Ecology

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Understanding Life on Earth

Our world has a tremendous variety of living things- from simple organisms such as amebae and bacteria to complex plants and animals including humans. No organism or creature, however simple or complex, lives in isolation. We all depend on one another for our sustenance and survival. We all live in a shared Environment – all of nature that is around us but external to us.

Ecology is a branch of biology that deals with the relationships of living things to one another and to their environment. It increases our understanding of our world and the life contained within it. This helps in our survival and well-being.

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Parts of our Environment

Many things, or factors, make our environment. There are living factors and non-living factors. Living things make up the Biotic Environment and nonliving things make up the Abiotic Environment. Both are essential for an organism to survive.

Weather, for example, is an abiotic environment factor. All living beings must learn to adapt to weather conditions or they could die. Other abiotic environment factors are soil, nutrients, water, evaporation, atmosphere, temperature, sunlight, humidity, and so on.

Our biotic environment is made up of living things and recently-living matter such as food, plants, animals, fish, seaweed, even the bacteria in our intestines which help in our digestion process.

Both biotic and abiotic factors are essential for an organism. Many plants and animals die because of extreme hot or cold weather conditions. Humans need to study the weather and learn to cope up with it in order to survive. We need clothes and homes to protect us from many of the abiotic factors. Similarly, we rely on biotic factors such as plants and animals for our food.

Our Ecosystem

All living organisms require a combination of biotic and abiotic factors to survive. Biotic and abiotic environments together make up our Ecosystem. An ecosystem consists of plants, animals, other living organisms, which depend on and interact with one another for their livelihood and survival in a given set of non-living factors and conditions.

For example, our primary ecosystem works as follows –

  1. The sun provides energy (abiotic factor)
  2. Plants (biotic) use this energy and also nutrients (abiotic factors) to make food by the process of Photosynthesis
  3. Many animals (biotic) live and grow by eating these plants as food
  4. Many animals eat other animals to live and grow
  5. Some creatures eat the remains of these animals
  6. Bacteria and fungi (biotic) decompose dead plants and animals to form nutrients
  7. Nutrients go back into the soil to provide plants with an abiotic environment

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There is thus an interdependence of biotic and abiotic factors for the overall well-being of living things in an ecosystem.

The transformation of energy into food constitutes a Food Chain, whereby many living organisms or species within a given ecosystem survive. Food chains exist even in the deepest of oceans where microbes get nutrients from below the earth’s crust and produce food for other marine creatures. Multiple food chains in a single ecosystem make a Food Web.

Check Point

  1. Which statement about Ecology is NOT true?
    1. Understanding ecology helps in our survival and well-being
    2. Ecology is the study of the non-living environment around us
    3. Ecology deals with the study of relationships of living things to one another and to their environment
    4. Ecology is the understanding of our world and the life contained within it
  2. Which statement about Environment is NOT true?
    1. We live in a shared environment
    2. Living things make up the biotic environment
    3. We rely on the biotic environment only for our survival
    4. Non-living things make up the abiotic environment
  3. Which statement about the Ecosystem is NOT true?
    1. Nutrients are not part of an ecosystem
    2. Biotic and abiotic environments together make up our ecosystem
    3. An ecosystem consists of plants, animals, and nonliving factors and conditions
    4. Living organisms depend on and interact with one another for livelihood and survival in an ecosystem
  4. Soil, nutrients, water, atmosphere, temperature, sunlight are all _______ environment factors.
  5. The transformation of energy into food constitutes a _______, whereby many living organisms or species within a given ecosystem survive.

Answer Key

  1. b) Ecology is the non-living environment around us.
  2. c) We rely on the biotic environment only for our survival
  3. a) Nutrients are not part of an ecosystem
  4. Abiotic
  5. Food Chain

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