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Ecology is the study of relationship of organisms to their environment and other organism. An animals environment includes all of the conditions that affect survival and reproduction. Abiotic factors (nonliving) soil, air, water, sunlight, temperature, pH etc. Biotic factors (living) food items, predators, parasites, competitors, mates, hosts etc.

Some Abiotic Factors:

1. intensity of light 2. range of temperatures 3. amount of moisture 4. type of substratum (soil or rock type) 5. availability of inorganic substances such as minerals 6. supply of gases such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen 7. pH

Each of the prior listed abiotic factors varies in the environment and, as such, may act as a limiting factor, determining the types of organisms that exist in that environment.

Some examples:
1. A low annual temperature common to the northern latitudes determines in part the species of plants which can exist in that area. 2. The amount of oxygen dissolved in a body of water will help determine what species of fish live there. 3. The dry environment of desert regions limits the organisms that can live there.

A population is a reproductively interactive group of animals of a single species.
A few individuals may migrate between populations.
Adds gene flow

Numerous small populations may be connected in this way.

The niche is one of the most important concepts in ecology. Paradoxically, it is also one of the hardest to define (Ecology is still a young science). In essence, an organisms niche is how it makes a living: the environmental conditions it tolerates, the important resources it needs to survive, and its ways of obtaining those resources. In obtaining energy, nutrients, etc.. a populations of one species frequently interact with populations of other species.

The Niche

Types of Species Interactions

Neutralism Competition Predation Symbiosis
Commensalism Mutualism Parasitism

Neutralism the most common type of interspecific interaction. Neither population affects the other. Any interactions that do occur are indirect or incidental. Example: the tarantulas living in a desert and the cacti living in a desert

Competition in an interaction between two organisms in the same community that are using the same limited resources. This resource may be prey, water, light, nutrients, nest sites, etc. Competition among members of the same species is called intraspecific competition. Competition among individuals of different species is called interspecific competition. Individuals experience both types of competition, but the relative importance of the two types of competition varies from population to population and species to species.

Predation is any interaction between two organisms in which one organism (the predator) consumes all or part of another organism (the prey).
Feeding adaptations of predators include: claws, teeth, fangs, stingers, and poison. Animals also display a great variety of defensive adaptations.

Prey Defenses
Predation usually results in the evolution of defensive adaptations in prey. These can include:
Chemical defenses (toxins, poison, acrid sprays) Behavior (living in groups, scouts, alarm calls) Morphological features (spines, color, structures that allow you to run fast or detect predators), and other traits

Caterpillar with Venomous Spines

Predator-Prey Population Dynamics

Predation may be a density-dependent mortality factor to the host population-and prey may represent a limiting resource to predators. The degree of prey mortality is a function of the density of the predator population. The density of the prey population, in turn, affects the birth and death rates of the predator population. When prey become particularly common, predators increase in numbers until prey die back due to increased predation, this, in turn, inhibits the growth of prey. There is often a dynamic balance between predators and prey that is necessary for the stability of both populations. Feedback mechanisms may control the densities of both species.

Symbiotic Relationships
Symbiosis is an intimate relationship between different species in which at least one species depends upon the relationship to survive. Types of (symbiosis):

Commensalism is an interspecific interaction one organism is benefited and the other is unharmed Commensalisms are ubiquitous in nature: birds nesting in trees are commensal. Anemonefish live within the tentacles of anemones. They have specialized mucus membranes that render them immune to the anemones stings. They gain protection by living in this way.

Mutualism in an interspecific interaction between two species that benefits both members. Populations of each species grow, survive and/or reproduce at a higher rate in the presence of the other species. Mutualisms are widespread in nature, and occur among many different types of organisms.

Examples of Mutualism
Most rooting plants have mutualistic associations with fungal mychorrhizae. Mychorrhizae increase the capability of plant roots to absorb nutrients. In return, the host provides support and a supply of carbohydrates. Many corals have endosymbiotic organisms called zooxanthellae (usually a dinoflagellate). These mutualists provide the corals with carbohydrates via photosynthesis. In return, they receive a relatively protected habitat from the body of the coral.

Facultative vs. Obligate Mutualisms

Facultative Mutualisms are not essential for the survival of either species. Individuals of each species engage in mutualism when the other species is present. Obligate mutualisms are essential for the survival of one or both species.

3. Parasitism: the parasite benefits at the expense of the host For example: athlete's foot fungus on humans, tapeworm and heartworm in dogs

Parasites and pathogens are smaller than their host. Parasites may have one or many hosts during their lifetime. Pathogens are parasitic microbes-many generations may live within the same host. Parasites consume their host either from the inside (endoparasites) or from the outside (ectoparasites).

Coevolution occurs when two species evolve in response to one another. For example, predators evolve in response to prey defenses. Prey evolve in response to predation. Mutualists and parasites coevolve with their hosts. Pollinators coevolve with the flowering plants they pollinate.

Ecosystem is a system of living things that interact with each other and with the physical world. Ecosystems are dynamic interactions between plants, animals, and microorganisms and their environment working together as a functional unit. Ecosystems will fail if they do not remain in balance. No community can carry more organisms than its food, water, and shelter can accomodate. Food and territory are often balanced by natural phenomena such as fire, disease, and the number of predators. Each organism has its own niche, or role, to play.

