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What Are the Branches of Ecology?

Branches of EcologyIn simple terms, ecology is the study of the environment. It is a branch of biology that studies the relationships between organisms to each other and the physical environment they find themselves in. Ecology attempts to determine the important connections between plants, animals and the world they live in, as well as how we maintain a healthy environment for generations to come. But beyond this general definition are several branches of ecological study. Below is a look at some of these disciplines.

What is Community Ecology?

Community ecology is the study of the interactions between different species in communities. It is a broad field that involves many different biological disciplines, such as ecology, evolution, and animal behavior. Community ecologists attempt to understand how populations and communities are structured, how they change over time, and how they consist of species interacting with one another.

community ecologyThe main goal of community ecology is to understand how communities are structured, why they have the characteristics that they do, and how these characteristics change over time. The composition of a community can change dramatically over time due to changes in climate or human activity. However, it is possible for some aspects of a community to remain constant. Communities can also vary greatly in size, from a small group of individuals to a massive expanse spanning thousands of square miles (kilometers). Other important components of communities include the number and diversity of species found there and the number of individuals within each species.

In addition to examining the structure of communities, community ecologists also study community function; that is, the processes that influence the composition and structure of ecological communities. These processes include competition, predation, herbivory, mutualism, commensalism, disturbance, and succession

What is Population Ecology?

Population ecology is a sub-field of ecology that deals with the dynamics of species populations and how these populations interact with the environment. It is the study of how the population sizes of species change over time and space.

life in thew forest

Time spent among trees is never time wasted – Anonymous

Population ecology is a branch of biology that studies the distribution and abundance of living organisms. This field attempts to explain why some organisms are rare while others are common, and why some species occur together while others are found in different locations. Population ecology examines factors such as birth rate, death rate, immigration, emigration, and age structure in order to determine whether a population will grow or decline. When combined with other disciplines such as paleontology and evolutionary biology, population ecology can provide insight into how humans have affected other species through hunting, habitat destruction, and climate change.

In the simplest terms, population ecology is the study of numbers of individuals in a population. However, these numbers are simply a result of more basic biological processes that operate at different levels of organization in an organism’s life cycle. For example, an ecologist studying a population of wolves would focus not only on the total number of wolves but also on factors such as age structure (how many young wolves are present), sex ratio (the number of males vs. females), reproductive success (how many babies survive to adulthood), and so forth. By taking these other factors into consideration when studying a population, ecologists can better understand why populations change over time.

What is Deep Ecology?

Deep ecology is an ecological and environmental philosophy promoting the inherent worth of living beings regardless of their instrumental utility to human needs, plus a radical restructuring of modern human societies in accordance with such ideas. Deep ecology argues that the natural world is a subtle balance of complex inter-relationships in which the existence of organisms is dependent on the existence of others within ecosystems. Human interference with or destruction of the natural world poses a threat therefore not only to humans but to all organisms constituting the natural order.

Deep ecology’s core principle is the belief that the living environment as a whole should be respected and regarded as having certain inalienable legal rights to live and flourish, independent of their utilitarian instrumental benefits for human use. Deep ecologists hold that the world does not exist as a resource to be freely exploited by humans. The movement does not subscribe to anthropocentric environmentalism (i.e., human-centered), since deep ecology is grounded in a very different set of philosophical assumptions. Three of the most influential ecological spokespersons of the 1960s were Rachel Carson, David Brower, and Paul Ehrlich. Some consider the publication of Silent Spring as the beginning of the contemporary, long-range deep ecology movement.

deep ecoogy

Source: Environmental Studies blog

The deep ecology movement arose in the 1970s as a response to what its advocates saw as the destructive effects of shallow environmentalism and anthropocentrism (the view that humans are the only and most important living beings). The movement promotes the view that all organisms in an ecosystem are interrelated, and ascribes intrinsic value to nonhuman life. It rejects the notion that nature has any utilitarian value for humans; instead, it holds that natural diversity should be preserved for its own sake. Deep ecologists advocate a less materialistic, “back-to-nature” approach to living. They criticize technology, especially industrial technology, as detrimental to the environment. In addition to helping protect the environment from industrial pollution, they see a personal connection to nature as beneficial to mental health.

What is Competition Ecology?

Competition EcologyTo start with, what is competition? Competition is a contest between individuals, animals, organisms of the same or different species (intraspecific and interspecific competition, respectively) for territory, a niche, access to limited resources, mating rights or other goods or services.

There is one main difference between the two types of competition. Interspecific competition involves different species competing for the same resource. An example of interspecific competition would be two plants that are competing for the same amount of sunlight. Intraspecific competition involves members of the same species competing for the same resource. An example of intraspecific competition would be two blue jays fighting over a worm.

Competition ecology focuses on how organisms compete with each other for limited resources such as food, water and space. When there is an abundance of something in an area, there will not be much competition since many organisms can obtain what they need without being directly impacted by others in their local environment. The more-scarce a resource becomes, however, the more intense the competition level will be among organisms looking to obtain it. In human terms for example, at a barbecue if there is only one plate of chicken wings left and five people want them, there will likely be some serious competition to determine who gets wings and who doesn’t.

Simply stated, competition ecology is the study of how changes in circumstances can change behavior.

What is Social Ecology?

what is social ecologySocial ecology is the theory that social problems, like crime, poverty and war, are caused by deep-seated problems in our social structure. It is an approach to social reform which locates the roots of our ecological and social crises in the hierarchical and authoritarian structures of contemporary society. It calls for a radical restructuring of society based on ecological principles, decentralization of power, and direct democracy.

