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Introducing the environment: Ecology and ecosystems

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You should now understand that:

Ecology is a scientific approach to the study of the biosphere.

Ecosystems are created by the interrelationships between living organisms and the physical environments they inhabit (land, water, air). Ecosystems require a source of energy to make them work and for most, although not all, this is light from the sun.

To study ecosystems we have to start to identify the components involved and the interrelationships between them. We can list the living organisms by identifying the species involved.

Food chains and food webs are a way of mapping one type of interrelationship between the organisms in an ecosystem.

Human beings are part of ecosystems, as well as manipulators of ecosystems. As such we are dependent on, as well as responsible for, the ecological health of the ecosystems we inhabit.

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Ecology Essay Ideas

  • Writing Essays
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  • M.Ed., Education Administration, University of Georgia
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Ecology is the study of the interactions and reciprocal influence of living organisms within a specific environment. It's usually taught in the context of biology, though some high schools also offer courses in Environmental Science which includes topics in ecology.

Ecology Topics to Choose From

Topics within the field can range broadly, so your choices of topics are practically endless! The list below may help you generate your own ideas for a research paper or essay.

Research Topics

  • How are new predators introduced into an area? Where has this happened in the United States?
  • How is the ecosystem of your backyard different from the ecosystem of another person's backyard ecosystem?
  • How is a desert ecosystem different from a forest ecosystem?
  • What is the history and impact of manure?
  • How are different types of manure good or bad?
  • How has the popularity of sushi impacted the earth?
  • What trends in eating habits have impacted our environment?
  • What hosts and parasites exist in your home?
  • Pick five products from your refrigerator, including the packaging. How long would it take for the products to decay in the earth?
  • How are trees affected by acid rain?
  • How do you build an ecovillage?
  • How clean is the air in your town?
  • What is the soil from your yard made of?
  • Why are coral reefs important?
  • Explain the ecosystem of a cave. How could that system be disturbed?
  • Explain how rotting wood impacts the earth and people.
  • What ten things could you recycle in your home?
  • How is recycled paper made?
  • How much carbon dioxide is released into the air every day because of fuel consumption in cars? How could this be reduced?
  • How much paper is thrown away in your town every day? How could we use paper that is thrown away?
  • How could each family save water?
  • How does discarded motor oil affect the environment?
  • How can we increase the use of public transportation? How would that help the environment?
  • Pick an endangered species. What could make it go extinct? What could save this species from extinction?
  • What species have been discovered within the past year?
  • How could the human race become extinct? Describe a scenario.
  • How does a local factory affect the environment?
  • How do ecosystems improve water quality?

Topics for Opinion Papers

There is a great deal of controversy about topics that link ecology and public policy. If you enjoy writing papers that take a point of view , consider some of these:

  • What impact is climate change having on our local ecology?
  • Should the United States ban the use of plastics to protect delicate ecosystems?
  • Should new laws be enacted to limit the use of energy produced by fossil fuels?
  • How far should human beings go to protect ecologies where endangered species live?
  • Is there ever a time when natural ecology should be sacrificed for human needs?
  • Should scientists bring back an extinct animal? What animals would you bring back and why?
  • If scientists brought back the saber-toothed tiger, how might it impact the environment?
  • The Definition of a Marine Ecosystem
  • Cultural Ecology
  • What Is Physical Geography?
  • The National Geography Standards
  • 67 Causal Essay Topics to Consider
  • Writing a Paper about an Environmental Issue
  • Is There Any Upside to Global Warming?
  • High School Science Fair Projects
  • Endangered Species Lesson Plans
  • Elementary School Science Fair Projects
  • What Is a Research Paper?
  • How to Write a Research Paper That Earns an A
  • 10 Easy Ways to Help Protect Marine Life
  • 100 Persuasive Speech Topics for Students
  • Seven Things You Need to Know About the Ocean
  • Social Studies Warmups: Exercises to Get Students Thinking
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Satellite image of forested land and a river in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 26 June 2011

‘Taking the pulse of the planet’: could we monitor biodiversity from space as we do the weather?

With current data on global biodiversity either lacking or flawed, a global satellite scheme aims to fill the gaps to target protection of our seas, soils and wildlife

F or the handful of people who get the chance to observe Earth from space, the impact is often profound. Called the “overview effect”, astronauts report being deeply moved by the experience, as the planet’s fragility and beauty became clear. Others, such as the actor William Shatner, said they were overcome with grief .

Now, scientists are proposing the creation of a new system that they hope will use the view from space to transform our understanding of Earth’s changing ecology and its complex systems.

By combining satellite data and imagery with on-the-ground technologies such as camera traps, acoustic monitoring and DNA barcoding in every country on Earth, scientists say the creation of a new multibillion international scheme would allow countries to effectively track the health of the planet and safeguard food, water and material supplies for billions of people.

