WHAT IS ECOLOGY?Meaning of ecology
The word ecology can simply mean or be defines as the study of plants and animals in relation to their environment. Ecology is derived from a Greek word Oikos which means home or dwelling place.
In other words, ecology can be defined as a field of study which deals with the relationship of living organism with one another and with their environment in which they live.
Ecology is often described as environmental biology.
Ecology is divided into two main parts or branches. They are
Autecology:Autecology is concerned with the study of an individual organism or a specific species of organism and its environment. For example, the study of a single rat and its environment
Synecology:synecology is concerned with the study of the inter-relationship between two groups or species of organisms living together in an area. For example, the study of different organisms in a river in relation to their aquatic environment.
ECOLOGICAL CONCEPTSWhat is ecological concept?
The concept of ecology can be seen as the rules, policies and areas that can be studied.
Some of these ecological concept are as follows
ENVIRONMENT:the environment includes both the external and internal factors, living and non-living factors which affect an organism
BIOSPHERE OR ECOSPHERE:the biosphere or the ecosphere is the zone of the earth occupied by living organisms. It is a layer of life which exists on earth surface. The biosphere is a narrow zone where complex biological and chemical activities occur. Biosphere can be found on land, water, soil and air. It provides habitat for organisms like animals, plants and micro-organisms
LITHOSPHERE:the lithosphere is the solid portion of the earth. It is the outermost layer or zone of the earth crust. It is made up of rocks and mineral materials, and it represents 30% of the earth surface. The outermost layer of the landmass is made up of loose rock materials like gravel, sand and soil. Lithosphere forms the basis of all human settlement.
HYDROSPHERE:hydrosphere is the liquid or aquatic part of the earth. It covers about 70% of the earth’s crust. It holds water in various forms, which are as solid, liquid and gases respectively. Examples of hydrosphere are lakes, pond, river, streams, spring, sea, oasis and pools
ATMOSPHERE:the atmosphere is the gaseous portion of the earth. Over 99% of the atmosphere lies within 30km of the earth surface. The atmosphere contains 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 0.3% carbon dioxide and 0.97 rare or inert gases
HABITAT:habitat is defined as an area occupied by a biotic community. In other words, habitat is any environment in which an organism lives naturally. So a habitat is the natural home of an organism. A typical example is the habitat of fish which is water. The various types of habitat includes the following but limited (1) AQUATIC HABITAT (2) TERRESTRIAL HABITAT
CHARACTERISTICS OF A TYPICAL HABITATi. In a habitat, similar organisms tends to live together and associate
ii. Every habitat is affected by some environmental factors. Which is either biotic or abiotic factors.
iii. Habitat may be terrestrial e.g. tropical rain forest, grassland, savanna, desert or Aquatic e.g. ocean, rivers, lagoon, leaf surface and any other suitable example.
BIOTIC COMMUNITY OR BIOME:a biotic community is any naturally occurring group of organisms living together and interacting in the same environment. A biome is the largest community of organisms e.g. rain forest and guinea savanna
ECOLOGICAL NICHE:ecological niche refers to the specific portion of a habitat is occupied by a particular species or organism. Every organism is adapted to a particular place, and definitely plays a role in that community. An example is how organisms feeds on other organisms or serves as food for other organisms within the community.
i. An organism is either a producer or consumer within a community.
ii. The sum total of all these roles for any given organism is referred to as ecological niche.
For an example, a caterpillar and an aphid which lives on the same plant occupy different position or ecological niches on the plant.
The caterpillar lives mainly on the leaves while the aphid lives on the young shoot and sucks sap from it.
Although both organism lives on the same plant, each one has its own living space and source of food.
POPULATION:population is defined as the total number of organisms of the same species living together in a given area. For example, the total number of tilapia fish in that habitat.
ECOSYSTEM:an ecosystem refers to a community of plants and animals functioning together with their non-living environment. In other words, ecosystem consists of living factors (plants and animals) interacting with the non-living factors in an environment
COMMUNITY:community refers to a group of plants and animals that occupy a given area and are adaptable to the condition of their environment. They are interdependent on one another and can continue to live successfully and reproduce new offspring
WHAT ARE THE COMPONENTS OF AN ECOSYSTEM?The ecosystem is made up of two main components. They are biotic components (living things) and abiotic components (non-living things) these are explained in the order below
BIOTIC COMPONENTS:the biotic component includes the living things (plants and animals) which also can be grouped into consumers, producers and decomposers.
i. PRODUCERS: producers are the autotrophs (green plants and some micro-organisms) which has the ability to manufacture their own food through a process called photosynthesis and chemosynthesis.
ii. CONSUMERs: consumers are the heterotrophs found in an ecosystem. These are animals and can also include some plants. The consumers are those organisms in an ecosystem which cannot manufacture their own food but depend directly or indirectly on plants for their food. They can be grouped as primary, secondary and tertiary consumers
iii. DECOMPOSERS: decomposers are bacteria and some fungi which break down dead plants and animals in order to feed on them which releases nutrients in the process to the soil for use by the producers.
ABIOTIC COMPONENTS:the abiotic components of an ecosystem are the non-living things found within it. These are
i. Climatic factors such as temperature, wind, rainfall, humidity and sunlight
ii. Inorganic materials and nutrients such as carbon (iv) oxide, oxygen< nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus iii. Edaphic factors like soil, rocks and topography iv. Other factors include dust, storm, fire and water
What are the interactions between the components of an ecosystem?There is a unique interaction amongst the various components of an ecosystem. They are explained as follows
Green plants use carbon IV oxide, water and chlorophyll to manufacture their food in the presence of sunlight to produce carbohydrates or starch.
Animals on their part, feeds on these carbohydrates or plants and release carbon IV oxide for plant to take in.
Micro-organisms and other decomposers breaks down dead plants and other organisms to release nutrients to the soil. These nutrients are absorbed by plants for use in food production.
Plants also on the other hand, gives out oxygen during photosynthesis which is used by animals for normal respiration
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