What is Ecology 

What is Ecology 

Definition;

Is the scientific study of the complex relationships between organisms and their environment. 

These interactions determine the distribution and abundance of organisms within a particular environment. Environment is the immediate surroundings of an organism. 

Organisms live within a relatively narrow sphere (land, water and air) and the earth’s surface and  this is known as Biosphere/ecosphere .  

The  biosphere  is divided into two major regions namely;

Aquatic regions; made up of fresh water( lakes and ponds, rivers and streams, wetlands), marine water(oceans) , and estuaries.

Terrestrial regions covering a few meters deep in the soil and a few kilometers into the atmosphere. 

On land, there are several biogeographical areas, each with specific conditions that support distinct species of plants and animals. Such areas include the present day continents.

Some of these areas may possess similar physical conditions, therefore supporting similar plants and animals; these areas are collectively called Biomes.( a large ecological area on earth’s surface with distinctive plant and animal groups which are adapted to that particular environment)

Biomes include ; tropical rain forests,  tundra regions (ground is frozen much of the year and vegetation is sparse), Hot and dry desert regions (evaporation is high and there is too much heat), cold deserts( precipitation coming from colder water sources than rain, such as snow or ice), temperate region (winters and summers).

Organisms have developed adaptations to live in each of the biomes e.g desert organisms offer the most extreme adaptations to live in both intensive hot and drought condtions  i.e desert animals are able to feed less often, thus conserving energy both by slowly metabolizing food and by not frequently hunting or foraging; while marine organisms are adapted to osmo regulate in highly saline environment.

Biomes are further divided into zones,each with its unique properties e.g  A forest biome is divided into ground zone( consisting of millipedes & earthworms) , and canopy zone/aerial zone; (consisting of birds & monkeys); with each of these zones supporting different animals that are adapted to the conditions within them.

Aquatic biome divided into surface , intertidal ,& benthic zones;  with the organisms in the intertidal zone withstanding wave action e.g snakes, snails, those in benthic zone not able to withstand wave action e.g sponges, while organisms requiring much air supply e.g photosynthetic algae inhabiting surface zone. iii.Desert biome divide into surface and subterranean zones; with those in surface zone adapted to withstand extreme heat, while those in subterranean able to survive in low oxygen content.

NB  The zones in a biome are subdivided into habitats(specific locality where an organism normally lives within the environment) with set physical conditions that support specific organisms

Examples of habitats include; leaf litter for earthworms, intestines of man for tapeworms, ponds for frogs, beside the water storage tanks for toads, kitchen for cockroaches, etc.  

Ecological niche: 

  • Is the role and position any species has within its habitat, and its interactions with living and non-living environment. 
  • Describes how an organism meets its need for food and shelter, how it survives, and how it reproduces; therefore reduces intra specific competition for resources.

Example. 

Consider a forest habitat, with leaves scattered on the ground; an old rotting log sitting on a forest floor; earthworms may be seen under the soil feeding on decaying organic matter; with centipedes eating small beetles and other organisms; colony of ants working and feeding on dead insects; millipedes strolling around feeding on decaying leaves; therefore all these organisms are filling an ecological niche looking at where they live, how they survive and how they reproduce.

Types of ecological niche.

Realized niche; Occurs in the presence of predators, competitors, and parasites; limiting the habitat and roles performed by an organism, Its smaller in size.

Fundamental niche; Occurs in the absence of predators, competitors, and parasites; allowing the organism experience a larger habitat and perform a variety of roles .

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