No such individual emerges as the founder of ecology

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No such individual emerges as the founder of ecology. Rather, ecology can be likened to a bush (Figure 15-3). Near the end of the 19th century, out of a tangled root system of natural history, anecdotes, and folk wisdom, four main stems emerged that led to modern ecology: 1. Early botanists developed plant biogeography . Along with the extensive plant col- lections in Europe’s museums and universities, gathered over a 500-year period, were extensive notes on where each specimen was collected and the environmental conditions in that place. Over the years, accuracy and completeness improved. From these collections, predictions followed. Expect to find cactuses in deserts. Expect to find few trees in areas receiving less than 12 inches of rain per year. Expect to find orchids sprouting from branches on tropical trees.There were exceptions, of course, just as there are for many generalizations in biology. But as generalizations, the statements held true. 2. Meanwhile, other early ecologists focused on what we would today call environ- mental physiology . How does living in a particular environment affect an animal’s structure and function? Most polar animals are white.Many desert plants store water and have extensive root systems.Marine mammals use tear glands to get rid of excess salt.These are examples of how physiology is attuned to environment. 3. In Europe, during the early 1900s, a group of biologists launched limnology , the extensive study of freshwater ponds and lakes.They introduced the idea that whole systems, comprising many different species and many different physical factors, interacted and could be simultaneously studied.These studies became another branch of early ecology. 4. Still another group of biologists was interested in behavioral ecology . How does liv- ing in a particular area with a particular set of characteristics affect the way animals behave? Within a few decades of the 20th century, such studies focused on a diverse group of insects, birds, and mammals.
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492 C HAPTER 15 Population Ecology: How Do Organisms Interact to Form Populations? By the end of the 19th century,these four somewhat dissimilar kinds of studies,along with certain studies of marine biology, economic biology, and latter-day natural history, became lumped into ecology, a new branch of biology. The scientists conducting these diverse inquiries were themselves diverse, coming from different backgrounds, national- ities,and scientific traditions.It may not be surprising,then,that they failed to share a com- mon vision. What is this new science of ecology? There was, at first, little agreement. Indeed, one of the first serious disagreements was on how the word should be spelled, ecology or oecology. Discussions became so heated that the field nearly split in two.
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