In 2022, governments pledged to transform their relationship with nature by the end of the decade . From halting extinctions caused by human behaviour to restoring nearly a third of the planet’s degraded ecosystems, countries signed up to 23 targets to stop the rapid decline of life on Earth.

But a growing number of scientists warn that data about the health of the planet’s seas, soils, forests and species are so flawed, it will be impossible to know if we have been successful at meeting the agreed-upon targets. Despite major advances in monitoring the climate, information on the Earth’s biodiversity is comparatively poor, they say. To overcome the issue, researchers have proposed the creation of a new system to monitor the biosphere akin to how humans monitor the weather, regularly “taking the pulse of the planet”.

Through swirling white cloud a brown land mass can be seen with dark blue sea.

Canada, Colombia and several European nations are among the countries developing their own biodiversity observation networks – known as BONs – which researchers say should be combined into a global observation system. A BON system brings together raw data on seas, soils, forests and species to give an overview of a nation’s biodiversity health – which could then be combined at a planetary level.

“The uncertainty in our knowledge of where biodiversity is changing is so great that even if we achieve the goals, we wouldn’t be able to measure them,” says Andrew Gonzalez, a professor in conservation biology at the University of McGill, who co-chairs GEO BON, a global biodiversity observation network aiming to make the initiative a reality.

“We wouldn’t even know if we’d hit the target. I’m not sure that everybody’s quite ready for that conclusion but that’s the stark reality,” he says. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it, as the saying goes. And if you can’t predict it, you can’t protect it. These things really matter.”

This year, the world’s space agencies are coming together to improve their biodiversity monitoring . There are various limitations of the current data, say researchers. Analysis of 742m records of nearly 375,000 species in 2021 found widespread gaps and biases: just 6.74% of the planet has been sampled, with high elevations and deep seas particularly unknown. Some of the biggest gaps were in the tropics, despite these areas being home to large swathes of life. Europe, the US, Australia and South Africa accounted for 82% of all records, and more than half of records focused on less than 2% of known species.

The data gaps are not limited to animals. In 2023, Kew Gardens identified 32 planet “dark spots” – including Fiji, New Guinea and Madagascar – that are known to be rich in plant biodiversity but have poor data records. Fourteen dark spots were in the Asia-tropical region, six were in the Asia-temperate region, nine in South America and two in Africa. There was one in North America.

Alice Hughes, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong, says the poor data coverage means that places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has the largest share of the second-biggest rainforest on Earth – home to huge numbers of species – are poorly understood despite being under significant threat. Geospatial data can be used to monitor loss from spaces, says Hughes, but new technologies such as eDNA and other methods have opened up new ways to monitor ecosystem health.

Other techniques, such as acoustic monitoring and DNA barcoding allow better understanding of ecosystems and identify some of the millions of species yet to be discovered. Innovations in scanning technologies enable researchers to check an entire forest for disease and identify species distributions. But scientists say there is still more to be done to look at Earth’s systems as a whole.

“If you go to a doctor, you don’t want them to just look at you and say, ‘yeah, you look healthy’ or, ‘you look a bit pale’,” says Hughes. “They take measurements. There are many different ways to use this data but it would basically allow us to take the pulse of the planet.”

Maria Azeredo de Dornelas, a professor of biology at the University of St Andrews, says: “We need a bigger observation system that allows us to measure biodiversity like we measure the weather. We probably don’t need it as frequently as the weather but we do need to do it.

“There is the potential to do this really well. It would need international cooperation because it’s not the kind of thing that one country or even continent can do. The planet’s biodiversity doesn’t really care about political borders.”

  • The age of extinction
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ENCYCLOPEDIC ENTRY

Ecology is the study of the environment, and helps us understand how organisms live with each other in unique physical environments.

Biology, Ecology

Elephant at pond

Watering holes like this attract a wide variety of creatures and offer a unique glimpse into the diverse ecology of the surrounding region.

Photograph by Stuart Black and Alamy Stock Photo

Watering holes like this attract a wide variety of creatures and offer a unique glimpse into the diverse ecology of the surrounding region.

Ecology is the study of organisms and how they interact with the environment around them. An ecologist studies the relationship between living things and their habitats. In order to learn about the natural world, ecologists must study multiple aspects of life ranging from the moss that grows on rocks to the wolf population in the United States' Yellowstone National Park. In order to research the environment, scientists ask questions, such as: How do organisms interact with the living and nonliving factors around them? What do organisms need to survive and thrive in their current environments? To find the answers to these questions, ecologists must study and observe all forms of life and their ecosystems throughout our world.

