Related topics: climate change

Here's how what you buy affects the environment

The world's workshop—China—surpassed the United States as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases on Earth in 2007. But if you consider that nearly all of the products that China produces, from iPhones to tee-shirts, ...

The origins of abiotic species

How can life originate from a lifeless chemical soup? This question has puzzled scientists since Darwin's 'Origin of species'. University of Groningen chemistry professor Sijbren Otto studies 'chemical evolution' to see if ...

What makes a leader? Clues from the animal kingdom

As the American media continues to buzz over who is more or less likely to secure the Republican and Democratic nominations for U.S. President, researchers in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution review some interesting ...

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Ecology

Ecology (from Greek: οἶκος, "house"; -λογία, "study of") is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount (biomass), number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems. Ecosystems are hierarchical systems that are organized into a graded series of regularly interacting and semi-independent parts (e.g., species) that aggregate into higher orders of complex integrated wholes (e.g., communities). Ecosystems are sustained by the biodiversity within them. Biodiversity is the full-scale of life and its processes, including genes, species and ecosystems forming lineages that integrate into a complex and regenerative spatial arrangement of types, forms, and interactions. Ecosystems create biophysical feedback mechanisms between living (biotic) and nonliving (abiotic) components of the planet. These feedback loops regulate and sustain local communities, continental climate systems, and global biogeochemical cycles.

Ecology is a sub-discipline of biology, the study of life. The word "ecology" ("Ökologie") was coined in 1866 by the German scientist Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919). Ancient philosophers of Greece, including Hippocrates and Aristotle, were among the earliest to record notes and observations on the natural history of plants and animals. Modern ecology branched out of natural history and matured into a more rigorous science in the late 19th century. Charles Darwin's evolutionary treatise including the concept of adaptation, as it was introduced in 1859, is a pivotal cornerstone in modern ecological theory. Ecology is not synonymous with environment, environmentalism, natural history or environmental science. It is closely related to physiology, evolutionary biology, genetics and ethology. An understanding of how biodiversity affects ecological function is an important focus area in ecological studies. Ecologists seek to explain:

Ecology is a human science as well. 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). Ecosystems sustain every life-supporting function on the planet, including climate regulation, water filtration, soil formation (pedogenesis), food, fibers, medicines, erosion control, and many other natural features of scientific, historical or spiritual value.

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