Ecology is the scientific study of the relationships between living animals, plants, and other organisms and their environment. The environment is categorized by physical properties and the other organisms that exist within the habitat. There are several topics within the broad field of ecology that relate to animals, climate, population, and microbiology.
One broad topic of ecology is animal behavior. Ecologists study the behavior of animals including their eating and breeding habits, migration patterns, living conditions, and behavior within a species group. For example, several types of animals travel in packs with a clear hierarchy, while other animals live as solo creatures. Ecologists compare and contrast these behaviors through the scientific gathering of information to help them draw general and specific conclusions.
Population ecology is the study of a single species and how it occupies a particular region. Community ecology is related to this, except that it studies several different species who are associated with each other within a single region. Ecologists seek to understand why some species are able to live relatively peacefully with each other in the same environment.
Ecology can also focus on the activities of human behavior. Intentional and unintentional activities by humans can have beneficial or harmful effects on the surrounding environment. Major topics that focus on human impacts include hazardous waste, overfishing and overgrazing, land use change, and pollution.
Ecosystems are a major component of the overall study of ecology. An ecosystem is the interaction of the animals, plants, and organisms with their particular physical domain. Ecosystems are generally broken down into three categories: aquatic, terrestrial, and wetland. Examples of ecosystems include a desert, forest, prairie, tundra, coral reef, steppe, and rainforest. There are also urban ecosystems that are largely populated by humans. The study of ecosystems is essential for understanding how ecology works.
imagecredit: © Sergej Khackimullin – Fotolia.com