In addition to examining how ecosystems function, ecologists study what happens when ecosystems do not function normally. Changes in ecosystems can result from many different factors including diseases among the organisms living in the area, increases in temperature, and increased human activities. Understanding these changes can help ecologists anticipate future ecological challenges and inform other scientists and policymakers about the challenges facing their local ecosystems.

Ecology first began gaining popularity in the 1960s, when environmental issues were rising to the forefront of public awareness. Although scientists have been studying the natural world for centuries, ecology in the modern sense has only been around since the 19th century. Around this time, European and American scientists began studying how plants functioned and their effects on the habitats around them. Eventually, this led to the study of how animals interact with plants, other animals, and shaped the ecosystems in which they lived. Today, modern ecologists build on the data collected by their predecessors and continue to pass on information about the ecosystems around the world. The information they gather continues to affect the future of our planet.

Human activity plays an important role in the health of ecosystems all around the world. Pollution emitted from fossil fuels or factories can contaminate the food supply for a species, potentially changing an entire food web. Introducing a new species from another part of the world into an unfamiliar environment can have unintended and negative impacts on local lifeforms. These kinds of organisms are called invasive species. Invasive species can be any form of living organism that is brought by humans to a new part of the world where they have no natural predators. The addition or subtraction of a single species from an ecosystem can create a domino effect on many others, whether that be from the spread of disease or overhunting.

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Ecology articles from across Nature Portfolio

Ecology is the study of how organisms interact with each other and their environment. It considers processes that occur at the population, community and ecosystem levels and has a particular focus on biodiversity.

essay on ecology and ecosystem

Linking biosphere with lithosphere by assessing how earthquakes affect forest growth

Earthquakes not only affect tree growth directly by causing physical injury to individual trees but also indirectly by inducing changes in forest habitats. We established linkage between tree-ring series and seismic disturbances and found that prominent and lasting seismic legacies in drier areas may be due to an increased infiltration of precipitation through earthquake-induced soil cracks.

essay on ecology and ecosystem

Mapped US artificial reef footprint

Myriad structures, from purpose-built concrete modules to decommissioned petroleum platforms, have been deployed in US waters to create artificial reefs. Assessing their spatial coverage would help marine spatial planning but the task is challenging. Now a study does that and reveals some important ecological insights.

  • Sylvain Pioch
  • William F. Patterson III

essay on ecology and ecosystem

Seagrass vulnerability to tropicalization-induced herbivory

A large-scale coordinated experiment shows low seagrass resilience to tropicalization-induced herbivory beyond the tropics.

  • Guilherme O. Longo

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essay on ecology and ecosystem

Flexible foraging behaviour increases predator vulnerability to climate change

The authors use stomach contents from six fish species sampled for 12 years to show that warming shifts foraging behaviour to favour consumption of less energetically rewarding prey. Using food web models, they show that this flexible foraging could lead to reduced community biodiversity.

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Diurnal fuel moisture content variations of live and dead Calluna vegetation in a temperate peatland

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Ursids evolved dietary diversity without major alterations in metabolic rates

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ReptTraits: a comprehensive dataset of ecological traits in reptiles

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Mapping roadless areas in regions with contrasting human footprint

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essay on ecology and ecosystem

Herbicide leakage into seawater impacts primary productivity and zooplankton globally

Herbicides used in terrestrial environments pollute coastal ecosystems. Here, the authors analyse the presence of 32 herbicides at 661 bays and gulfs worldwide from 1990 to 2022, showing how under current herbicide stress, phytoplankton primary productivity was inhibited by more than 5% at 25%.

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essay on ecology and ecosystem

  • Biology Article

Ecosystem Definition

“An ecosystem is defined as a community of lifeforms in concurrence with non-living components, interacting with each other.”

Ecosystem

What is an Ecosystem?

An ecosystem is a structural and functional unit of ecology where the living organisms interact with each other and the surrounding environment. In other words, an ecosystem is a chain of interactions between organisms and their environment. The term “Ecosystem” was first coined by A.G.Tansley, an English botanist, in 1935.

Read on to explore the structure, components, types and functions of the ecosystem in the notes provided below.

Structure of the Ecosystem

The structure of an ecosystem is characterised by the organisation of both biotic and abiotic components. This includes the distribution of energy in our environment . It also includes the climatic conditions prevailing in that particular environment. 

The structure of an ecosystem can be split into two main components, namely: 

Biotic Components

Abiotic components.

The biotic and abiotic components are interrelated in an ecosystem. It is an open system where the energy and components can flow throughout the boundaries.

Biotic components refer to all living components in an ecosystem.  Based on nutrition, biotic components can be categorised into autotrophs, heterotrophs and saprotrophs (or decomposers).

