What is Ecology? It would be easier to answer this question a few decades ago because then it was used only by biologists. The word “Ecology” comes from the Greek “Oikos” – house, dwelling, abode. It was proposed in 1866 by the well-known German naturalist and zoologist Ernst Haeckel to denote the “general science of the relations of organisms with the environment.” There was no absolute agreement on the exact definition of this term.
The general definition says that Ecology is the science of the relationship between organisms and the environment. In recent years, the word “ecology” has become widely used to denote all human-environment relations, both natural and man-created. The term was repeated many times by the mass media, which produced lost the meaning of a strictly scientific term, but acquired additional social and sometimes political meaning.
More or less established science of ecology began to develop only in the early twentieth century. However, the basics of ecology we are facing now were laid down later, in the 1920s and 1940s. This period ecology becomes a holistic, “self-aware” science, having its objects and research methods. Ecologists themselves give the definitions of ecology similar to the general definition.
Explanatory principle of Ecology
As it is said earlier, Ecology can be defined as the science that deals with a wide range of interrelationships between living organisms and the environment, as well as the interrelationships that exist between organisms.
When we say environment, we mean physical environmental factors such as sunlight, heat, humidity, air movements, precipitation, physical structure, soil, etc. The next ones are chemical factors such as the chemical composition of air, soil, substances dissolved in water, etc. And the last one and equally important are biotic environmental factors such as other organisms -other individuals of the same species collectively and in the complex. They act on a given organism, for example, on a plant, animal, fungus, microorganism.
The ecological explanatory principle tries to describe natural phenomenons and also to give it a definite explanation. Usually, explanations occur reductionist. The behavior of a complex eco-systems is sought through the actions of individual components of that complex system. The essence is in decomposing complex systems into their simplest elements. The researcher tries to decompose complex processes into simpler ones. Then study these elements.
For example, analyzing systems, the researcher sometimes directly links changes in environmental factors, such as food security, referring to the study of factors that determine the individual components of fertility, such as the number of young in the litter, age of puberty, etc.
Search for the causes of any phenomenon in the environment to perform at different levels and ways. Different reasons will correspond to various levels of explanation. There is a difference in researching method in the relationship between animals, the relationship between plants, and the whole ecosystem as a whole.
All of the above statements do not contradict each other, as they relate to different aspects of the studied phenomenon.
The influence of environmental factors is written in the genotype. As the world and nature are changing through time and the change remains written in gens. Offering one or another explanation for the observed phenomenon, the ecologist always imagines what level this explanation applies. Explaining one ecological situation can be done by analogy with another.
The birth of ecology as a science
Similar to scientific thought in general, ecology also has had a gradual development. The development and genealogy of the natural sciences are almost direct. Recognizing the roots of math, chemistry, or physics in ecology, for example, is relatively easy.
However, when we look at the genealogy of ecology, the situation is different from that point of view. Its roots are complex. Other disciplines primarily under the auspices of the biological and physical sciences are within the origins of ecology.
The development of ecology in general as science started in the last few centuries. However, it is reasonable to assume that ecology will have its decisive influence in system science in general at the beginning of the 21st century, much like quantum and nuclear physics have left their mark on the overall scientific opinion of the 20th century.
At the transition from the 20th to the 21st century, new visions, challenges, and contents opened up before this science. Recognizing and understanding the planet Earth as a unique system is the latest field of ecological studies. Nature, as the source of life, is infinitely powerful.
How the maintenance of living nature rests on the mutual relations which bind living beings to components of inanimate nature – ecology is at the same time the economy of living nature, that is, the science of the production and distribution of organic matter in nature, of density settlements of organic species and about maintaining the living world in general.
Ecologists are people who work in the field of ecology. They are mostly scientists and engineers. However, economists and lawyers can also identify themselves as ecologists of environmentalists. Even though there is a difference between ecology and environmentalism, some people think it is the same.
Ecologists are investigating the interconnectedness of organisms, the relationships between organisms and their environment. In addition to this, they study the consequences of various influences, such as changes in the size of the population of some organisms, air, water, and soil pollution, rising temperatures, humidity, etc. They make decisions on possible development, nature protection, preservation of the environment and the biosphere, so experts in various fields of human activity are required: construction, urban planning, industry, spatial planning, energy, and trade.
Environmentalists are people involved in social activities and focus on the importance of the environment; they do not necessarily have a scientific background. Ecologists study entire ecosystems understand the population as the totality of all individuals. Nevertheless, in some cases, such a definition justifies itself.
We are all connected
By learning about ecology and environmental protection, we acquire habits that we will apply for the rest of their lives because we are all connected in one whole. From now on, the planet Earth enters the “ecological debt,” and humanity is already, due to the current lifestyle, borrowing environmental resources from the next generations.
If children learn from an early age to respect and care for the world we live in, that is, for plant and animal species on our planet, they will contribute to preserving that world for future generations. In other words, they will advocate for nature protection. One of the best ways for children and others to learn about ecology is to experience it.
The natural goods of Earth are plants, animals, soil, water, air, and us! Only joined together, we are part of a planetary ecosystem. Everything people do affects the world in which we live. No one has unlimited resources nor the authority to destroy or create. It is why we should take care of the environment and respect it.
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