Wildlife Word of the Day 10-26-2010

That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology,

but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics.

Aldo Leopold

Last time I defined ecosystem managementt which addresses management on a spatial scale and addresses the ecosystem from the individual forest to landscapes. The next word that has surfaced in this drive to learn is ecology.

First I would like to note that I believe with time (even in science) it is necessary for the definition to change only as our understanding of a subject grows. It is quite possible that a words definition won’t change at all but just in case, lol. Ecology is a word that has escaped evolution. After reading from several timeless sources, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two working definitions for ecology.

One definition is defined by Eugene Odum (1913-2002), a leading ecologist, as the study of the structure and function of nature. He goes on to explain that ecology  “primarily concerned with the latter four levels” referring to populations, communities, ecosystems and the biosphere. What’s great is that this definition does not exclude the individual organism though it does not seem entirely inclusive either. The second definition addresses the individual organism directly and defines ecology as “the study of the interrelationship among plants and animals and the interactions between living organisms and their physical environments.(Turk)” You may wonder why I singled out the individual organism. Well, from my own observations (though few they have been) organismal ecology is important because all species do not herd or live in families.  There are species in each family which deny the approach shared by the first definition.

I really enjoy this definition by Brainerd of “ecology is the study of how everything fits (assuming that it does)”. It is such a broad definition that I’m almost certain that it is no longer considered by many. The reason is that the definition covers how things fit but not why they fit or why they (ecosystems, communities, populations, organisms, biosphere) are structured the way they are (remember earlier when I mentioned that words evolve?) So though ecology is “particular concerned with groups of organisms (McNaughton) it cannot eliminate consideration for the individual organism.

 

Works Cited (Journal of Wildlife Management Citation guidelines)

Brainerd, J. 1971. Nature study for conservation. The MacMillian Company.

Leopold, A. 1966. A sand county almanac. Oxford University Press.

McNaughton,  S.J. and L. Wolf. 1973. General ecology. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston Inc.

Odum, E. 1963. Ecology. Holt, Rinehart, and Winston Inc.

Turk, J., J. Wittes, R. Wittes, and A. Turk. 1975. Ecosystems, energy, population. W.B. Saunders & Company.

Disclaimer: My thoughts on this article are solely my own as an entry-level professional. My purpose for posts like these are to learn. I expect that in some years some of my views in this blog (and any others) will be changed by an increased experience in the field. I think that it helps to see how I grow through time in my writings and knowledge (much like when you view drawings from when you’re a kid versus as an adult).

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