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ecology vs environment

  • Wed, Aug 15, 2012 - 03:40pm



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    ecology vs environment

JAG wrote:

On another thread I opined that the only “E” that really mattered was Ecology, as the economy, environment, and energy are secondary to ecology. I also think that climate change is secondary to ecology as well, but several people stated emphatically that “ecology utterly relies on climate“.

Isn’t this stance putting the cart before the horse? Don’t ecosystems create their own climate? Would there be O2 in the atmosphere if it wasn’t a “waste” product of earlier ecosystems?

Climate is just a component of an ecosytem. Which came first, the rainforest or the rain? You can’t answer that question because functionally they are one and the same. If climate is changing it means the ecology of the planet has changed.




I don’t have a scientifically authoritative answer, just my impressions based on spending a lot of time tromping through a variety of wetlands and forest types with trained biologists.  I tend to think of ecology in terms of ecosystems and environment as larger systems that affect ecosystems.  F’rinstance, I live in the lake effect region of western NY.  Moisture in the forms of rain and snow off Lake Erie are a large part of our weather patterns.  I think of the general area as an ecosystem with smaller microsystems interspersed around.  Microsystems can be as small as the shade garden I have on the north side of the house.  It is partially protected from the environmental impact of the sun and winds.

Our larger ecosystem is quite different from other regions at the same latitude but without the lake effect, such as Wisconsin, Minnesota or the Dakotas,  The differences are due to what I think of as environmental impacts from such forces as geology, latitude, altitude, hydrology, sun, climate change and wind.  So, my own take is that environment and ecology influence each other, but the predominant influences are environment on ecology.

Another example is in the the permafrost regions of the world.  A friend spent a good bit of time studying the permafrost in Alaska.  He described the changes in vegetation as climate change has pushed those regions north.  So, those ecosystems are changing in fundamental ways based on environmental changes in climate.

Hope that makes sense.