Ecology and Ecosystem : Clearly Explained

The term ‘Ecology’ has its origin in Greek words ‘Oikos‘ which means ‘habitation‘ and ‘logos‘ which means ‘study‘. Thus the term refers to the study of habitation of organisms and their habitat.

A.G. Tansley, the British ecologist used this term first in 1953 and also said that ecosystem consists of basic functional units of ecology. According to him, the basic functional unit of ecology consists of the study of biotic communities and their relation with surrounding biotic and abiotic communities. This means that living organisms (biotic) have to live in the midst of other types of living organisms and also non-living (abiotic) things.

Definition of Ecology and Ecosystem

According to Ernest Haekol, ecology studies “the relation of animal to its organic as well as inorganic environments, particularly, its friendly or hostile relations to those animals or plants with which it comes into contact.” To put it more easily, ecology can be defined as “the study of relation of organism or groups of organisms to their environment; or it is the science of interrelations between living organisms and their environment.” The physical environment together with the biotic community forms an interacting system called ecosystem.

The study of ecology and the ecosystem in India can be traced even in ancient times. There are abundant references about ecological thoughts in Vedas, Puranas and Epics of our country and also Upanishads. Trees, plants, animals and all other living beings on this earth are considered to be the manifestations of Almighty. Rearing domestic animals and nurturing plants and trees have been considered as hallmarks of piety, devotion and duty of a noble householder in our country since the days of Vedas.

During historical period, right from the days of Chandragupta Maurya, the importance of preserving the flora and fauna of the country was recognized. Kautilya’s Arthasastra reveals the laws prohibiting deforestation in those days. During the 18th and 19th centuries, deeper studies were made by scientists like Humbolt, Darwin, etc., to develop systematic knowledge of ecology and ecosystem.

In the 20th century, more studies were made by Adams, Warming and Shelford, besides Tansley and Haekol. In 1913 British Ecological Society was founded and in 1915 Ecological Society of India was formed. In 1960, International Society for Tropical Ecology was brought into existence.
Ecology enters in every aspect of our life on this earth. Agriculture and production of food-grains, control of pests and diseases, rearing of livestock, problems of getting air and water for our varied activities, pollution and disposal of wastes, etc., come under the purview of ecology.

In modern days, the study of ecology has taken various dimensions and specializations like Terrestrial Ecology, Oceanography, Community Ecology, Population Ecology, Eco-geography, Pedology (soil science), etc.

The Main Divisions of Ecosystem

Ecology can be studied under two main divisions:

(i) Autecology: This is related with the study of the individual organism or an individual species. Life histories and behavior as a measure of adaptation to the environment are generally emphasized.

(ii) Synecology: This deals with the stud)’of groups of organisms which are associated together as a unit such as populations, biotic communities and ecosystems and their environment. These can be divided into population Ecology, Community Ecology and Ecology of habitats.

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