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Chapter 50 - CHAPTER 50 AN INTRODUCTION TO ECOLOGY AND THE...

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CHAPTER 50 - AN INTRODUCTION TO ECOLOGY AND THE BIOSPERE Introduction Ecology is the scientific study of the interactions between organisms and their environment. A. The Scope of Ecology 1. The interactions between organisms and their environments determine the distribution and abundance of organisms Ecologists make predictions of what should be observed in the environment. The environment of any organism includes the following components: Abiotic components : non-living chemical and physical factors such as temperature, light, water, and nutrients Biotic components : the living components 2. Ecology and evolutionary biology are closely related sciences This includes describing how organisms respond to the environment and how organisms are distributed. Events that occur in the framework of ecological time (minutes, months, years) translate into effects over the longer scale of evolutionary time (decades, centuries, millennia, and longer). 3. Ecological research ranges from the adaptations of individual organisms to the dynamics of the biosphere Organismal ecology is concerned with the behavioral, physiological, and morphological ways individuals interact with the environment. Population : a population is a group of individuals of the same species living in a particular geographic area. Population ecology examines factors that affect population size and composition. Community: a community consists of all the organisms of all the species that inhabit a particular area. Community ecology examines the interactions between populations, and how factors such as predation, competition, and disease affect community structure and organization. Ecosystem : an ecosystem consists of all the abiotic factors in addition to the entire community of species that exist in a certain area. Ecosystem ecology examines the energy flow and cycling of chemicals among the various abiotic and biotic components. Landscape ecology deals with the array of ecosystems and their arrangement in a geographic region. A landscape or seascape consists of several different ecosystems linked by exchanges of energy, materials, and organisms. 4. Ecology provides a scientific context for evaluating environmental issues Rachel Carson, in 1962, warned that the use of pesticides such as DDT was causing population declines in many non-target organisms . The precautionary principle (essentially “look before you leap”) can guide decision making on environmental issues.
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B. Factors Affecting the Distribution of Organisms Ecologists have long recognized distinct global and regional patterns in the distribution of organisms. Biogeography is the study of past and present distributions of individual species, which provides a good starting point to understanding what limits geographic distributions.
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