Ecology Definition Essay
In the general sense, ecology is the study of interactions of organisms and their unities with each other and their environment. The term was first proposed by German biologist Ernst Haeckel in 1866 in the book General Morphology of Organisms. At the end of the 19th century, many biologists began to use the term ecology in different European countries. Ecology as a science appeared in the middle of the 21th century. As an independent discipline, ecology shaped at around 1900.
Gradually, environmental scientists have moved in their research and issued narrative interpretation of collected facts. Intensive development was noted in experimental and theoretical ecology. The flourishing of theoretical ecology started on the 20- 40s of the 20th century. Scientists set out the main objectives of the study of populations and communities, presented mathematical models of growth of populations and conducted laboratory experiments to test those models. Mathematical laws that describe the dynamics of populations of interacting groups of individuals were established (Pianka 6).
In the same period, there appeared the first basic ecological concepts, such as Pyramid of Numbers, Food Chain and Pyramid of Biomass (Callenbach 30). Current essay focuses on historical and conceptual aspects of ecology and evolution in understanding and broadening of its methods.
The History of the Term Ecology
The term ecology and its derivative word ecological appeared at the end of the 20th century. With the course of time, it started reflecting those global changes that have occurred not only in the human environment, but also in human relations. Taking into consideration the aforementioned aspects, it can be said that ecology is a science that studies relationships of organisms with their environment, as well as exploring the structural organization and functioning of biological systems at various levels. Organic systems include population, biogenesis, ecosystems and biosphere. They also are the subject of ecology (Pianka 8).
Roots of the ecological knowledge go back to antiquity. Cave paintings made by primitive people, suggested that a person’s interest in the surrounding world was far from simple curiosity. The idea of environmental protection and, in particular, the beauty of natural forests was close to inhabitants of ancient Greece. Ancient Greek thinkers passed the baton Roman scholars, and those threw the bridge in the Renaissance.
The great geographical discoveries of the Renaissance were the impetus for the development of natural resources. Scientists and travelers not only described the external and internal structure of plants, but also reported information about their dependence on growth conditions or cultivation. It also included the description of animals accompanied by information about their habits and habitats (Callenbach 29).
Great contribution to the formation of ecological knowledge introduced Swedish naturalist Linnaeus (1707-1778). His works Save the Nature and The Social Structure of Nature have not lost their relevance nowadays. The scientist understood the interrelations of all natural bodies, compared with the human nature of the community, living according to certain laws.
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In 1749, French explorer of nature Buffon (1707-1788) undertook a daring attempt at that time to present the development of the Earth, wildlife and humans as a single evolutionary series. In his later writings, the scholar emphasized the leading role of climatic factors in the ecology of organisms.
Lamarck (1744-1829), one of the founders of evolutionary theory, had an impact on the development of environmental science. He believed that the major cause of adaptive changes in organisms, the evolution of plants and animals were caused by external environmental conditions.
Rulle, who is considered the founder of domestic ecology, strongly emphasized the need to study the evolution of living organisms, development and structure of animals depending on changes in their habitat. The scientist formulated the principles that underlie all life sciences into the principle of the historical unity of a living organism and the environment (Pianka 166).
From the outset, environmentalists tried to realize the object of their activity as an integrated discipline, to bring a wide variety of facts into a coherent system, enough to reveal general patterns. The most important task was to explain and possibly predict different natural phenomena. At this stage of development, ecology stated the subject of study.
Ecosystem became the basic concept of ecological system studies. The term ecosystem was first mentioned by the British scientist Tensli in 1935. It was defined as a unity, limited in time and space, a natural complex formed by living organisms and their environment interconnected by metabolism and energy. Ecosystem became applicable to objects of varying complexity and size.
A huge impact on the development of ecology was made by the work of outstanding Russian geochemist VI Vernadsky (1863-1945). He studied the processes occurring in the biosphere, and developed a theory, which he called the biogeochemistry. The theory became the basis of the modern theory of the biosphere. Biosphere was stated as an area of active life, covering the lower part of the atmosphere, hydrosphere and lithosphere. Living organisms and their environment were organically connected and interacted with each other in the biosphere, forming an integrated dynamic system (Pianka 169).
The appearance and development of the concept of biosphere has become a new step in the natural science, the study of interaction and relationships between inert and living nature, between men and environment. On the one hand, it is admitted that ecology is a science, but on the other hand, it is emphasized that it is the totality of scientific disciplines. Indeed, the environment in one way or another affects almost all spheres of living organisms (and their populations) and humans. Ecology is a synthetic science.
Adaptation of organisms to the environment means any changes in the structure and functions of organisms, increasing their chances of survival. Ability to adapt is one of the basic properties of life in general, as it provides the possibility of existence, the ability of organisms to live and reproduce. Adaptation occurs at different levels: from the biochemistry of cells and the behavior of individual organisms to the structure and functioning of communities and ecological systems (Pianka 110).
Ecosystem can get overloaded with human activity, and in such cases, it faces the problem of environmentally safe load. Human activities should not exceed the threshold of ecosystem stability. Exceeding this threshold leads to disruption and destruction of an ecosystem.
Maximum allowable load is a measure of the result of one or more harmful substances (pollutants) on the environment, the excess of which can cause harmful effects in ecosystem. Environmental standard is a legally enforceable limit of environmental loads.
Environmental capacity of the territory is the level of anthropogenic load, which can withstand natural ecosystems without irreversible violations they perform vital functions (Pianka 178).
Environmental problems in one way or another addressed mankind spontaneously throughout natural history. People have always known that it is necessary to use natural resources discreetly and carefully, without violating productive natural mechanisms and by preserving the safety of their existence (Pianka 116).
Starting from an evolutionary understanding of wildlife, modern ecology has taken into account the specificity of an unprecedented scale and nature of human impact on the biosphere. This effect is mainly due to the transfer of scientific and technological revolution to a higher stage of development. This objective requires understanding of many contradictory processes and phenomena in nature and society and weakens the most dangerous of them.
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The modern meaning of the term ecology has a broader sense than in the early decades of the development of this science. The most general definition states that ecology is the science of relationship between animate and inanimate nature. Development of ecology raised theoretical and practical importance of earth sciences, meteorology, climatology, hydrology, glaciology, soil science, oceanography, geophysics, and geology. Ecology has changed the role of geography, which now seeks not only to provide a more complete and composite picture of the planet, but also to develop the scientific basis of its rational transformations from a progressive concept of nature. Moreover, integrating function of modern ecology shaped the development of new areas of natural, engineering and social sciences. Ecology has promoted interdisciplinary research projects, directed all of them to solving a super task of searching for harmony between humanity and nature. In this regard, global ecology creatively assimilated the most rational aspects of many sciences and scientific theories.