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Case Studies on Ecology




  •  Provides basic idea about ecological functions, interactions and its impacts on ecosystem.




Ecology is the study of relationships exhibited by living organisms with its surroundings in which they live. These surroundings in another way called as environment. The word ecology is coined by a German zoologist Ernst Haeckel in 1869. It is derived from a Greek word oikos which means ‘household’. Learning the theory of ecology is very crucial, because a simple change in the environment can cause a great effect on all living things. The objective of studying ecology is to provide knowledge about how the organisms are distributed and their abundance in the environment, the interaction between organisms and their environment, and the structure and function of ecosystems. A better understanding of ecological systems can help society to know the consequences of human activity on the environment. For example, we are continuously destroying our wildlife habitats. 


Ecology is a broad discipline. It helps to model the population growth of organisms in the ecosystem, helps to understand the physiology of the organism, and also helps to understand the chemical defenses of the plants and animals in the ecosystem. Behavioral ecology focuses on the study of the individual organism, its behavior, interaction with other organism which affects its reproduction and population density. In population ecology, group of individuals called populations are studied in a broader way. In this case, more emphasis is given to the factors which affect the growth of population and population size determination. The common mechanisms of individual organisms such as competition, predation, and mutualism are important in the population ecology studies. Population ecology is the branch of ecology that studies the structure and dynamics of populations and how these populations interact with the environment. This study deals how the population sizes of species living in different groups together change over time and space. Population density can be measure from the number of individuals of a species in a particular area. When birth rates exceed death rates, population growth will occurs. Both physical and biological factors such as weather, water and nutrient availability, food availability, predators, parasitoids, competitors, diseases etc. can regulate the population size. A habitat is defined as an ecological area which is inhabited by a particular species of animal, plant or any other type of organism. The organism lives in the natural or physical environment that surrounds a species population. On the other hand, ecological niche describes the way of life of a species in the ecosystem. Niche defines how a particular organism fits into its ecosystem. The individual make use of the available nutrients with all the interactions with the other members including competition, predation, parasitism and mutualism.


 Biodiversity is prime focus in community ecology, which determines the number of species in an area. Population interactions usually provide beneficial or harmful effects to the organism engaged in the interaction. The interactions with other species affect the survival and reproduction of individuals, and hence it is important in the evolutionary modifications. In ecosystem ecology, the community is considered as a user of nutrients, the energy, the nutrient availability and energy flow in the ecosystem is examined. Such studies are important for understanding phenomena such as biogeochemical cycles and its effects of pesticides in the food chain.


Nutrients play an important role in the function and growth of organisms in the ecosystem. Decomposers break down the biomass matter leading to the cycling of nutrients within the ecosystem. Animal excreta and the dead organic materials are broken down into simpler elements by the soil bacteria and fungi. The nutrients are released into the soil, roots uptake this nutrients for their growth and survival. Essentially producer organisms are responsible for the primary intake of minerals and nutrients into the ecosystem. They build up their materials for growth. Consumers break down organic tissue and return the material in a form that can be easily taken up by plants. Studies on ecological sciences showed that flow of nutrients is of utmost important in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. Among the key nutrients in the ecosystem, Nitrogen is thought to be more essential for the structure and functioning of organism. It forms key part of biomolecules such as amino acids, nucleic acids, chlorophyll and hemoglobin. Because of the primary importance and relative scarcity of nitrogenous compounds, it has drawn a great attention from the ecosystem ecologists. Economic and environmental issues increased the need to understand the role and ultimate fate of nitrogen in the crop production systems. Moreover, studies on soil microbiology concluded that the behavior of N in the soil is complex, and hence a basic understanding of processes in the soil is essential for a more efficient Nitrogen management program in the ecosystem.


The success of an ecosystem depends primarily on the nutrient cycling. But the impacts of human activities in the ecosystem impacted nutrient cycling in numerous ways. Over usage of fertilizers, pesticides and agricultural and toxic chemicals such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane resulted in pollution of the environment. The increased run off of these chemicals resulted in the loss of nutrients from soil. Also the use of sewage and effluents from aquacultures causes great instability in the ecosystem. The impact of humans on energy flow such as excess land usage for irrigation purposes, electricity, household use and combustion of fossil fuels affect the nutrient flow in the ecosystem. The equilibrium of the ecosystem should be maintained as it is important for the welfare of all the living beings including human. We must have to take actions to conserve and and repopulate these threatened species to maintain the biodiversity of our planet.


 Image source: en.wikipedia.org




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