Social ecologists believe that the present organization of our society is fundamentally anti-ecological, and that its practices are leading rapidly toward environmental catastrophe. They also believe that present institutions are deeply authoritarian and hierarchical, based on domination rather than cooperation. Social ecologists argue that these two problems are interrelated: that the domination of nature leads logically to the domination of human beings.

Social ecology is a critical social theory founded by American anarchist and democratic socialist Murray Bookchin. Central to social ecology is the conviction that nearly all of our present ecological problems originate in deep-seated social problems and that the domination of human-over-nature stems from the domination of human-over-human. As such, these ecological problems cannot be understood, let alone solved, without a careful understanding of their social roots. Social ecology envisions a moral economy that moves beyond scarcity and hierarchy. From each according to ability, to each according to need.

What is Human Ecology?


“The environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.” -Lady Bird Johnson


Human Ecology is a social science that deals with the relationship between people and their environment. It looks at the interaction between human behavior and the natural, social, political and economic environments.

Human ecology involves research, teaching and outreach in areas as diverse as population, health, nutrition, sustainable agriculture and rural development. Also considered are water resource policy and management, urban planning and design, conservation biology, environmental justice, complex adaptive systems modeling, and many more.

Human ecology is the study of how people interact with their surroundings. It includes studying how we use resources and influence the environment around us. It also includes the study of the effects of technology, economics and culture on the environment, as well as relationships between different cultures and environments. Human ecology provides a framework for understanding complex environmental problems by examining them in terms of social, economic, political, technological and cultural issues.

Ways to Think About Human Ecology

  • Human ecology asks questions about how people affect their environment and vice versa
  • Human ecology examines how humans are like other species in interacting with their environment.
  • Human ecology studies similarities between ecosystems that have an impact on human behavior (e.g., similarities between human populations living in urban areas in different parts of the world)

What is Cultural Ecology?

what is cultural ecologyThe concept of cultural ecology is used in anthropology to describe a particular type of human environment, one in which the natural world and culture have been interwoven in an intricate manner over generations. Cultural ecology is especially applicable when studying the ways in which people adapt to or modify their natural environment in order to provide for their needs or meet their wants.

In this context, there are three key elements of cultural ecology: population, property, and technology. Population is a measure of the number of people who live in a given area. Property involves not only ownership of land but also the right to use natural resources that can be harvested and consumed. Technology refers to the tools and methods used for obtaining food and other necessities. The interplay between these three elements creates a dynamic environment wherein people’s actions are not always predictable, but can be understood by examining the relationship between them.

If you consider a typical rural village, you can see how these concepts apply: population would dictate how much housing must be built, while technology such as agriculture and hunting implements would determine what kinds of buildings would be constructed and where they might be located. The location itself—where it is with respect to water sources and nearby wild game—might be determining factors.

What is Ecosystem Ecology?

Ecosystem ecology is the study of how energy, water, and nutrients are cycled through living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) components in an ecosystem. Ecosystem ecology examines how energy flows from primary producers to consumers, where most energy is lost to decomposers (bacteria, earth worms, etc.). It also examines how nutrients are cycled within ecosystems, how those nutrients may be transported elsewhere through aquatic or atmospheric pathways, and how those cycles may be altered by human activity.

Ecosystem ecology is an important scientific discipline that provides the theoretical foundations for managing ecosystems. The study of ecosystems has been prevalent in natural sciences for several decades, and it focuses on the integration of ecological processes of organisms, populations, communities and the physical environment. Ecological systems are complex and involve a myriad of interactions between different components, which can be at multiple scales (e.g., individual, population, community).

Today, ecosystem ecologists need to be concerned with how to best monitor biodiversity in a changing world. In order to avoid further loss of species and to inform effective management policy, we require a thorough understanding of the ways in which communities are structured and function. The field needs to address fundamental questions such as how species interact among themselves and with their environment; how species co-occur; what controls species richness; and what determines the composition of assemblages.

ecosystem ecology

What is Industrial Ecology?

The term “industrial ecology” was coined in the early 1990s by Robert Frosch (of General Motors) and Nicholas Gallopoulos (of Boston University) to describe a new way of thinking about environmental problems. It quickly became a buzzword for companies trying to burnish their green credentials, but what does it mean?

As an emerging discipline, industrial ecology is still developing its research agenda and methodology. Industrial ecology has grown out of the earlier fields of ecotechnology and industrial metabolism, with its roots in thermodynamics, systems analysis and industrial ecology.

Industrial ecology is based on the simple idea that the economy is a subsystem of the environment. If the economy were a closed system, like a ship or an airplane, it wouldn’t need any inputs from the environment, except perhaps energy from the sun. But since it’s not, it needs raw materials and coolant and places to put its wastes. And it doesn’t make sense to measure an organism’s health solely by its weight; you also have to consider what it eats and excretes. So, while we’re accustomed to talking about economic growth as an increase in wealth, it’s also correctly implies an increase in waste production. This is why waste production tends to track economic output so closely: they are two sides of the same coin.

Industrial ecology is conceptually straightforward: it describes and evaluates the flows of material and energy that make up our economy and society. The ideas behind industrial ecology are not new, but the field began to flourish in the 1990s when researchers from a wide range of disciplines began working together.

Video – The History of Life on Earth – Crash Course Ecology #1

Related Information

Community Ecology

Population Ecology 1

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