Environment and ecology is an important topic for both UPSC prelims and Mains. Here are some important terminologies related to Environment and Ecology which every aspirant should take note of.
Ecology, ecosystems, and organisms are interconnected. The entire atmosphere will be in peril if any chains fail. Understanding the surroundings is essential for the survival of the fittest.
The natural ecosystem has been destroyed by deforestation, excessive resource use, and pollution brought on by the ongoing rise in the human population.
It informs the public of the basics of ecology and environmental terminology.
What are Environment and Ecology?
- All living things on the surface of the planet are influenced and affected by the environment in terms of their growth and sustainability. All naturally occurring living and non-living things are included in the work environment.
- The word primarily refers to how the components of the earth interact with its resources, weather, organisms, and climate to influence economic and human activity. All of the microorganisms, vegetation, atmosphere, soil and other natural occurrences make up its ecological system.
- Ecology is the study of how a creature interacts with its physical and chemical environment. The functional and structural unit of the ecosystem is represented by ecology. It is made up of a group of biotic organisms and several abiotic elements that engage with one another throughout their energy cycle.
- According to Odum, the founder of contemporary ecology, ecology is the study of ecosystem form and function. The word ecology was first used by Reiter, and it was created by Ernst Haeckel.
- The terms ‘Oikos’, which means ‘home,’ and ‘logos,’ which means study,’ are the origin of the word ‘ecology. The area of biology known as ecology is concerned with how organisms interact with one another, their physical surroundings, and the movement of energy and minerals.
Terminologies Related to Environment and Ecology
Ecosystems serve as the structural and functional building blocks of ecology. It is a colony of living entities that engage in interactions with abiotic components through energy and nutrition cycles.
The natural setting in which biotic (living) and abiotic (non-living) elements interact with one another is called the environment. An organism’s habitat and ecosystem are shaped by these exchanges.
- Abiotic factors or components are non-living organisms that comprise the ecology’s physical parts. Non-living and inorganic components of an ecosystem constitute the abiotic components like soil, water, air, sunlight, etc.
- An adaptation is, “the appearance or behavior or structure or mode of life of an organism that allows it to survive in a particular environment”.
- Adaptation may be:
- Morphological – when trees grew higher, the giraffe’s neck got longer;
- Physiological – in the absence of an external source of water, the kangaroo rat in North American deserts is capable of meeting all its water requirements through its internal fat oxidation
- This environment terminology is an interaction between the two species where one is harmed, and others remain unaffected. For example, penicillin and bacteria.
- Deals with the conservation of economic advantages of species
- The atmosphere is a physical mixture of atmospheric gases, water vapour, and suspended particulates surrounding the earth from all sides. It is bounded to the surface by the gravity of the planet.
- It means organisms that produce food from inorganic substances like CO2 and water are called autotrophs. They are also known as primary producers.
- The ecological study of a particular individual or species for the environment is regarded as auto ecology.
- It deals with organisms, their adaptations, and their interactions with their surroundings.
- Deals with aquatic organisms, e.g., Marine, freshwater, etc.
- The ability of a substance to cause poisonous effects resulting in severe biological harm or death soon after a single exposure or dose. Also, it is any severe poisonous effect resulting from a single short-term exposure to a toxic substance.
- In an animal, the percentage of the energy content of ingested food is absorbed across the gut wall. In plants, the percentage of solar visible light is fixed by photosynthesis. The term may also be used to refer to the percentage assimilation of ingested inorganic nutrients (such as nitrate or phosphate) by plants or animals, or of drugs by animals.
Atmospheric Inversion (Temperature Inversion):
- A relatively stable atmospheric condition in which cool air is trapped beneath a layer of warmer air.
- This Environment Terminology means the animals that live at the bottom of the water body are benthic animals.
- It is the process of increase in the concentration of toxic elements within the body of a particular organism (i.e., it refers to how a part first made an entry into the food chain),
- and in general, the concentration of such pollutants becomes higher in the body of the organism compared to the external environment like air, water, etc.
- This Ecology term means the total of all plants, animals, and microorganisms representing an ecosystem’s biodiversity. It is also described in terms of interspecies and intraspecies variations of biotic components of an ecosystem.
- The circular pathways from which the essential elements, like nitrogen, carbon, etc., circulate from organisms to the environment and vice versa are called biogeochemical cycles.
