- Everything that affects a living organism
- The branch of biology studying the relationships between living organisms and their environment
We can divide the components of the environment into abiotic and biotic
- non-living components
- living components
- Any form of life
- Groups of organisms which can reproduce and produce fertile offspring 
- group of organisms of the same species interacting within a geographical area
- All populations of different species within an area
- A community and their non-living environment
- All of the Earth's ecosystems put together
- Genus (pl. genera)
- Group of closely related species
Species names are given as Genus species. Both words are in italic, the first is always capitalized, the second is never capitalized.
- Felis catus - Domestic cat
- Homo sapiens - Human
Higher groups with less closely related species (in order of most closely related to least related):
Example: Felis catus
- Family: Felidae (all cats - including tigers, lions)
- Order: Carnivores (carnivores)
- Class: Mammalia (mammals)
- Phylum: Chordata (chordates - includes all vertebrates)
Energy flow in ecosystems
This section has its own page: Energy Flow in Ecosystems
|Sunlight||different plants require different amounts of sunlight/shade||oak, honeysuckle|
|Temperature||most species tolerate only a narrow range of temperatures||penguin, palm|
|Precipitation||some prefer dry climates, while others prefer wet climates||cactus, frogs|
|Latitude||climate and vegetation vary with latitude, many species are restricted by to specific latitudes||polar bears, mangroves|
|Altitude||altitude has an effect similar to latitude||mountain goat|
|Fire frequency||some species require fire as part of their life cycle||jack pine|
|Soil||different types of soil have different types and quantities of nutrients||wheat, rice|
Aquatic organism have some additional factors:
|Water currents||Speed of water can affect where an organism lives||salmon, perch|
|Dissolved oxygen||Fish do not breathe air, but instead take dissolved oxygen out of the water|
|Dissolved nutrient||Nutrient requirement vary widely between organisms|
|Suspended soils||Soil and other particles suspended in the water can reduce the amount of sunlight penetrating the water|
- Limiting Factor
- One factor which is more important than other factors in determining the success of a population
Example 1 If there is enough water, shelter, and space for 20 rabbits, but only food for 10; then the rabbit population will not exceed 10.
Example 2 If there are food for 1000 birds, but nesting sites for 100, the population of birds will be limited.
In Examples 1 and 2, food and nesting sites are the limiting factors, respectively.
Habitat and Niche
- the place where a population lives
- (pronounced nitch) is the role which a species has within an ecosystem.
Note that the habitat can be considered the address and the niche as the occupation.
Broad versus Narrow
Generalist species - Broad niche
- lives in many different places, eats a variety of food, or tolerates wide range of environmental conditions
- examples: cockroach, humans, dogs
Specialist species - Narrow niche
- lives in only one type of habitat, tolerates narrow range of environmental conditions, or uses only one or a few types of food
- example: giant panda (eats only bamboo)
Species have a specific range of tolerance to physical, chemical, and biological conditions and resources.
This range forms the fundamental niche.
However, pressures from other species form a narrower niche, called a realized niche.
The key to understanding the concept of niche is understanding why different niches exist.
- Competitive Exclusion Principle
- Two species competing for the same resource cannot coexist if other ecological factors are constant
In other words, different species cannot exist in the same niche. How different niches can live in the same area is due to resource partitioning
- Resource Partitioning
- Dividing up resources so that species do not directly compete
Types of resource partitioning:
- Temporal - species compete for same resources at different times
- Example: hawks hunt during the day, owls hunt at night
- Spatial - species occupy different areas
- Different species of warblers feed in different parts of the same trees
- Giraffes feed at the top of trees, while deer and antelope feed near the bottom of the tree
A food chain is a series of organisms each of which is a source of food for the next one
- Trophic level
- each level in a food chain
- Organisms which use energy to produce their own food
- Organisms which get their food by consuming other organisms
- Primary consumers or Herbivores
- Animal that eat producers
- Secondary consumers or Carnivores
- Animal that eat other consumers
- Animals which are both herbivores and carnivores
- Organisms which get their energy from dead organic matter
The description of a food chain is too simplistic. Organism eat many other organisms. This leads to a further concept.
- Food web
- A food web is a set of interconnected food chains
As energy is transferred through the food chain, the concept of energy flow applies.
The efficiency of each trophic level is about 5 - 20%. (10% is typical).
This means that carnivores have about 1% of the energy that plants capture.
The energy can be described in terms of biomass
This energy flow has an effect on the number of organisms at each level.
- ↑ This is the technical definition. The common definition is all organisms of the same "type"