Ecology, also called bioecology, bionomics, or environmental biology, study of the relationships between organisms and their environment. Some of the most pressing problems in human affairs—expanding populations, food scarcities, environmental pollution including global warming, extinctions of plant and animal species, and all the attendant sociological and political problems—are to a great degree ecological.
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The word ecology was coined by the German zoologist Ernst Haeckel, who applied the term oekologie to the “relation of the animal both to its organic as well as its inorganic environment.” The word comes from the Greek oikos, meaning “household,” “home,” or “place to live.” Thus, ecology deals with the organism and its environment.
The concept of environment includes both other organisms and physical surroundings. It involves relationships between individuals within a population and between individuals of different populations. These interactions between individuals, between populations, and between organisms and their environment form ecological systems, or ecosystems. Ecology has been defined variously as “the study of the interrelationships of organisms with their environment and each other,” as “the economy of nature,” and as “the biology of ecosystems.”
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