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CHAPTER 1

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CHAPTER 1. CONCEPTUAL INTRODUCTION TO ECOOLOGY
Etymology of the Word “Ecology”
Eco comes from Greek Word “oikos” (home) and –logy comes from “logos” (study of)
Ecology is a cience because it uses the scientific method: it asks questions, researches, constructs a hypothesis, tests
the hypothesis by doing an experiment, analyze the data and draw a conclusion and finally communicate the results.
Ecology (ecología) vs environmentalism (ecologismo)
They are not the same. If one looks at the definitions of ecology and environmentalism, one finds that they are closely
relayed to each other as both talk about the nature of our environment. This makes people think that ecology and
environmentalism are synonims.
Ecology is a study of the relationship of living organisms with their surroundings and the sustenance that comes from
the atmosphere. This naturally includes study of energy (sun), gases, light and heat which is the subject matter of
physics. It also includes study of influences of living organisms on each other, which demands, study of biology as well.
There are other fields that are required to be studied while studying ecology. These include geology, chemistry,
oceanography, environmental science and so on.
Environmentalism is basically a social movement of people coming together in an endeavor to do something to save
our environment. The main focus of environmentalists is on different ecosystems and how our interactions affect
these ecosystems and basically the ecology. These people work to save our environment from the harmful effects of
human interactions with ecosystems.
Some important concepts:
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Community: a biological community consists of all the populations of different species that live in a given area.
Community ecologists focus on interactions between populations and how these interactions shape the
community.
Environment: The sum total of all surroundings of a living organism, including natural forces and other living
things, which provide conditions for development and growth as well as of danger and damage.
Individual: is any living thing or organism
Population: A population is a group of organisms of the same species that live in the same area at the same
time. Population ecologists study the size, density, and structure of populations and how they change over
time.
Modular organisms (fungi, plants, sponges…) usually have a branching structure and an overall shape that is
highly variable and determined mainly by environmental influences
Unitary organisms have a determinate structure consisting usually of a strictly defined number of parts (such
as legs or wings) established only during embryogenesis. Mobile animals are examples.
Some key aspects:
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Biosphere = the aggregation of all ecosystems (the sum of all of the organisms of the earth and their
environment). The living zone of the planet
Ecosystem: a biological community plus all of the abiotic factors influencing that community.
What does ecology try to explain?
1) the patterns of distribution and abundance of organisms
2) the factors and processes current and past that explain how life works in the planet
Taxonomic groups are irrelevant to ecology.
What type of knowledge does the Ecology try to address?
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Individual level (autoecology): is an approach in ecology that seeks to explain the distribution and abundance
of species by studying interactions of individual organisms with their environments.
How do organisms regulate their water balance?
Population level and interaction level (population ecology): is a sub-field of ecology that deals with the
dynamics of species populations and how these populations interact with the environment.
Interaction level and community level (community ecology): The primary focus of community ecology is the
interactions between populations as determined by specific genotypic and phenotypic characteristics.
Ecosystem level and region and biosphere level (systems ecology): is a field of ecology, that takes a holistic
approach to the study of ecological systems, especially ecosystems.
Ecology also deals with areas of knowledge that traditionally have not been studied by other disciplines, mainly:
- Nutrient cycling and energy transfer
- Organism interactions
- Community assemblage
Applications of ecological knowledge
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Ecosystem restauration
Control of invasive species
Threated species conservation and commertial species management
Predict changes in ecosystems and the consequences of the antropological impacts
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