Outline of ecology

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to ecology:

Ecology – 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. Also called ecological science.

Essence of ecology

  • Nature – Natural physical or material world, or Natural environment – All living and non-living things occurring naturally, generally on Earth
  • Ecosystem – A community of living organisms together with the nonliving components of their environment, or Biome – Distinct biological communities that have formed in response to a shared physical climate
    • Community (ecology) – Associated populations of species in a given area, or Biocoenosis – The interacting organisms living together in a habitat
      • Species – The basic unit of biological classification, a taxonomic rank, and a unit of biodiversity
        • Population – All the organisms of a given species that live in the specified region
          • Organism – Any individual living physical entity
  • Biodiversity – Variety and variability of life forms
    • Food web – A natural interconnection of food chains

Subdisciplines of ecology, and subdiscipline classification

Ecology is a broad discipline comprising many sub-disciplines. The field of ecology can be sub-divided according to several classification schemes:

By level of complexity or scope

Arranged from lowest to highest complexity:

  • Ecophysiology – The study of adaptation of an organism's physiology to environmental conditions, or Behavioral ecology – Study of the evolutionary basis for animal behavior due to ecological pressures
  • Population ecology, also known as autoecology – Study of the dynamics of species populations and how these populations interact with the environment
  • Community ecology, also known as synecology – Associated populations of species in a given area
  • Ecosystem ecology – The study of living and non-living components of ecosystems and their interactions
  • Systems ecology – A holistic approach to the study of ecological systems
  • Landscape ecology – The science of relationships between ecological processes in the environment and particular ecosystems

By organisms under study

  • Animal ecology – Scientific study of the relationships between living animals and their environment
  • Behavioral ecology – Study of the evolutionary basis for animal behavior due to ecological pressures
  • Biogeography – The study of the distribution of species and ecosystems in geographic space and through geological time
  • Insect ecology – The study of how insects interact with the surrounding environment
  • Microbial ecology – Study of the relationship of microorganisms with their environment
  • Paleoecology – The study of interactions between organisms and their environments across geologic timescales
  • Plant ecology – The study of effect of the environment on the abundance and distribution of plants

By biome under study

  • Benthic ecology – The study of the interaction of sea-floor organisms with each other and with the environment
  • Desert ecology – The study of interactions between both biotic and abiotic components of desert environments
  • Forest ecology – The study of interactions between the biota and environment in forets
  • Grassland ecology
  • Marine ecology – The study of the interactions between organisms and environment in the sea
  • Aquatic ecology – The study of interactions between organisms and the environment in water
  • Urban ecology – The study of the relation of living organisms with each other and their surroundings in the context of an urban environment.

By geographic or climatic area under study

  • Arctic ecology – The study of the relationships between biotic and abiotic factors in the arctic
  • Polar ecology – The relationship between plants and animals and a polar environment
  • Tropical ecology – The study of the relationships between the biotic and abiotic components of the tropics

By spatial scale under study

  • Global ecology
  • Landscape ecology – The science of relationships between ecological processes in the environment and particular ecosystems
  • Landscape limnology – The spatially explicit study of lakes, streams, and wetlands as they interact with freshwater, terrestrial, and human landscapes to determine the effects of pattern on ecosystem processes across temporal and spatial scales
  • Spatial ecology – Study of the distribution or space occupied by species
  • Macroecology – The study of relationships between organisms and their environment at large spatial scales
  • Microecology – Microbial ecology or ecology of a microhabitat
  • Microbial ecology – Study of the relationship of microorganisms with their environment
  • Molecular ecology – A field of evolutionary biology that applies molecular population genetics, molecular phylogenetics, and genomics to traditional ecological questions

By ecological aspects or phenomena under investigation

  • Chemical ecology – which deals with the ecological role of biological chemicals used in a wide range of areas including defense against predators and attraction of mates;
  • Ecophysiology – The study of adaptation of an organism's physiology to environmental conditions – which studies the interaction of physiological traits with the abiotic environment;
  • Ecotoxicology – which looks at the ecological role of toxic chemicals (often pollutants, but also naturally occurring compounds);
  • Evolutionary ecology – Study of how interactions among species and between species and their environment affect species through selection and adaptation – or ecoevolution which looks at evolutionary changes in the context of the populations and communities in which the organisms exist;
  • Fire ecology – which looks at the role of fire in the environment of plants and animals and its effect on ecological communities;
  • Functional ecology – the study of the roles, or functions, that certain species (or groups thereof) play in an ecosystem;
  • Genetic ecology – Study of genetic material in the environment
  • Soil ecology – the ecology of the pedosphere;

By technique used for investigation

By environmental approach

  • Applied ecology – the practice of employing ecological principles and understanding to solve real world problems (includes agroecology and conservation biology);
  • Conservation ecology – which studies how to reduce the risk of species extinction;
  • Deep ecology – Ecological and environmental philosophy – an ecological and environmental philosophy promoting the inherent worth of living beings regardless of their instrumental utility to human needs, plus a radical restructuring of modern human societies in accordance with such ideas.
  • Ecosophy – philosophy of ecological harmony or equilibrium.
  • Restoration ecology – which attempts to understand the ecological basis needed to restore impaired or damaged ecosystems.
  • Speciesism – involves the assignment of different values, rights, or special consideration to individuals solely on the basis of their species membership.
  • Technocentrism – value system that is centered on technology and its ability to control and protect the environment.