  • Producers include all autotrophs such as plants. They are called autotrophs as they can produce food through the process of photosynthesis. Consequently, all other organisms higher up on the food chain rely on producers for food.
  • Primary consumers are always herbivores as they rely on producers for food.
  • Secondary consumers depend on primary consumers for energy. They can either be carnivores or omnivores.
  • Tertiary consumers are organisms that depend on secondary consumers for food.  Tertiary consumers can also be carnivores or omnivores.
  • Quaternary consumers are present in some food chains . These organisms prey on tertiary consumers for energy. Furthermore, they are usually at the top of a food chain as they have no natural predators.
  • Decomposers include saprophytes such as fungi and bacteria. They directly thrive on the dead and decaying organic matter.  Decomposers are essential for the ecosystem as they help in recycling nutrients to be reused by plants.

Abiotic components are the non-living component of an ecosystem.  It includes air, water, soil, minerals, sunlight, temperature, nutrients, wind, altitude, turbidity, etc. 

Functions of Ecosystem

The functions of the ecosystem are as follows:

It regulates the essential ecological processes, supports life systems and renders stability.

It is also responsible for the cycling of nutrients between biotic and abiotic components.

It maintains a balance among the various trophic levels in the ecosystem.

It cycles the minerals through the biosphere.

The abiotic components help in the synthesis of organic components that involve the exchange of energy.

So the functional units of an ecosystem or functional components that work together in an ecosystem are:

  • Productivity –  It refers to the rate of biomass production.
  • Energy flow – It is the sequential process through which energy flows from one trophic level to another. The energy captured from the sun flows from producers to consumers and then to decomposers and finally back to the environment.
  • Decomposition – It is the process of breakdown of dead organic material. The top-soil is the major site for decomposition.
  • Nutrient cycling –  In an ecosystem nutrients are consumed and recycled back in various forms for the utilisation by various organisms.

Types of Ecosystem

An ecosystem can be as small as an oasis in a desert, or as big as an ocean, spanning thousands of miles. There are two types of ecosystem:

Terrestrial Ecosystem

Aquatic ecosystem.

Terrestrial ecosystems are exclusively land-based ecosystems. There are different types of terrestrial ecosystems distributed around various geological zones. They are as follows:

Forest Ecosystem

Grassland ecosystem, tundra ecosystem, desert ecosystem.

A forest ecosystem consists of several plants, particularly trees, animals and microorganisms that live in coordination with the abiotic factors of the environment. Forests help in maintaining the temperature of the earth and are the major carbon sink.

In a grassland ecosystem, the vegetation is dominated by grasses and herbs. Temperate grasslands and tropical or savanna grasslands are examples of grassland ecosystems.

Tundra ecosystems are devoid of trees and are found in cold climates or where rainfall is scarce. These are covered with snow for most of the year. Tundra type of ecosystem is found in the Arctic or mountain tops.

Deserts are found throughout the world. These are regions with little rainfall and scarce vegetation. The days are hot, and the nights are cold.

Aquatic ecosystems are ecosystems present in a body of water. These can be further divided into two types, namely:

Freshwater Ecosystem

Marine ecosystem.

The freshwater ecosystem is an aquatic ecosystem that includes lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and wetlands. These have no salt content in contrast with the marine ecosystem.

The marine ecosystem includes seas and oceans. These have a more substantial salt content and greater biodiversity in comparison to the freshwater ecosystem.

Also check: Habitat Diversity

Important Ecological Concepts

1. food chain.

The sun is the ultimate source of energy on earth. It provides the energy required for all plant life. The plants utilise this energy for the process of photosynthesis, which is used to synthesise their food.

During this biological process, light energy is converted into chemical energy and is passed on through successive trophic levels. The flow of energy from a producer, to a consumer and eventually, to an apex predator or a detritivore is called the food chain.

Dead and decaying matter, along with organic debris, is broken down into its constituents by scavengers. The reducers then absorb these constituents. After gaining the energy, the reducers liberate molecules to the environment, which can be utilised again by the producers.

2. Ecological Pyramids

An ecological pyramid is the graphical representation of the number, energy, and biomass of the successive trophic levels of an ecosystem. Charles Elton was the first ecologist to describe the ecological pyramid and its principals in 1927.

The biomass, number, and energy of organisms ranging from the producer level to the consumer level are represented in the form of a pyramid; hence, it is known as the ecological pyramid.

The base of the ecological pyramid comprises the producers, followed by primary and secondary consumers. The tertiary consumers hold the apex. In some food chains, the quaternary consumers are at the very apex of the food chain.

The producers generally outnumber the primary consumers and similarly, the primary consumers outnumber the secondary consumers. And lastly, apex predators also follow the same trend as the other consumers; wherein, their numbers are considerably lower than the secondary consumers.

