Ecology   no comments

Posted at 11:41 am in Uncategorized

For the past couple of weeks I have been reading about Ecology, primarily from “First Ecology” (Beeby, Brennan. 2ed 2004).

The book says that “Ecology is the science that seeks to describe and explain the relationship between living organisms and their environment” and the study of “the mechanisms by which species evolve, flourish and disappear.”

Interactions between species are an important aspect of ecology. Interactions are driven by the need for organisms to acquire resources, and could be co-operative, competitive or otherwise. Collaboration between people on the web could be seen as analogous to a co-operative ecological interaction.

Organisms need resources in order to survive; these resources might include water, food, sunlight (for organisms that photosynthesise) or simply space. Competition for resources is at the heart of evolution, since the organisms best suited to their environment (and hence best at harnessing the available resources) are more likely to survive. However, it is not enough for an organism simply to survive, in order to be truly successful it must pass its own genetic information on, through reproduction. We can, therefore, think of the protection and transmission of its own genetic information as being the “goal” of any given organism. Such transmission is itself a crucial part of the evolutionary process.

To achieve this goal, species have developed a huge range of strategies; from fast reproduction that can monopolise a resource, to complex colonies with thousands of individual organisms that share much of their genetic information, to highly-specialised inter-species dependencies, some of which are mutually beneficial and others which are parasitic.

Complexity is an inherent part of ecology. The environment and organisms that live in it are highly interconnected, which poses similar problems to those faced by sociology and web science (as previously discussed). I’ve started looking into how Ecology deals with this complexity, but that’s another post. I also want to look into symbiosis and other highly-cooperative interactions.

Written by Richard Gomer on December 1st, 2010

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