They interact with other species including those they

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their kind.They interact with other species, including those they try to eat, those that try to eat them,those with which they compete,and those with which they cooperate.Ecology also involves the abundance and distribution of animals and plants. This description of ecology may come as a surprise to some. In everyday usage, “ecology” appears to mean something else. It is important to remember several key factors: Ecology is not a social cause . Although the word “ecology” may be in mainstream societal consciousness, ecology is not a movement. “Ecology” is not the same as “environment.” Ecology is a branch of biology; environ- ment means surroundings. Does this mean that ecology, the science, has nothing to con- tribute to environmental issues? Of course not.But it’s important to remember the limits of the contributions that ecology can make. How would other organisms and the envi- ronment as a whole be changed if California condors become extinct in southern Cali- fornia? Ecology can answer that.Should we spend money to save them? Such political or moral questions cannot be answered by ecology.With many topics of interest to both environmentalists and ecologists, science and politics overlap, or at least butt up against one another,but they are not the same.Our goal here is to keep separate that which is sci- entific from that which is political;we want to keep the factual separate from the emotional. Ecology is not natural history . Fascinating stories of nature have captivated people for thousands of years. Usually they stress organisms living in and reacting to particular environments.Isn’t that ecology? Not really.There is a difference between natural history and ecology. Let an example illustrate: One of the most conspicuous large mammals in Denali National Park in central Alaska is the grizzly bear.Roads allow visitors and scientists to sit comfortably and safely in buses or observation huts and make extensive observations on bears in their natural habitat. Frequently, especially late in summer, grizzlies are seen digging up ground squirrel burrows.They will spend half a day moving room-sized mounds of soil,rocks,and plant material to catch a small meal.All the while,caribou move past the slaving bears, neither seemingly noticing the other (Figure 15-2). This is natural history—interesting stories of animals in nature. It leads to an inter- esting question:Why would a grizzly bear spend so much time hunting ground squirrels when much larger prey is seemingly at hand? Can this question be answered scientifically? What Is Ecology? Observe the relationships among ecosystems including the biosphere.
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490 C HAPTER 15 Population Ecology: How Do Organisms Interact to Form Populations? Yes. Ecologists might approach the question by considering energy requirements. In the Denali area,the weight of the average grizzly bear is about three times that of the average human. Obviously, larger animals need more energy than smaller ones, but it turns out that grizzly bears need considerably less than three times more energy than humans.
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