- This Ecology Terminology means natural forests and grasslands connected with climatic regimes or the distribution of sunshine, temperature, and rainfall.
- A biome is a large naturally occurring community of flora and fauna occupying a major habitat. E.g. Rainforest biome or tundra biome.
- Plants and animals in a biome have common characteristics due to similar climates and can be found over a range of continents.
- The amount of living matter present in an organism at a given time is known as the biomass of that organism.
- It is the most important ecosystem on the surface of the earth, and its presence indicates a continuous interaction and interdependence between all three spheres of the world, i.e., atmosphere, hydrosphere, and lithosphere.
- The biosphere includes all living organisms on earth, together with the dead organic matter produced by them.
- This Environment Terminology means the living components of an ecosystem form part of the biotic components of the ecosystem.
- A unique form of parasitism in birds is where a parasitic bird lays its eggs in the host’s nest and lets the host incubate them.
- Animals depending upon herbivores or primary consumers for food and energy are known as carnivores.
- This Ecology Terminology means the shifting pattern of weather and climate parameters makes it uncertain, unpredictable, and fluctuating. This is climate change.
- It is the last stage of the process of succession. The species at which the process concludes is known as a climax community.
- It is a situation When a species becomes extinct, and the plant and animal species associated with it also become extinct.
- This Environment Terminology means decomposing organic solid wastes under aerobic conditions (in the presence of oxygen).
- A type of interaction between the two species When one of the organisms benefits and others remains neutral in an association.
- For example, epiphyte and mango; barnacles growing on the back of a whale.
- Type of interaction between the two species where both are negatively impacted (harmed). Example- plants and herbivores.
- Judicious use of natural resources (both living and non-living) to prevent them from being lost, wasted, or extinct.
- This Environment Terminology means the area covered by the earth’s surface by ice and glaciers.
- The microorganisms which decompose the detritus are detrivores.
- Organisms like bacteria, fungi, etc., are involved in the bio decomposition of dead plants and animals.
- Trees shed all their leaves for a certain period.
- Statistical study of the population size of humans.
- The organochlorine chemical is used as an insecticide/pesticide for agricultural uses. Now, its use has caused havoc due to bioaccumulation.
- The scientific study of the relationship of living organisms with each other and their environment. A.G. Tansley introduced the concept of ecology.
- This Environment Terminology means anything that directly or indirectly affects an organism’s existence throughout its lifetime constitutes the environment.
- The interaction and interdependence between biotic and abiotic components of an area ensure the flow of mass and energy.
- An ecosystem is a community of organisms interacting with each other and with their environment such that energy is exchanged and system-level processes, such as the cycling of elements, emerge.
- An ecosystem can be visualised as a functional unit of nature, where living organisms (producers, consumers, and decomposers) interact among themselves and also with the surrounding physical environment.
- An ecosystem can be of any size but usually encompasses specific and limited species. E.g. Aquatic Ecosystem.
- A wide range of economic, environmental, and aesthetic goods and services ecosystem offers.
- Zone of the junction between two or more diverse ecosystems. For example, estuary, grasslands, etc.
- This Environment Terminology means a plant or animal species that occupy a particular habitat that is adapted to local environmental conditions.
- Gradual and continuous change in the composition of the species from one ecosystem to another along an environmental gradient with no clear-cut differences between the two. It is a physical transition zone.
- The functional and ecological roles played by the organism of an ecosystem. This Ecology Terminology means the sum of all relationships of an organism with the biotic and abiotic elements of its environment.
- Gradual and relatively predictable change in the composition of the species of a given area.
- A population with the same genotype but a different phenotype in a particular habitat is considered ecosphere.
Ecological Efficiency/ 10% Law:
- The mass and energy transfer rate from one trophic level to another is just 10% of the previous level. This is a 10% energy law indicating an ecosystem’s ecological efficiency.
- The use and exploitation of natural and environmental resources concerning the environment’s carrying capacity or the environment or the ability of the environment to regenerate.
- The biodiversity of a region connected with a particular geographical condition has limited distribution on the surface of the earth.
- This Ecology Terminology means the overfertilization of water bodies due to excessive concentration of nitrates and phosphates, leading to algal bloom.
- The plants and animals with a wide range of tolerance for food are autophagic.
- Eurythermal plants and animals with a wide range of temperature tolerance.
- The plants and animals with a wide range of tolerance for water are trihydric.