Ecology-involved interdisciplinary fields

  • Agroecology – The study of ecological processes in agriculture
  • Biogeochemistry – The study of chemical cycles of the earth that are either driven by or influence biological activity
  • Ecological design – Design that minimizes environmentally destructive impacts by integrating itself with living processes
  • Ecological economics
  • Ecological engineering – Use of ecology and engineering to predict, design, construct or restore, and manage ecosystems that integrate "human society with its natural environment for the benefit of both"
  • Festive ecology – Study of the relationships between the symbolism and the ecology of the plants, fungi and animals associated with cultural events
  • Human ecology – Study of the relationship between humans and their natural, social, and built environments
  • Ecological anthropology – The study of cultural adaptations to environments
  • Social ecology – Study of relationships between people and their environment
  • Ecological health
  • Environmental psychology – Study of the interplay between individuals and their surroundings
  • Industrial ecology – The study of material and energy flows through industrial systems
  • Paleoecology – The study of interactions between organisms and their environments across geologic timescales

Biogeographic regions

Map of six of the world's eight ecozones
  Oceania and Antarctic ecozones not shown
  • Biosphere – The global sum of all ecosystems on Earth


Ecozone The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) developed a system of eight biogeographic realms (ecozones):


Ecoregion – Ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than a bioregion

The World has over 800 terrestrial ecoregions. See Lists of ecoregions by country.

History of ecology

History of ecology – Aspect of history covering the study of ecology

General ecology concepts

  • Ecological succession – The process of change in the species structure of an ecological community over time
  • Carrying capacity – The maximum population size of the species that the environment can sustain indefinitely
    • Ecological collapse – A situation where an ecosystem suffers a drastic, possibly permanent, reduction in carrying capacity for all organisms
  • Competitive exclusion principle – A proposition that two species competing for the same limiting resource cannot coexist at constant population values
  • Ecological yield – Harvestable population growth in an ecosystem
  • Autotroph – Any organism that produces complex organic compounds from simple substances present in its surroundings, generally using energy from light or inorganic chemical reactions
  • Bacteria – A domain of prokaryotes – single celled organisms without a nucleus
  • Bioinvader – Organism occurring in a new habitat
  • Biomass – Biological material used as a renewable energy source
  • Biotic material – Any material that originates from living organisms
  • Carbon cycle – Biogeochemical cycle by which carbon is exchanged among the biosphere, pedosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere,
  • Climate – Statistics of weather conditions in a given region over long periods
  • Ecological selection – Natural selection without sexual selection
  • Gaia hypothesis – Hypothesis that living organisms interact with their surroundings in a self-regulating system
  • Natural resource – Resources that exist without actions of humankind
  • Monoculture – The agricultural practice of producing a single crop at a time
  • Decomposition – The process in which organic substances are broken down into simpler organic matter
  • Inorganic substance – A substance lacking organic constituents
  • Ecological crisis – Change to the environment that destabilizes the continued survival of a population
  • Ecological extinction – Reduction of a species' abundance to the point that, though still present, it stops interacting with other species
  • Ecophagy – The literal consumption of an ecosystem
  • Ecological niche – The fit of a species living under specific environmental conditions.
  • Biological interaction – Any process in which an organism has an effect on another organism
    • Neutralism – A relationship between two species that interact but do not affect each other
    • Amensalism – An asymmetric interaction where organisms of one species are harmed or killed by the other which are unaffected
    • Ecological facilitation – Species interactions that benefit at least one of the participants and cause harm to neither
      • Mutualism – A relationship between organisms of different species in which each individual benefits from the activity of the other
      • Commensalism – An interaction between two organisms living together in more or less intimate association in a relationship in which one benefits and the other is unaffected.
    • Competition – Interaction where the fitness of one organism is lowered by the presence of another organism
    • Predation – A biological interaction where a predator kills and eats a prey organism
    • Parasitism – organism that lives on or in a host organism and causes harm to it

See also

External links

Bibliography of ecology

This is a bibliography of ecology.

