological economist Malte Faber, ecological economics is defined by its focus on nature, justice, and time. Issues of intergenerational equity, irreversibility of environmental change, uncertainty of long-term outcomes, and sustainable development guide ecological economic analysis and valuation. Ecological economists have questioned fundamental mainstream economic approaches such as cost-benefit analysis, and the separability of economic values from scientific research, contending that economics is unavoidably normative rather than positive (empirical). Positional analysis, which attempts to incorporate time and justice issues, is proposed as an alternative.

Ecological economics includes the study of the metabolism of society, that is, the study of the flows of energy and materials that enter and exit the economic system. This subfield may also be referred to as biophysical economics, bioeconomics, and has links with the applied science of industrial symbiosis. Ecological economics is based on a conceptual model of the economy connected to, and sustained by, a flow of energy, materials, and ecosystem services. Analysts from a variety of disciplines have conducted research on the economy-environment relationship, with concern for energy and material flows and sustainability, environmental quality, and economic development.


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Credit: Bruce Fritz, USDA Agricultural Research Service

Sunflowers were domesticated by humans, and are native to Central America. The evidence thus far is that it was first domesticated in Mesoamerica|, present day Mexico, by at least 2600 BC. It may have been domesticated a second time in the middle Mississippi Valley, or been introduced there from Mexico at an early date, as maize was. Sunflower leaves can be used as a cattle feed, while the stems contain a fiber which may be used in paper production.

Selected biography

Sergei Nikolaievich Winogradsky (September 14, 1856 – February 25, 1953) (or Vinogradskyi) was a Ukrainian-Russian microbiologist, ecologist and soil scientist who pioneered the cycle of life concept. He discovered the first known form of lithotrophy during his research with Beggiatoa in 1887. He reported in Winogradsky S (1887). "Über Schwefelbakterien". Bot. Zeitung (45): 489–610. that Beggiatoa oxidized hydrogen sulfide (H2S) as an energy source and formed intracellular sulfur droplets. This research provided the first example of lithotrophy, but not autotrophy. His research on nitrifying bacteria would report the first known form of chemoautotrophy, showing how a lithotroph fixes carbon dioxide (CO2) to make organic compounds.

Winogradsky is best known for discovering chemoautotrophy, which soon became popularly known as chemosynthesis, the process by which organisms derive energy from a number of different inorganic compounds and obtain carbon in the form of carbon dioxide.


Did you know...

...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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Ecology news

From the Wikinews Environment portal
  • October 10: UN Report on Global Warming calls for rapid 'unprecedented' changes globally to limit planetary warming to 1.5 degree C
  • August 30: Brisbane, Australia Magistrates Court charges two cotton farmers with $20m fraud
  • August 10: New South Wales, Australia government says entire state in winter 2018 drought
  • June 25: India: Maharashtra plastic ban comes into force
  • June 10: New study of endangered whale shark youth shows vital habitat similarities
  • April 9: Woolworths, Australia moves single-use plastic bags ban date to June 20
  • March 21: Kenyan conservancy euthanises last male northern white rhino; only two females remain
  • March 3: French fashion brand Lacoste announces limited-edition logo change from crocodile to endangered animals
  • January 17: British surfers catch more than waves: Scientists find antibiotic-resistant bacteria
  • November 6: U.S. government report says climate change is human-made

Additional News Highlights
  • November 5, 2009: "New ocean forming in African desert."
More ecology news on Wikinews

Selected quote

And so when we talk about intangible values remember that they cannot be separated from the others. The conservation of waters, forests, soils, and wildlife are all involved with the conservation of the human spirit. The goal we all strive toward is happiness, contentment, the dignity of the individual, and the good life. This goal will elude us forever if we forget the importance of the intangibles.
— Sigurd F. Olson

Selected publication



The Journal of Applied Ecology is a peer-reviewed scientific journal publishing research in all areas of environmental management. It began publication in 1964 and is the third oldest journal of the British Ecological Society (after the Journal of Ecology and the Journal of Animal Ecology). It is available both in print and online.

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  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy – Ecology
  • The Encyclopedia of Earth – Wilderness: Biology & Ecology
  • The Nature Education Knowledge Project – Ecology
  • Ecology Dictionary – Explanation of ecological terms
  • Ecology Journals – List of ecological scientific journals


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