Portal:Ecology

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Unique plants in the Ruwenzori Mountains, SW Uganda, Bujuku Valley, at about 12,139 feet (3,700 metre) elevation)
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Ecology, also referred to as ecological science, is the 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. The term Ökologie was coined in 1866 by the German biologist Ernst Haeckel; the word is derived from the Greek οικος (oikos, "household") and λόγος (logos, "study"); therefore "ecology" means the "study of the household (of nature)".

Ecology is also a human science. There are many practical applications of ecology in conservation biology, wetland management, natural resource management (agriculture, forestry, fisheries), city planning (urban ecology), community health, economics, basic and applied science and human social interaction (human ecology)

(Pictured left: Unique plants in the Ruwenzori Mountains, SW Uganda, Bujuku Valley, at about 12,139 feet (3,700 metre) elevation)

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Old-growth European Beech forest in Biogradska Gora National Park, Montenegro
Pictured left: Old-growth European Beech forest in Biogradska Gora National Park, Montenegro

Forest ecology is the scientific study of the interrelated patterns, processes, flora, fauna and ecosystems in forests. The management of forests is known as forestry, silviculture, and forest management. A forest ecosystem is a natural woodland unit consisting of all plants, animals and micro-organisms (Biotic components) in that area functioning together with all of the non-living physical (abiotic) factors of the environment. Forest ecology is one branch of a biotically-oriented classification of types of ecological study (as opposed to a classification based on organizational level or complexity, for example population or community ecology). Forest ecology studies share characteristics and methodological approaches with other areas of terrestrial plant ecology. However, the presence of trees makes forest ecosystems and their study unique in numerous ways.

Forests are often highly heterogeneous environments compared to other terrestrial plant communities. This heterogeneity in turn can enable great biodiversity of species of both plants and animals. It also affects the design of forest inventory sampling strategies, the results of which are sometimes used in ecological studies. A number of factors within the forest affect biodiversity; primary factors enhancing wildlife abundance and biodiversity are the presence of diverse tree species within the forest and the absence of even aged timber management.

Since trees grow to much larger sizes than other plant life-forms, there is the potential for a wide variety of forest structures (or physiognomies). The infinite number of possible spatial arrangements of trees of varying size and species makes for a highly intricate and diverse micro-environment in which environmental variables such as solar radiation, temperature, relative humidity, and wind speed can vary considerably over large and small distances. In addition, an important proportion of a forest ecosystem's biomass is often underground, where soil structure, water quality and quantity, and levels of various soil nutrients can vary greatly.

Forests accumulate large amounts of standing biomass, and many are capable of accumulating it at high rates, i.e. they are highly productive. Such high levels of biomass and tall vertical structures represent large stores of potential energy that can be converted to kinetic energy under the right circumstances. Two such conversions of great importance are fires and treefalls, both of which radically alter the biota and the physical environment where they occur. Also, in forests of high productivity, the rapid growth of the trees themselves induces biotic and environmental changes, although at a slower rate and lower intensity than relatively instantaneous disturbances such as fires.

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DecayingPeachSmall.gif
Credit: Andrew Dunn (User:Solipsist)

Mold growth covering a decaying peach. The frames were taken approximately 12 hours apart over a period of six days. Molds are fungi that grow in the form of multicellular filaments called hyphae. Molds are considered to be microbes but microscopic fungi that grow as single cells are called yeasts.

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Ramensky-Leonty 1884-1953.jpg
Leonty Grigoryevich Ramensky June 16 [O.S. June 6] 1884 – January 27, 1953) was a Russian plant ecologist. He was a proponent of the view that biotic communities consist of species behaving individualistically (much like Henry Gleason in the U.S.A.). This was in strong contrast to the prevailing view of communities as super-organisms, held by the powerful V.N.Sukachov and his consorts (much like Frederic Clements in the U.S.A.). Hence, Ramensky was marginalized within the Russian scientific community and was only posthumously rehabilitated by Russian ecologists. Much later, the significance of his ideas was discovered by ecologists in the West.

In his 1929 scientific publication On methods for comparative analysis and ordering of plant lists and other objects determined by multiple factors, Ramensky criticized the use of hierarchical classifications of plant communities and advocated ordination ("Ordnung") of communities (and other complex objects with multiple determining factors, such as soil profile and weather data) instead. He was explicit about assuming unimodal responses of species to underlying gradients in the environment. This was long before Correspondence analysis was first used (1952), the now classic applications of ordination to plant communities by J. Roger Bray and John T. Curtis and David W. Goodall and the theoretical foundations of gradient analysis was developed by Whittaker and others (1970s onwards).

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Did you know...

...the Gaia hypothesis, also known as Gaia theory or Gaia principle, proposes that all organisms and their inorganic surroundings on Earth are closely integrated to form a single and self-regulating complex system, maintaining the conditions for life on the planet?
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The African Journal of Ecology(formerly East African Wildlife Journal) is a quarterly scientific journal focused on the ecology and conservation of the animals and plants of Africa. It is published by Blackwell Publishingin association with the East African Wildlife Society.
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