Ecology (disciplines)

Ecology is a broad biological science and can be divided into many sub-disciplines using various criteria. Many of these fields overlap, complement and inform each other, and few of these disciplines exist in isolation. For example, the population ecology of an organism is a consequence of its behavioral ecology and intimately tied to its community ecology. Methods from molecular ecology might inform the study of the population, and all kinds of data are modeled and analyzed using quantitative ecology techniques.

When discussing the study of a single species, a distinction is usually made between its biology and its ecology. For example, "polar bear biology" might include the study of the polar bear's physiology, morphology, pathology and ontogeny, whereas "polar bear ecology" would include a study of its prey species, its population and metapopulation status, distribution, dependence on environmental conditions, etc. In that sense, there can be as many subdisciplines of ecology as there are species to study.

Lists of environmental topics

The natural environment commonly referred to simply as the environment, is all living and non-living things that occur naturally on Earth or some part of it (e.g. the natural environment in a country). This includes complete ecological units that function as natural systems without massive human intervention, including all vegetation, animals, microorganisms, rocks, atmosphere and natural phenomena that occur within their boundaries. And it includes universal natural resources and physical phenomena that lack clear-cut boundaries, such as air, water, and climate, as well as energy, radiation, electric charge, and magnetism, not originating from human activity.

Marine biology

Marine biology is the scientific study of marine life, organisms in the sea. Given that in biology many phyla, families and genera have some species that live in the sea and others that live on land, marine biology classifies species based on the environment rather than on taxonomy.

A large proportion of all life on Earth lives in the ocean. The exact size of this large proportion is unknown, since many ocean species are still to be discovered. The ocean is a complex three-dimensional world covering approximately 71% of the Earth's surface. The habitats studied in marine biology include everything from the tiny layers of surface water in which organisms and abiotic items may be trapped in surface tension between the ocean and atmosphere, to the depths of the oceanic trenches, sometimes 10,000 meters or more beneath the surface of the ocean. Specific habitats include coral reefs, kelp forests, seagrass meadows, the surrounds of seamounts and thermal vents, tidepools, muddy, sandy and rocky bottoms, and the open ocean (pelagic) zone, where solid objects are rare and the surface of the water is the only visible boundary. The organisms studied range from microscopic phytoplankton and zooplankton to huge cetaceans (whales) 25–32 meters (82–105 feet) in length. Marine ecology is the study of how marine organisms interact with each other and the environment.

Marine life is a vast resource, providing food, medicine, and raw materials, in addition to helping to support recreation and tourism all over the world. At a fundamental level, marine life helps determine the very nature of our planet. Marine organisms contribute significantly to the oxygen cycle, and are involved in the regulation of the Earth's climate. Shorelines are in part shaped and protected by marine life, and some marine organisms even help create new land.Many species are economically important to humans, including both finfish and shellfish. It is also becoming understood that the well-being of marine organisms and other organisms are linked in fundamental ways. The human body of knowledge regarding the relationship between life in the sea and important cycles is rapidly growing, with new discoveries being made nearly every day. These cycles include those of matter (such as the carbon cycle) and of air (such as Earth's respiration, and movement of energy through ecosystems including the ocean). Large areas beneath the ocean surface still remain effectively unexplored.

Microbial ecology

Microbial ecology (or environmental microbiology) is the ecology of microorganisms: their relationship with one another and with their environment. It concerns the three major domains of life—Eukaryota, Archaea, and Bacteria—as well as viruses.Microorganisms, by their omnipresence, impact the entire biosphere. Microbial life plays a primary role in regulating biogeochemical systems in virtually all of our planet's environments, including some of the most extreme, from frozen environments and acidic lakes, to hydrothermal vents at the bottom of deepest oceans, and some of the most familiar, such as the human small intestine. As a consequence of the quantitative magnitude of microbial life (calculated as 5.0×1030 cells; eight orders of magnitude greater than the number of stars in the observable universe) microbes, by virtue of their biomass alone, constitute a significant carbon sink. Aside from carbon fixation, microorganisms' key collective metabolic processes (including nitrogen fixation, methane metabolism, and sulfur metabolism) control global biogeochemical cycling. The immensity of microorganisms' production is such that, even in the total absence of eukaryotic life, these processes would likely continue unchanged.

Outline of biology

Biology – The natural science that involves the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy.

Outline of forestry

The following outline is provided as an overview of and guide to forestry:

Forestry – science and craft of creating, managing, using, conserving, and repairing forests and associated resources to meet desired goals, needs, and values for human and environment benefits. Forestry is practiced in plantations and natural stands. Forestry accommodates a broad range of concerns, through what is known as multiple-use management, striving for sustainability in the provision of timber, fuel wood, wildlife habitat, natural water quality management, recreation, landscape and community protection, employment, aesthetically appealing landscapes, biodiversity management, watershed management, erosion control, and preserving forests as 'sinks' for atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Outline of oceanography

The following outline is provided as an overview of and introduction to Oceanography.

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