Earth flag PD.jpg Portal  Nuvola apps bookcase.svg Topics and categories  People icon.svg WikiProject
The Earth seen from Apollo 17.jpg

Ecology (from Greek: οἶκος, "house", or "environment"; -λογία, "study of") is a branch of biology concerning interactions among organisms and their biophysical environment, which includes both biotic and abiotic components. Topics of interest include the biodiversity, distribution, biomass, and populations of organisms, as well as cooperation and competition within and between species. Ecosystems are dynamically interacting systems of organisms, the communities they make up, and the non-living components of their environment. Ecosystem processes, such as primary production, pedogenesis, nutrient cycling, and niche construction, regulate the flux of energy and matter through an environment. These processes are sustained by organisms with specific life history traits.

Ecology is not synonymous with environmentalism, natural history, or environmental science. It overlaps with the closely related sciences of evolutionary biology, genetics, and ethology. An important focus for ecologists is to improve the understanding of how biodiversity affects ecological function. Ecologists seek to explain:

  • Life processes, interactions, and adaptations
  • The movement of materials and energy through living communities
  • The successional development of ecosystems
  • The abundance and distribution of organisms and biodiversity in the context of the environment.

Ecology has practical applications in conservation biology, wetland management, natural resource management (agroecology, agriculture, forestry, agroforestry, fisheries), city planning (urban ecology), community health, economics, basic and applied science, and human social interaction (human ecology). For example, the Circles of Sustainability approach treats ecology as more than the environment 'out there'. It is not treated as separate from humans. Organisms (including humans) and resources compose ecosystems which, in turn, maintain biophysical feedback mechanisms that moderate processes acting on living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) components of the planet. Ecosystems sustain life-supporting functions and produce natural capital like biomass production (food, fuel, fiber, and medicine), the regulation of climate, global biogeochemical cycles, water filtration, soil formation, erosion control, flood protection, and many other natural features of scientific, historical, economic, or intrinsic value.

The word "ecology" ("Ökologie") was coined in 1866 by the German scientist Ernst Haeckel. Ecological thought is derivative of established currents in philosophy, particularly from ethics and politics. Ancient Greek philosophers such as Hippocrates and Aristotle laid the foundations of ecology in their studies on natural history. Modern ecology became a much more rigorous science in the late 19th century. Evolutionary concepts relating to adaptation and natural selection became the cornerstones of modern ecological theory.

Selected article

An area of the Russian Wilderness, located approximately 65 miles (105 km) northeast of Eureka, California
Pictured left: An area of the Russian Wilderness, located approximately 65 miles (105 km) northeast of Eureka in northern California, in the Klamath National Forest.

Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general. It ranges in scale from the subatomic to the cosmic. Within the various uses of the word today, "nature" often refers to geology and wildlife. Nature may refer to the general realm of various types of living plants and animals, and in some cases to the processes associated with inanimate objects – the way that particular types of things exist and change of their own accord, such as the weather and geology of the Earth, and the matter and energy of which all these things are composed. It is often taken to mean the "natural environment" or wilderness–wild animals, rocks, forest, beaches, and in general those things that have not been substantially altered by human intervention, or which persist despite human intervention. This more traditional concept of natural things which can still be found today implies a distinction between the natural and the artificial, with the artificial being understood as that which has been brought into being by a human consciousness or a human mind. Depending on the particular context, the term "natural" might also be distinguished from the unnatural, the supernatural, or synthetic.

Earth (or, "the earth") is the only planet presently known to support life, and its natural features are the subject of many fields of scientific research. Within the solar system, it is third nearest to the sun; it is the largest terrestrial planet and the fifth largest overall. Its most prominent climatic features are its two large polar regions, two relatively narrow temperate zones, and a wide equatorial tropical to subtropical region. Precipitation varies widely with location, from several metres of water per year to less than a millimetre. 71 percent of the Earth's surface is covered by salt-water oceans. The remainder consists of continents and islands, with most of the inhabited land in the Northern Hemisphere.

The atmospheric conditions have been significantly altered from the original conditions by the presence of life-forms, which create an ecological balance that stabilizes the surface conditions. Despite the wide regional variations in climate by latitude and other geographic factors, the long-term average global climate is quite stable during interglacial periods,[1] and variations of a degree or two of average global temperature have historically had major effects on the ecological balance, and on the actual geography of the Earth.[2]

Selected image

Amphiprion ocellaris (Clown anemonefish) in Heteractis magnifica (Sea anemone).jpg

Ocellaris clownfish often live symbiotically with the Heteractis magnifica sea anemone, using them for shelter and protection.

Selected biography

Howard Thomas Odum (1924 – 2002) (also known as 'Tom' or 'H.T.') was an American ecologist. He is known for his pioneering work on ecosystem ecology, and for his provocative proposals for additional laws of thermodynamics, informed by his work on general systems theory. Odum was the third child of the American sociologist Howard W. Odum, and the brother of ecologist Eugene Odum.

In 1950 Howard earned his Ph.D. in zoology at Yale University, under the guidance of G. Evelyn Hutchinson. His dissertation was titled The Biogeochemistry of Strontium: With Discussion on the Ecological Integration of Elements. This step took him from his early interest in ornithology and brought him into the emerging field of systems ecology. Through this a meteorologist "analysis of the global circulation of strontium, anticipated in the late 1940s the view of the earth as one great ecosystem."

While at Yale, Howard began his life-long collaborations with his brother Eugene Odum. In 1953, they published the first English-language textbook on systems ecology, Fundamentals of Ecology. Howard wrote the chapter on energetics which introduced his energy circuit language. They continued to collaborate, in research as well as writing, for the rest of their lives. For Howard, his energy systems language (which he called "energese") was itself a collaborative tool.

The Center for Wetlands at the University of Florida, founded in 1973 by Howard T. Odum, is the first of its kind in the world to especially study wetlands. From 1956 to 1963, Odum worked as Director of the Marine Institute of the University of Texas. During this time, he became aware of the interplay of ecological-energetic and economic forces. He then taught at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was in the Department of Zoology, and one of the professors in the new Curriculum of Marine Sciences until his move to the University of Florida in 1970. He then taught at the Environmental Engineering Sciences Department for 26 years until his retirement in 1996. He also started and directed the Center for Environmental Policy at the University of Florida and founded the University's Center for Wetlands in 1973, the first of its kind in the world that is still in operation today.

Did you know... ecology is an interdisciplinary field of ecology, taking a holistic approach to the study of ecological systems, especially ecosystems? Systems ecology can be seen as an application of general systems theory to ecology. Central to the systems ecology approach is the idea that an ecosystem is a complex system exhibiting emergent properties.
Other "Did you know" facts...

Ecology news

From the Wikinews Environment portal
Read and edit Wikinews

Additional News Highlights

Selected quote

A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

Selected publication

The New Zealand Journal of Ecology is a biannual peer-reviewed scientific journal publishing ecological research relevant to New Zealand and the South Pacific. It has been published since 1952, firstly as a 1952 issue of New Zealand Science Review and then as the Proceedings of the New Zealand Ecological Society until 1977. The Journal is published by the New Zealand Ecological Society, and is covered by Current Contents/Agriculture, Biology and Environmental Science, GEOBASE, and Geo Abstracts.

More selected publications...

Related WikiProjects

Things you can do

This list is transcluded from the tasks list page, to edit, click here

Here are some tasks awaiting attention:
 – When a task is completed, please remove it from the list.

Related portals

Related articles

Associated Wikimedia

The following Wikimedia Foundation sister projects provide more on this subject:






Learning resources



Web resources