For example, Grasshoppers feed on crops such as cotton and wheat, which are plentiful. These grasshoppers are then preyed upon by common mouse, which are comparatively less in number. The mice are preyed upon by snakes such as cobras. Snakes are ultimately preyed on by apex predators such as the brown snake eagle.

In essence:

3. Food Web

Food web is a network of interconnected food chains. It comprises all the food chains within a single ecosystem. It helps in understanding that plants lay the foundation of all the food chains. In a marine environment, phytoplankton forms the primary producer.

Main article:   Food web

To learn more about what is an ecosystem, its structure, types, components, and functions, register at BYJU’S website or download the BYJU’S app.

essay on ecology and ecosystem

Frequently Asked Questions

1. what is the ecosystem.

The ecosystem is the community of living organisms in conjunction with non-living components of their environment, interacting as a system.

2. What are the different types of ecosystems?

The different types of the ecosystem include:

  • Forest ecosystem
  • Grassland ecosystem
  • Desert ecosystem
  • Tundra ecosystem
  • Freshwater ecosystem
  • Marine ecosystem

3. What are the functional components of an ecosystem?

The four main components of an ecosystem are: (i) Productivity (ii) Decomposition (iii) Energy flow (iv) Nutrient cycling

4. Which ecosystem do we live in?

We live in a terrestrial ecosystem. This is the ecosystem where organisms interact on landforms. Examples of terrestrial ecosystems include tundra, taigas, and tropical rainforests. Deserts, grasslands and temperate deciduous forests also constitute terrestrial ecosystems.

5. What is the structure of the ecosystem?

The structure of the ecosystem includes the organisms and physical features of the environment, including the amount and distribution of nutrients in a particular habitat. It also provides information regarding the climatic conditions of that area.

6. Which is the largest ecosystem in the world?

The largest ecosystem in the world is the aquatic ecosystem. It comprises freshwater and marine ecosystems. It constitutes 70% of the surface of the earth.

7. What is the major function of an ecosystem?

The ecosystem is the functional unit of the environment system. The abiotic components provide the matrix for the synthesis of organic components. This process involves the exchange of energy.

8. What makes a good ecosystem?

A good ecosystem consists of native plants and animal species interacting with each other and the environment. A healthy ecosystem has an energy source and the decomposers that break down dead plants and animal matter, returning essential nutrients to the soil.

9. What all include the non-living things in an ecosystem?

The non-living things in an ecosystem include air, wind, water, rocks, soil, temperature and sunlight. These are known as the abiotic factors of an ecosystem.

Register at BYJU’S for ecosystem notes or other important study resources.

Further Reading:

  • Our Environment
  • Energy Flow In Ecosystem
  • What Is A Natural Ecosystem?
  • Why Is The Ecosystem Important?
  • What Are The Five Levels Of Ecology?
  • What Are The Different Fields Of Ecology?
  • What Are The Three Environmental Issues?
  • Difference Between Food Chain And Food Web
  • How Many Types Of The Ecosystem Are There?
  • How Can We Improve Our Environmental Health?

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Ecosystem Essay

Introduction, results and discussions, reference list.

The sum of all living organisms residing in an ecological environment forms a community. In the community, the living and non-living factors interact in a manner that ensures balance in the environment.

The aspect of the living organisms-both plants and animal, sharing an environment forms an ecosystem. An ecosystem is always in a dynamic state of evolution (Newman 2000).

The world consists of several ecosystems. These different ecosystems are defined according to their unique characteristics. Several factors are responsible for the different characteristics observed in the ecosystems. These factors are either weather and climate or the living organisms that occupy the specific environment.

An ecosystem should provide an environment that supports the complex relationships of all the life forms that reside within it (Newman 2000). This work seeks to exclusively describe the characteristics of the ecosystem of Melbourne area in Australia.

Melbourne occupies the South-Eastern part of Australia and borders the ocean. based on the Koppen climate classification model, the climate of the area is described as oceanic.

To the East, the area is situated in an intersection of magma and intermediate stones from the Precambrian period. It lies along Yarra River and boarders the Dandenong ranges to the East.

To the West, Melbourne borders Marybyrnong River that flows along the foothills of the Macedon ranges. These ranges have flat volcanic planes that proceed up to the beach front.

The topography of the area map.

(Waterwatch Victoria 2012)

The map shows the topography of the area.

Vegetation types

The area has a diverse plant community courtesy of the favourable weather. The coast consists of scrub family, dominated by the coast banksias. In the inland foreshow regions, woodland dominates. On the contrary, plenty of manna gum dominates the eastern side. Finally, the grassy woodland dominates the basalt-North (Newman 2000).