- Evolution is the change which gives rise to new species.
- It happens to make the organism better suitable to the present environment.
- The primary reason behind extinctions is an environmental change or biological competition.
- Extinction occurs when species cannot evolve fast enough to cope with the changing environment.
- At present, the 6th Mass Extinction (Anthropogenic Extinction – human-induced) is in progress.
- This Ecology Terminology means analyzing the effects caused by the development projects on the environment.
- When a species is conserved outside the array of its natural habitat, it is known as ex-situ conservation. For example- conservation in the zoo, botanical gardens, etc.
- A region’s plant community is that area’s flora.
- An animal community of a region is the fauna of that area.
- An ecosystem’s linear and sequential mass and energy flow.
- Deals with the genetic factor and their variation.
- Habitat is the physical environment in which an organism lives (address of an organism).
- Many habitats make up the environment.
- A single habitat may be common for more than one organism which has similar requirements.
Levels of Organisation:
- Ecology encompasses the study of individuals, organisms, populations, communities, ecosystems, biome and biosphere which form the various levels of ecological organisation.
- Mutation (a change in genetic material that results from an error in the replication of DNA) causes new genes to arise in a population.
- Natural Selection is the mechanism proposed by Darwin and Wallace.
- Natural selection is the process by which species adapt to their environment.
- It is an evolutionary force that selects among variations, i.e. genes that help the organism to better adapt to its environment. Such genes are reproduced more in a population due to natural selection.
Individuals and Species:
- The organism is an individual living being that can act or function independently.
- Species are a group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of exchanging genes or of interbreeding.
- The population is a community of interbreeding organisms (same species), occupying a defined area during a specific time.
- Population growth rate can be positive due to birth and/or immigration or negative due to death and/or emigration.
- Communities in most instances are named after the dominant plant form.
- For example, a grassland community is dominated by grasses, though it may contain herbs, trees, etc.
- Speciation is the process by which new species are formed, and evolution is the mechanism by which speciation is brought about.
- A species comprises many populations. Often different populations of a species remain isolated due to some geographic barrier such as a mountain, ocean, river, etc.
- It studies diverse species that live in a community and interact with the circumstances. Synecology is further classified into terrestrial and aquatic ecology.
- Deals with the branch of ecology that takes the benefits of modern technology to understand the ecosystem.
Synthetic Organic Chemical (SOC):
- Man-made (anthropogenic) organic chemicals. Some SOCs are volatile; others tend to stay dissolved in water instead of evaporating.
- Discrimination (by humans) against other species purely on the basis that they are not human, especially as manifested by cruelty to or exploitation of animals, or merely by a lack of consideration of their interests.
- The number of species in some area or place.
- The runoff of irrigation water from the lower end of an irrigated field.
Total Dissolved Solids (TDS):
- The total amount of mobile charged ions, including minerals, salts or metals dissolved in a given volume of water.
Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL):
- A calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a water body can receive and still meet water quality standards, and an allocation of that load among the various sources of that pollutant.
Total Suspended Solids (TSS):
- A measure of the suspended solids in wastewater, effluent, or water bodies, determined by tests for total suspended non-filterable solids.
- A cloudy condition in water due to suspended silt or organic matter. The degree of turbidity is measured with a turbidimeter.
- Deals with terrestrial microorganisms, e.g., deserts and forests.
- Variations are induced by changes in genetic makeup due to the addition or deletion of certain genes.
- Mutations, changes in climate, geographical barriers, etc. induce variations over some time.
- Adaptive radiation
- Adaptive radiation is a process in which organisms diversify from an ancestral species into a multitude of new forms when the environment creates new challenges or opens new environmental niches.
Zero Population Growth (ZPG):
- When the birth rate plus immigration equals the death rate plus emigration.
The provision of a healthy environment and ecology on the surface of the planet. It serves as a habitat for a variety of living things, including oxygen, water, food, and other elements. As a result, everyone must preserve and safeguard our ecosystem.
The observation and evaluation of the graphical depiction confirm the significance of a primer on ecology and the environment. The functional and structural elements of the domain are represented by ecology. Understanding how living things respond to challenging natural conditions is crucial.
The vocabulary of technical terms and usage that are pertinent to the community and other organizations concerned with upholding the integrity of the ecosystem, safeguarding natural resources, and maintaining human health is known as environmental terminology.
Article written by Aseem Muhammed
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