A Biome is a collection of related ecosystems. There is a slight difference between the two words. An ecosystem is much smaller than a biome. Conversely, a biome can be thought of many similar ecosystems throughout the world grouped together. An ecosystem can be as large as the Sahara Desert, or as small as a pond.

Major Ecosystems of the World


Characterized by:
Very short growing season/long daylight hrs. Little precipitation (10-25 cm / yr) Permafrost Nutrient-poor soil Low species diversity/low primary productivity Sensitive to damage

Boreal Forest (Tiaga)

Characterized by:
Short growing season Low precipitation (~50 cm / yr) Dominated by conifers Acidic/mineral-poor soil Large source of timber

Temperate Rain Forest

Characterized by:
Mild winters/cool summers Cool; high precipitation (~127 cm / yr) Dominated by evergreens (hemlock, spruce, cedar) High species richness Nutrient-poor soil Low rate of decomposition

Temperate Deciduous Forest

Characterized by: Hot summers, cold winters Moderate precipitation (75-150 cm / yr) Dominated by oaks, hickory, maple Commonly converted to agriculture Topsoil rich in organic material/minerals Large mammals mostly dissappeared

Grasslands Characterized by:

Hot summers, cold winters Low to moderate precipitation (25-75 cm / yr) Dominated by tallgrass or shortgrass prairies Heavily converted to agriculture High nutrient levels in soil

Characterized by:
Dry summers, mild/wet winters Frequent fires Dominated by short pines, evergreen shrubs, scrub oak (but varies worldwide) Thin, non-fertile topsoil Prevention of fires often backfires

Characterized by:


Wide daily variations in temperature Very dry (<25 cm precipitation / yr) Sparse plant coverage Soil low organic matter/high nutrient content Small animals dominate Sensitive to destruction

Characterized by:
Precipitation 76-150 cm / yr, but very seasonal with extended dry periods Dominated by grasses, with occasional trees African most famous for herds of wildebeest, antelope, zebra Little variation in temperature Nutrient-poor soil Replaced with rangeland

Tropical Rain Forests

Characterized by: High temperatures throughout the year Very high precipitation 200-450 cm / yr Very nutrient-poor soil Extremely high primary productivity Extremely high species richness

Aquatic ecosystems
An aquatic ecosystem is an ecosystem in a body of water. The two main types of aquatic ecosystems are:

1. Freshwater ecosystems 2. Marine ecosystems

There are three basic types of freshwater ecosystems:

Lentic: slow moving water, including pools, ponds, and lakes. Lotic: faster moving water, for example streams and rivers. Wetlands: areas where the soil is saturated or inundated for at least part of the time.
Marine ecosystems cover approximately 71% of the Earth's surface and contain approximately 97% of the planet's water. They are distinguished from freshwater ecosystems by the presence of dissolved compounds, especially salts, in the water. Approximately 85% of the dissolved materials in seawater are sodium and chlorine.

What does Bio means? Bio = Life What does means? Diversity

Diversity = Variety

Biodiversity is the degree of variation of life. or Biodiversity is the totality of genes, species, and ecosystems of a region.


Recent Issues on Biodiversity

Some 75 per cent of the genetic diversity of crop plants been lost in the past century. Some scientists estimate that as many as 3 species per hour are going extinct and 20,000 extinctions occur each year. Roughly one-third of the worlds coral reef systems have been destroyed or highly degraded. About 24 per cent of mammals and 12 per cent of bird species are currently considered to be globally threatened. More than 50% of the worlds wetlands have been drained, and populations of inland water and wetland species have declined by 50% between 1970 and 1999.

Threats to Biodiversity
Natural causes: Narrow geographical area Low population Low breeding rate Natural disasters Anthropogenic causes: Habitat modification Overexploitation of selected species Innovation by exotic species

Threats to Biodiversity
Pollution Hunting Global warming and climate change Agriculture

Population Growth
There are a number of people and organizations that feel that we must drastically reduce the human population because we will soon run out of nonrenewable resources. Behind the difficulty in tapping resources lies the fact that too many people are accessing them. Resources are already scarce per capita in the world at large, and, thus, the resource crises and resources wars are actually here, right now. There is no need to look very far to find evidence of frictions, conflicts, and even some wars over access to resources especially oil and gas, water, and agricultural land.

Resource depletion is the consumption of a resource faster than it can be replenished. Resources are commonly divided between renewable resources and nonrenewable resources. Use of either of these forms of resources beyond their rate of replacement is considered to be resource depletion. Main causes include: Overconsumption Overpopulation Technological and industrial development Erosion Habitat degradation leads to the loss of Biodiversity Irrigation Mining for oil and minerals Pollution or contamination of resources

Global Resource Depletion

Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into the natural environment that cause adverse change. Pollution can take the form of chemical substances or energy, such as noise, heat or light. A pollutant is a waste material that pollutes air, water or soil. Pollutants can be either foreign substances/energies or naturally occurring contaminants. The severity of a pollutant is determined by three factors: Its chemical nature Concentration Persistence