One of the most outstanding ecosystems in the Melbourne area is the wetlands. The Ramsar convention on wetlands added Port Philip wetland and the Bellarine Peninsula to its list.

Port Philip wetland is very significant in terms of the biodiversity it supports along the coastal region. It supports an approximated 580 species of plants. At the same time, the animal species occupying the ecosystem is estimated to be over 300.

Data collection

Use of quadrats

In the ecological research of the ecosystems in the Melbourne area, several data collection methods were employed. These methods included the following:

Quadrat method

A quadrat, made up of a metal square, of different sizes was randomly thrown in an identified area. The plant species within the quadrat were counted and recorded as indicated in the table below. A second area was systematically identified and the quadrat method used again to collect data on the species within the quadrat.

Eventually, a tally of the various identified species was conducted. The quadrats varied in terms of size. The four square quadrats used all had an area of 1, 2, 4 and 8 M 2 respectively.

Observations

The various plant and animal species residing within each quadrat were observed and recorded based on their morphological characteristics. These characteristics were then described for each plant or animal.

A quadrat method helps describe a representative sample of a given ecosystem.

The table below depicts the results of the plant species observed.

Biotic components

From the data, it is important to note that the number of most species increased depending on the size of the sample area. This is shown in the figure below.

Specie Richness graph.

Interaction between biotic and abiotic components

Both plants and animals in Melbourne have been adversely affected by the soil structure of the area. The Northern part, which is majorly rocky, has the least animal population compared to the other areas that contain rich soils. In fact, the area recorded very limited plant population.

The rocky surface in Northern part of Melbourne, prevents water from reaching the plant roots. The plants, on the other hand, develop deep roots that crack the large rocks to smaller pieces so that the underlying rocks are eventually weathered.

Energy flow

Primary producers:

Primary producers are organisms that make their own food using simple compounds; they are mainly plants (Newman 2000). From the data, the most common primary producer was the grass specie number 4. Some grass species were shorter with very green leaves resembling blades, while others were much taller. Specie number 3 was very short and had long reddish brown leaves.

Primary consumers:

Primary consumers directly feed on the plants for example the herbivores and browsers. The short brown hare and a possum were observed in this category. These consumers feed on the barks, roots, and the flowers of plants.

Secondary consumers:

Those animals that feed on plant materials directly form the trophic level of secondary consumers. Secondary consumers feed directly on herbivores or browsers. Several examples were observed as listed below:

  • Red foxes that preyed on some bird species.
  • Frog mouthed owls that fed on some species of birds and possums
  • White’s skink that fed on small invertebrates.

Tertiary consumers

No tertiary consumers were observed. However, the presence of the vultures could not be ruled out especially in Northern Melbourne.

Food chain.

Chemical cycling

Coastal areas have plenty of dead plant materials especially the leaves. The wetlands contain plenty of decaying plant roots and leaves in the water (Widdowson 2007). In the soil, the top layer where the leaves are rotting have thick humus as compared to inner layers.

Micro-organisms are involved in the saprophytic breakdown of the plant materials into smaller absorbable units. These microorganisms are likely to be the saprophytic bacteria. They break down the complex dead matter into smaller units absorbable by plants (Specht & Specht 1999).

This report gives detailed study of the ecosystem of Melbourne area in Australia. It describes the unique characteristics of the area as well as the species interactions.

Newman, EI 2000, Applied ecology and environmental management , Blackwell Science, Oxford, Eng.

Specht, RL & Specht, A 1999, Australian plant communities: dynamics of structure, growth and biodiversity , Oxford University Press, South Melbourne.

Waterwatch Victoria 2012, Melbourne Region Waterwatch Program. Web.

Widdowson, M 2007, “Laterite and Ferricrete”, in D Nash & S McLaren (eds), Geochemical Sediments and Landscapes , Blackwell, Malden, MA, pp.46-94.

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ecology and ecosystem

Updated 10 March 2023

Subject Biology ,  Environment Problems ,  Industry

Downloads 41

Category Economics ,  Environment ,  Science

Topic Environmental Issues ,  Farm ,  Microorganisms

Impact of Agriculture on the Environment

Aquatic life and poor farming practices, effects of acidic soil on aquatic life, impact on life form, importance of life form.

Okazaki, E., & Osako, K. (2014). Isolation and characterization of acid-soluble collagen from the scales of marine fishes from Japan and Vietnam. Food Chemistry, 149, 264-270.

Stuart, D., Schewe, R. L., & McDermott, M. (2014).Reducing nitrogen fertilizer application as a climate change mitigation strategy: Understanding farmer decision-making and potential barriers to change in the US. Land Use Policy, 36, 210-218.

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1.2: What is Ecology?

