Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 4

Key points

creeping in between your toes? If so, then


 Ecology is the study of how organisms
you’ve seen equally valid examples of ecology
interact with one another and with their
in action.
physical environment.

 The distribution and abundance of organisms

on Earth is shaped by bothbiotic, living-

organism-related, and abiotic, nonliving or

physical, factors.

 Ecology is studied at many levels, including Images illustrating interactions among

organism, population, community, ecosystem, organisms and between organisms and their

and biosphere. physical environment.

Upper left: mushrooms growing on a mossy

log. Upper right: rolling green hills covered


Welcome to ecology!
with wildflowers, grasses, and occasional
Have you ever hiked through a forest and
trees. Lower left: rolling fields of dry, yellow
noticed the incredible diversity of organisms
grass with scrub-covered hills and snowy
living together, from ferns to trees to
mountains in the distance. Lower right:
mushrooms the size of dinner plates? Or
cockroach on floorboards.
taken a road trip and watched the landscape

change outside the window, shifting from oak

forest to tall stands of pine to grassy plains? If Biotic and abiotic factors

so, you’ve gotten a classic taste of ecology, One core goal of ecology is to understand the

the branch of biology that examines how distribution and abundance of living things in

organisms interact with each other and with the physical environment. For instance, your

their physical environment. backyard or neighborhood park probably has

Ecology isn't just about species-rich forests, a very different set of plants, animals, and

pristine wilderness, or scenic vistas, though. fungi than the backyard of a fellow Khan

Have you, for instance, ever found Academy learner on the opposite side of the

cockroaches living under your bed, mold globe. These patterns in nature are driven by

growing in your shower, or even fungus interactions among organisms as well as


between organisms and their physical classify it as a vulnerable or endangered

environment. species.

As an example, let's go back to our shower

mold. Mold is more likely to appear in your

shower than, say, your sock drawer. Why

might this be the case?

 Maybe the mold needs a certain amount of

water to grow, and this amount of water is


Red panda hanging from a tree branch. It's a
found only in the shower. Water availability is
cute animal that looks roughly similar to a
an example of an abiotic, or nonliving, factor
raccoon with reddish fur.
that can affect distribution of organisms.
What are the main factors behind this change
 Maybe mold feeds off of dead skin cells found
in abundance? Ecologists have found that
in the shower, but not in the dresser.
biotic factors, such as logging of trees and
Availability of nutrients provided by other
introduction of diseases from domestic dogs,
organisms is an example of a biotic, living-
played a major role in the decline of red
organism-related, factor that can influence
panda populations^22start superscript, 2,
distribution.
end superscript. Abiotic factors have been

Case study: the red panda less important to date, but changing

Let's apply the idea of biotic and abiotic temperatures could cause further habitat loss

factors to another organism, one that a field in the future^33start superscript, 3, end

ecologist might be likely to study. Red pandas superscript.

are distant relatives of raccoons and are Understanding the main factors responsible

found only in the eastern Himalayas. They for the decline in red panda numbers helps

spend most of their time in trees and eat a ecologists form conservation plans to protect

primarily vegetarian diet. In recent years, the the species.

red panda population has dropped

significantly, leading conservation groups to How do ecologists ask questions?


To ask questions about the natural world— can be morphological, physiological, or

such as, "Why is the red panda declining?"— behavioral.

ecologists draw on many areas of biology and  Population: A population is a group of

related disciplines. These include organisms of the same species that live in the

biochemistry, physiology, evolution, same area at the same time. Population

behavioral biology, and molecular biology, as ecologists study the size, density, and

well as geology, chemistry, and physics. structure of populations and how they change

Natural historians were arguably the first over time.

ecologists—dating back to the Greek  Community: A

philosopher Aristotle! However, today's biological community consists of all the

ecologists are rigorous, quantitative populations of different species that live in a

scientists. They run controlled experiments, given area. Community ecologists focus on

use statistics to find patterns in large interactions between populations and how

datasets, and build mathematical models of these interactions shape the community.

ecological interactions.  Ecosystem: An ecosystem consists of all the

organisms in an area, the community, and the

Ecology at many scales abiotic factors that influence that community.

Within the discipline of ecology, researchers Ecosystem ecologists often focus on flow of

work at five broad levels, sometimes energy and recycling of nutrients.

discretely and sometimes with overlap:  Biosphere: The biosphere is planet Earth,

organism, population, community, ecosystem, viewed as an ecological system. Ecologists

and biosphere. working at the biosphere level may study

Let's take a look at each level. global patterns—for example, climate or

 Organism: Organismal ecologists species distribution—interactions among

study adaptations, beneficial features arising ecosystems, and phenomena that affect the

by natural selection, that allow organisms to entire globe, such as climate change.

live in specific habitats. These adaptations


water increases. The photo is accompanied by

the following text: “Ecosystems: This coastal

ecosystem in the southeastern United States

consists of a community of living organisms

plus their physical environment."

The third box contains a drawing of planet

Earth and is labeled, “The biosphere: The

biosphere consists of all the ecosystems on

Earth, considered together.

The five levels of ecology are listed above

from small to large. They build

progressively—populations are made up of

individuals; communities are made up of

populations; ecosystems are made up of a

community plus its environment; and so

A flow chart of three boxes explaining the forth. Each level of organization

hierarchy of living organisms. has emergent properties, new properties

The top box contains a photograph of tall that are not present in the level's component

trees in a forest and is captioned, “Organisms, parts but emerge from from these parts'

populations, and communities: In this forest, interactions and relationships.

each pine tree is an organism. All of the pine The levels of ecological study offer different

trees living in the area make up a population. insights into how organisms interact with

All of the populations of different species in each other and the environment. I like to

the area form a community." think of these levels as magnifying glasses of

The second box contains a photograph of a different strengths. If you really want to get

body of water, behind which is a stand of tall what's going on in a particular ecological

grasses developing into more dense system, you'll likely want to use more than

vegetation and trees as distance from the one!