For an explanation, see the main splats page
- Life on Earth is found only in a thin shell called the biosphere, within a few kilometres of sea level, in the air, the oceans, and sometimes in rocks and soil.
- Ecology is the study of how organisms and the environment interact with each other to create a balanced community in terms of energy and nutrients.
- Living things can exist together in a number of ways: as prey and predators, as competitors, in a parasitic relationship, as commensals or symbionts.
- In 1866, Ernst Haeckel first used 'ecology' to describe the study of living organisms and their interactions with other organisms and with their environment.
- In 1893, John Burdon-Sanderson stated that what he called 'oecology' was, along with physiology and morphology, one of the three great divisions of biology.
- Many important chemicals move in cycles. Nitrogen cycles in the atmosphere and biosphere: both nitrogen fixation and denitrification are part of the cycle.
- Living things may be parasites or parasitized: a parasite may be either an endoparasite or an ectoparasite. In either case it needs to be adapted to its role.
- Living things may benefit each other, but it appears common for parasites to evolve into symbionts, given sufficient time, as this favours both organisms.
- Animals are found in different habitats, generally those to which they are best adapted, though humans use cultural adaptations to live everywhere.
- Animals and plants are usually adapted to their habitat, which includes being adapted to the predators and the other threats that are found there.
- Living things do best when the conditions are right, which is one reason why things living in an ecosystem show zonation patterns in their distribution.
- An ecosystem involves many living things, and any study must look at them and energy inputs and outputs, as well as material flows in and out of the system.
- The form of balance seen in any ecosystem is a dynamic equilibrium, one in which it is normal for some of the levels to fluctuate over longish periods.
- It is common to consider an ecosystem as a closed system , even when there are external gains and losses, as these typically balance each other out.
- Many important chemicals move in cycles. Phosphorus, carbon, sulfur and key minerals such as iron, sodium, magnesium, potassium and calcium are cycled.
- The food chains in the oceans are based on plankton, microscopic plants and animals that are eaten by larger animals, and so on, up the food chain.
- A few large organisms in the sea, like the baleen whales, are able to extract plankton and krill from the ocean, rather than waiting for it to be concentrated.
- As a diet, flesh is far more nutritious, gram for gram, both in terms of what it contains and the energy delivered. Plants are generally easier to find and eat.
- Nitrogen may be artificially 'fixed' by the Haber process, which combines nitrogen and hydrogen gas under high temperature and pressure to make ammonia.
- The carrying capacity of an ecosystem will depend on its productivity, the amount of biomass that is developed by photosynthesis and made available.
- Food relations in an ecosystem may also be described through a food web or a food pyramid, which reflects biomass at different trophic levels in the system.
- A measure of productivity in any ecosystem may be obtained from assessing the biomass and the changes in it, year by year. This must be interpreted with care.
- A forest is a great deal more than just a bunch of trees. The trees interact with each other, with the other plants, animals and forest floor inhabitants.
- Leaf litter is a key part of the soil and forest floor, since it commonly represents a store of most of the available nutrients available to the community.
- Food chains lead to the concentrations of some substances, some of which may be useful, although a number of others such as pollutants may be harmful.
- The world can be divided into recognizable biomes, with varying productivity. The desert biome may be harsh, but it is more productive than most people think.
- When conditions change, a cline may be observed, with related organisms at different points along the range varying in their genetic make-up.
- There is always competition in a habitat for resources, both between members of a single species, and also between species which have similar needs.
- Australian ecosystems are generally good at bush fire regeneration, because the plants and animals found in Australia are descended from fire survivors.
- Aboriginal Australians made significant use of fire as a management tool, a process called 'firestick farming', to control plant growth to support food animals.
- Plant cover may be measured on the Domin scale, which allows a complex situation to be reduced to a simple figure that may be used in calculations.
This file is http://members.ozemail.com.au/~macinnis/scifun/splatsecology.htm, first created on February 23, 2008. Last recorded revision (well I get lazy and forget sometimes!) was on February 23, 2008.
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