Ecology Level 1: Basics

Crashnibbles By Crashnibbles, 10th Nov 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Science>Environmental Science

Have you ever wondered how energy goes from the sun to us? Find out here!


Ecology is the study of interactions that take place between organisms and organisms as well as organisms and the physical/abiotic (nonliving) factors of the biosphere. A biosphere is something that supports life. Earth is one along with a glass cube with water and microorganisms in it (it doesn’t have to be spherical). There are many different abiotic and biotic factors of a biosphere.
Abiotic or nonlivings factors are factors that aren’t living that affect living organisms in a biosphere. These include light, temperature, water, and soil. Water makes up most of the bodies of most organisms. How much water an ecosystem gets will affect if greatly. Light and temperature are the availability of sunlight. This determines how well photosynthesis can occur. The soil is also very important. It is made up of 3 things; they are clay, sand, and humus. Humus is the decomposed bodies of dead organisms. The more humus the soil has, the more fertile it will be.
Biotic factors would include things like predation, and other relations. A relation is when multiple organisms interact with each other. Some benefit partners, don’t affect partners, or hurt partners. Mutualism is when both partners benefit from the relation like a flower and a bee. When one partner benefits and the other partner isn’t affected it is called commensalisms, an example is like fish gaining protection from swimming by a shark. Parasitism is when one partner benefits while doing definite harm to the other partner, such as a bloodsucking leech and a human.
There are also factors that affect how many organisms of one population can live in an area. These are called limiting factors. More than the carrying capacity, or maximum amount of individuals in a certain population there can be over a long period of time, can be in a population but they will not be able to support this number for a long period of time. This causes some of them to die until they are around the carrying capacity. Population density is how many organisms of a population live in a certain size of an environment.
A niche is an organism’s role in its environment. Predation is the feeding of one organism on another. A food chain is a diagram that shows the flow of energy through an ecosystem in the form of food. This occurs when one organism eats another. Here is the order of things (larger numbered things eat smaller numbered things) that happen in a food chain. Note that some things eat multiple levels and that this isn’t completely accurate for every type of ecosystem:
1. Producers use photosynthesis to make carbohydrates. These are usually plants.
2. The 1st consumer eats the producer, and is usually an herbivore.
3. A 2nd consumer eats the 1st consumer, and is a carnivore
4. An apex (or top) predator eats the secondary consumer and is usually not eaten by any other consumer.
5. Decomposers break down the dead bodies of any organisms that die.
Each level (or number on the side) is a trophic level. There are usually no more than 4-5 trophic levels (not counting decomposers) in a food chain. This is because in each level only about 10% of the energy that was available to the previous level will be available to that level. Most of the energy is lost in heat from getting the energy, and other functions. This will cause there to be less of the higher level organisms than of the lower level organisms (in total biomass or mass of all living things). A food web is a more accurate version of a food chain and has many organisms that eat and are eaten by multiple organisms.
Biomagnification is when a substance occurs in higher concentrations (sodium is an example). If grass has 1 gram of sodium in it, and a deer eats lots of grass it might have 25 grams of sodium in it. Then if a person eats several deer then the person might have 100 grams of sodium. Then if a bear eats several people (sadly), then the bear might have 500 grams of sodium in it. The same thing will happen with harmful or toxic chemicals.
There are also levels of biological organization. This sounds cool, but is fairly basic. An individual (a bunny) is a single organism in a population. A population is a group of organisms/individuals from the same species that can reproduce (a few families of bunnies feeding on a garden), and the amount of resources and usage of resources will determine how large a population can become. A community is multiple populations that all interact, and will depend on each other for food, shelter, and other needs (the bunnies and the garden plants). There are several communities in an ecosystem, which is made up of several biotic communities and the abiotic factors affecting them (the bunnies, garden, soil, rain, and light). There are several ecosystems in a biosphere, which is made up of all of the ecosystems that somehow affect each other, as well as the area they live in (this would be the entire Earth’s crust, surface, and atmosphere).
Now that you have learned about ecosystems, I will sum it up. There are many different levels of biology. There are also food webs, which tell how energy flows in an ecosystem. Organisms interact with each other, but sometimes this hurts or kills one of the organisms in the relationship (this is called symbiosis). Every organism has a niche or role in its habitat. There are factors that affect living organisms. Some of these are living while some of these aren’t (predators vs. sunlight). Thank you for learning more about ecosystems!


Basics, Biomagnification, Ecology, Ecosystems

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