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  • Page ID 24833

  • Laci M. Gerhart-Barley
  • College of Biological Sciences - UC Davis

Ecology is the study of how organisms interact with each other and with the physical environment in which they live. It is a large field of study and incorporates research at many spatial and temporal scales. Examples of ecological research include impacts of climatic change on species range distributions, patterns of infectious disease outbreaks, the effect of nutrient availability on ecosystem function, etc. In his 1911 book My First Summer in the Sierra , John Muir famously wrote ‘when we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.’ This quote sums up the unifying tenet of ecology – that all biotic and abiotic factors are linked to interact with one another, and that a change in one factor will likely cause a change in all of the factors to which is linked.

Levels of Ecological Study

Ecology incorporates research at many spatial scales, from a single individual to the entire biosphere. The major levels of ecological study are illustrated in Fig 1.2.1. In some cases, research studies and systems span multiple levels; however, each scale has particular questions and approaches that are commonly used. To illustrate ecological research at each scale, we will consider the research projects of researchers in the lab of Dr. Brian Todd in the Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology Department at UC Davis.

Fig1_2_1.png

Researchers studying ecology at the organismal level are interested in the adaptations that enable individuals to live in specific habitats. These adaptations can be morphological, physiological, and behavioral. For example, researchers in the Todd Lab are interested in the salt tolerance of different turtle species such as the Western Pond Turtle ( Emys marmorata ) shown in Figure 1.2.1, which is native to California. Salt tolerance determines the waterways in which the Western Pond Turtles can survive and therefore contributes to the species range and distribution.

A population is a group of interbreeding organisms that are members of the same species living in the same area at the same time. The population may have natural or artificial boundaries: natural boundaries might be rivers, mountains, or deserts, while examples of artificial boundaries include mowed grass, manmade structures, or roads. The study of population ecology focuses on the number of individuals in an area and how and why population size changes through time. The Todd Lab studies several populations of turtles, including the population residing in the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden waterway. The Western Pond Turtle is federally listed as vulnerable and is a California Species of Special Concern (our state-level conservation listing), so campus researchers and the Arboretum waterway managers are concerned about the size of the population of Western Pond Turtles in the waterway, particularly if the population is declining. The Todd Lab regularly traps turtles in the Arboretum and documents the size and sex of each turtle found. Small turtles, like the one shown in Fig 1.2.2a, indicate that the Arboretum population is successfully producing new offspring. In addition, Todd’s team marks each Western Pond Turtle with unique shell notches, which allow the researchers o identify how often they catch the same turtle and to track individuals throughout their lives. Figure 1.2.2b shows markings on a turtle captured in April 2019.

Fig1_2_2.png

A biological community consists of populations of different species living in the same area at the same time. Community ecologists are interested in the interactions within and among these species and the processes driving these interactions. Questions about interactions within a single species often focus on competition among members of the same species for a limited resource. Ecologists also study interactions between various species. These interactions include predation, parasitism, herbivory, competition, and pollination. These interactions can have regulating effects on population sizes and can impact ecological and evolutionary processes affecting diversity. The Western Pond Turtle is not the only turtle species that lives in the Arboretum waterway; several other species have been introduced to the waterway, probably through the release of pet turtles no longer wanted by their owners. The most common turtle species is the Red-Eared Slider ( Trachemys scripta elegans ), though several other species such as soft-shelled turtles, snapping turtles, and map turtles have also been identified in the waterway (Fig 1.2.3). There are, of course, many other non-turtle species that live in the waterway as well, including European carp, mallards and wood ducks, and possibly even river otters, not to mention a variety of aquatic plants and algae, and a plethora of insects. The potential interactions between these species and the Western Pond Turtles might be important drivers of their population sizes. In particular, previous research by former UC Davis professor Dr. Brad Shaffer looked at competition between the Western Pond Turtle and the introduced Red-Eared Slider for basking sites within the Arboretum waterway ( Lambert et al 2013 ).

Fig1_2_3.JPG

Ecosystem ecology is an extension of organismal, population, and community ecology. The ecosystem is composed of all the biotic components (living organisms) in an area along with the abiotic components (non-living factors) of that area. Some of the abiotic components include air, water, and soil. Ecosystem biologists ask questions about how nutrients and energy move among organisms and how environmental factors such as temperature, precipitation, salinity, etc affect species in the habitat and interactions between species. The Arboretum waterway managers are particularly interested in how the built environment around the waterway (paths, trails, concrete retainers, etc) might affect the Western Pond Turtle. Some parts of the waterway have soil banks covered in native vegetation, while others have bare ground, and still others have concrete retaining walls (Fig 1.2.4). Previous research by Dr. Shaffer and his team determined that Western Pond Turtles are more commonly found basking on concrete structures in shallower water in areas less disturbed by human activities ( Lambert et al 2013 ).

