Ecology - Relation To The Environment

Relation To The Environment

Main article: Natural environment

The environment of ecosystems includes both physical parameters and biotic attributes. It is dynamically interlinked, and contains resources for organisms at any time throughout their life cycle. Like "ecology," the term "environment" has different conceptual meanings and overlaps with the concept of "nature." Environment "...includes the physical world, the social world of human relations and the built world of human creation." The physical environment is external to the level of biological organization under investigation, including abiotic factors such as temperature, radiation, light, chemistry, climate and geology. The biotic environment includes genes, cells, organisms, members of the same species (conspecifics) and other species that share a habitat.

The distinction between external and internal environments, however, is an abstraction parsing life and environment into units or facts that are inseparable in reality. There is an interpenetration of cause and effect between the environment and life. The laws of thermodynamics, for example, apply to ecology by means of its physical state. With an understanding of metabolic and thermodynamic principles, a complete accounting of energy and material flow can be traced through an ecosystem. In this way, the environmental and ecological relations are studied through reference to conceptually manageable and isolated material parts. After the effective environmental components are understood through reference to their causes, however, they conceptually link back together as an integrated whole, or holocoenotic system as it was once called. This is known as the dialectical approach to ecology. The dialectical approach examines the parts, but integrates the organism and the environment into a dynamic whole (or umwelt). Change in one ecological or environmental factor can concurrently affect the dynamic state of an entire ecosystem.

Read more about this topic:  Ecology

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