What is Ecology and Environment?- UPSC IAS Exam

What is Ecology?

Everything that a man need comes from his surrounding environment viz. food, fuel, water, shelter, energy, etc. It is the same for other living beings. But man, over the periods to quench his thirsts exploited nature so much that now the environment is not able to reach its homeostasis.

Homeostasis is the tendency of organisms to auto-regulate and maintains its internal environment in a stable state.

There is widespread degradation of the environment, extinction of animals and plant species, loss of forests, pollution of air, water and sound. All this had been done without the proper assessment of the consequences of the acts of humans on the environment.

Thus, it is important to understand the environment before we make further damage to the earth which is our Home.

The study of ecology helps in the following way:-

  • Environmental Conservation
  • Resource allocation
  • Energy Conservation
  • Eco-Friendliness

Environmental Conservation: By studying ecology, the emphasis is put on how each species needs the other for peaceful coexistence. Lack of understanding ecology has led to degradation of land and environment which is home to other species thus leading to extinction and endangerment of species because of lack of knowledge e.g. dinosaurs, mammoths, white shark, black rhinos, sperm whales, etc.

Resource allocation: All the plants and animals need to share limited natural resources such as air, minerals, space, and environment. Lack of ecological know-how has led to deprivation and looting of these natural resources leading to scarcity as well as exploitation and competition.

Energy Conservation: All species require energy whether light, radiation, nutrition, etc. Poor understanding of ecology is seeing the destruction of the energy resources e.g. nonrenewable sources like oil, coal, natural gas and also pollution and destruction of the Ozone layer.

Eco-Friendliness: Ecology helps to appreciate harmonious living among the species; this will ensure the natural order of things is followed.

What `Ecology’ Really Is?

‘Ecology may be defined as the scientific study of the relationship of living organisms with each other and with their environment.’

The term ecology was first coined in 1869 by the German biologist Ernst Haeckel. It has been derived from two Greek words, ‘Oikos’, meaning home or estate and ‘logos’ meaning study.

The emphasis is on relationships between organisms and the components of the environment namely abiotic (non-living) and biotic (living). It deals with the ways in which organisms are molded by their environment, how they make use of environmental resources including energy flow and mineral cycling.

When and how the ecology started?

The genesis ecology is as old as human civilization. In primitive societies, every individual was required to have an intimate knowledge of his environment for their survival, i.e., about the forces of nature and of plants and animals around him.

The Indian classical ancient texts have references to the principles of ecology. The ancient Vedas, the Samhitas, the Brahmanas, and the Aranyakas-Upanishads contain many references to ecological concepts.

The Indian treatise on medicine, the Charaka Samhita and the surgical text SusrutaSamhita show that people during this period had a good understanding and knowledge of plant and animal ecology.

We came to know that ecology is the ‘scientific study of the relationship of living organisms with each other and their environment’.

Then what is the Environment?

What is the Environment?

Everything that surrounds or affects an organism during its lifetime is collectively known as its environment which comprises both living (biotic) and nonliving (abiotic) components.

All organisms (from virus to man) are obligatorily dependent on the environment for food, energy, water, oxygen, shelter, and other needs.

The environment is defined as ‘the sum total of living, non-living components; influences and events, surrounding an organism’.

And we can say that this environment constitutes two components viz. abiotic and biotic components. These both are not static but are in flux and keep on changing continuously.

Biotic components are living. Example plants, animals, parasites, decomposers, Man, etc.

Abiotic components are non-living. Example energy, radiation, heat flow, water soil, air, etc.

The relationship and interaction between’ organism and the environment are highly complex. No organism can live alone without interacting with other organisms. So, each organism has other organisms as a part of its environment. Each and everything with which we interact or which we need for our sustenance forms our environment.


Reference: Shankar IAS Book (Environment)


 

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