Fig1_2_4.png

Landscape ecology deals with questions of connectivity between ecosystems, including movement of organisms and compounds between ecosystems and the effects of boundaries or edges where different ecosystems come into contact (Fig 1.2.5). A landscape ecologist might study habitat fragmentation (such as deforestation) or the migration of organisms between ecosystems, etc. The Arboretum waterway ecosystem is part of a broader landscape of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, including upstream and downstream Putah Creek, grassy lawns, shrublands, forests, and the urban ecosystems of the UC Davis campus and surrounding city of Davis. This landscape could influence migration of the Western Pond Turtle (and other Arboretum inhabitants) to other nearby waterways and could directly affect the Arboretum waterway ecosystem by influencing factors such as water quality (ie. clarity), temperature, sunlight availability, nutrient availability, disturbance (especially by humans), etc.

Fig1_2_5.jpg

At its broadest, ecology considers the entire biosphere , all habitats on earth in which living organisms exist. Global ecological questions include the impacts of atmospheric and oceanic currents, the role of greenhouse gases concentrations in the global energy budget, the effects of climate change on ecosystems and organisms, etc

In this section, we have focused on categorizing ecology by its spatial scale, though many other types of categorization are possible. For example, disease ecology focuses on the evolution, virulence, and transmission of infectious pathogens or parasites, and human ecology focuses on human interactions with the environment including societal, cultural, technological, and institutional relationships. These ‘other’ ecologies can operate at any of the scales described above. For instance, disease ecology might focus on the organismal level (physiological impacts of disease on individuals), the population level (transmission of disease between individuals of the same species), or community level (transmission of disease across species), etc.

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Forest Ecosystem (Essay Sample) 2023

Forest ecosystem.

The topic for this article is about forest ecology. Within our planet, many different types of ecologies exist, and all in all, it balances the state of the whole planet. These ecologies serve many life forms and performs in the organic cycle of species, creating an interweaved system of lifestyle as members of the environment. Forest ecosystems are one of the most diverse and generally life-sustaining kind of ecology. It is the basic ecological unit within an ecosystem with a huge number of trees, plants, animals, insects, and other living species that co-exist together. Generally, forest ecosystems are those set in environmental land masses that is covered by a canopy of trees.

In our planet, there are many forests that sustain life and nurtures it. Forest ecosystems not only contribute to the local area that they are in, but forests actually heal our atmosphere. Within a system like this, numerous kinds of organisms usually live in symbiosis, and has a natural balance to their existence. Slowly, humanity is learning that every little thing in the forest actually exist for a greater cause, which is to subtly live in harmony with other life forms in their area.

Ecosystems have an innate programming to it that sustains local species through a balanced relationship with each other. Some plants may support the lives of local insects and the lives of different birds, and in turn, these birds and these insects also help the plants to propagate and proliferate. This is just an example to illustrate that ecosystems are life sustaining. However, these balanced ecosystems can quickly be influenced by the presence of foreign and invasive species of organisms. If such organisms arrive, they can disrupt the balance of a local ecosystem by affecting population number, or indulge in excessive hunting of prey which could affect the lives of the other species that were not directly involved in that relationship.  Other ecosystems such as coral reefs, prairies, wetlands and tundras are much more sensitive to change and that small variations in its balance can greatly affect the health of the whole. Bigger ecosystems can manage better the variations and harmful changes that it might receive due to the vast biodiversity and systematic stability.

A woodland biological system group is straightforwardly identified with species decent variety. For the most part, you can accept that the more perplexing the structure, the more prominent is its species decent variety. You ought to recollect that a backwoods group is considerably more than quite recently the whole of its trees. A timberland is a framework that backings collaborating units including trees, soil, creepy crawlies, creatures, and man.

Forest biological systems have a tendency to dependably be pushing toward development or into what foresters call a peak wood. This developing, likewise called woods progression, of the environment builds decent variety up to the point of seniority where the framework gradually crumples. One ranger service case of this is the development of trees and the whole framework advancing toward an old development woodland. At the point when a biological community is misused and abuse is kept up or when parts of the backwoods start to normally kick the bucket, at that point that developing timberland environment goes into declining tree well-being.

Human beings should learn to step-up and manage the forests for its sustainability. Some forest ecosystems are already threatened by overuse and natural resource exploitation. The age of the whole ecosystem also plays a part, as the longer that a local ecosystem is left alone, the biodiversity increases and the health and balance prevails. Sustainability programs can be done by qualified certification from professionals and community members alike. A demand of our modern era states that forest management must allow maximum diversity while also satisfying manager’s environmental and economic demands.

essay on ecology and ecosystem

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