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Ecology is the scientific study of the relationship between organisms and their natural environment.

This is known as the ecosystem (everything that can be seen at a location – the plants, the animals and the environment)

Scientists that study ecology look at the part each plays in the workings of the ecosystem. This can be through looking at the plants the animals eat, the different animals that are hunted for food or by looking at the amount of excretion emitted by animals (ergh!) that can go on to fertilise plants.

A food web, image by Thompsma

A simply way of showing this can be in a food web.

Studying ecology is really important. Humans, like all other animals depend on this earth for everything, and everything on this earth depends on something else. By having a good understanding of ecology we can make sure our actions don’t upset the fragile environments that some animals live in.

Some ecologists study conservation biology, looking at ways to sustain the resources of the Earth for future generations.

Nature can fight back to change and ecosystems can regenerate and adapt, but some scientists think disturbances by humans have pushed nature too far. Human activity has made a large number of species of animals extinct in recent years and threatened the climate of the earth through carbon dioxide emissions.

By studying the ecology of the planet, scientists are looking into ways to try to make the situation better and to stop mistakes that have been made in the past, happening again.

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