What is ecology? Everything you need to know!

It is difficult to find a more popular trend than being “eco-friendly.” However, so many myths and various stereotypes have arisen about ecology that it is often difficult to distinguish them from real assumptions that guide this important and fascinating field. What is ecology? What do ecologists do? What limitations does this field face in Poland and what can each of us do to live a greener life? Happy reading! We will answer all your questions.

Published: 2-08-2022

What is ecology?

When looking for an answer to the question of what the word “ecology” means, one should be aware that it is one of the branches of biology. The main area of ecologists’ interest is about describing the relationships between the individual species of living organisms and their natural living environment. Ecology is also involved in the study of specific phenomena that take place between various forms of life.

Definition of ecology according to the Dictionary of the Polish Language

The concept of ecology is very briefly and succinctly explained by the Dictionary of the Polish Language. According to the definition found in it, the term can be interpreted in two ways:

  • as a branch of biology which studies organisms in their environment,
  • as activities undertaken to promote environmental protection.

As you can see, ecology can be thought of not only as a scientific field, but also as a specific way of conduct the purposes of which include protecting the nature or preventing pollution of the natural environment.

The term “ecology” – broader explanation of the concept

If you find this dictionary definition poor, there are also other sources you can consult where the term is explained in a broader and much more detailed manner. Because the past decades have seen many possible interpretations of this word, it is now difficult to find a single correct answer to the question of what ecology is involved in. Although the structure and functioning of ecosystems is undoubtedly the main object of interest for ecologists, their activities also touch upon many other areas, such as interactions between the biosphere and humans, the way the individual organisms are distributed in the environment or the study of phenomena happening between species.

What types of ecology are there?

Ecology has not only been defined in many ways, but it also comprises many sub-fields and categories. Its most important branches include:

  • social ecology – this term refers to placing an individual of a specific species in an environment which is not natural to it in order to discover the characteristic traits of that individual,
  • evolutionary ecology – its purpose is to study the history of evolution and development of the living organisms,
  • population ecology – this concept refers to activities related to studying the number of organisms and observing how the specific populations of organisms function,
  • behavioural ecology – it allows you to observe the behaviour of selected species of living organisms in a new environment.

Apart from the above-mentioned sub-fields of ecology, there is also autoecology, which studies the functioning and development of organisms in their natural environment, as well as synecology, which studies groups of selected organisms and their mutual interactions. Both of these sub-fields perform an important function.

Who is an ecologist?

As we now know what ecology is and what this extremely important field is involved in, we should also learn more about the characteristics of an ecologist’s profession. According to the definition, this term is used to describe scientists whose main occupation is studying and describing the interactions and phenomena happening between living organisms and the environment. Ecologists play an extremely important role in the modern world – thanks to them, we can, for example, get to know and better understand the world of living organisms.

Facts and myths about the activities of ecologists

Unfortunately, the activities of ecologists are often associated with a stereotype that has little to do with the truth. Over the years, many myths have arisen about ecology and the ecologists themselves, who have been presented as people who chain themselves to trees or even hinder the development of civilisation. This article, which is all about ecology, is a great opportunity to bust some of these myths.

Myth #1: Ecologists want to block all investment.

Manifesting objection does not mean wanting to block the construction of a road or the implementation of any other investment. The purpose of pro-ecological activities is to indicate the risks associated with a project and to develop compromise solutions, not to force anyone to give up the task planned.

Myth #2: Ecologists forcefully persuade people to change their lifestyle.

It is incorrect to view ecologists as people who may even resort to force in order to persuade others to change their behaviour or lifestyle, for example, give up meat or disposable packaging. The role of an ecologist is to provide education and present the impact of specific actions on the environment, not to persuade or even force people to adopt new habits.

Myth #3: Ecologists prefer to chain themselves to trees rather than cooperate.

Another claim that has little to do with the truth is that ecologists focus only on publicity-driven protest campaigns, such as the notorious chaining themselves to trees or hanging banners. It should be noted that such initiatives are undertaken mainly by activists from numerous foundations and pro-environmental organisations. The role of ecologists, on the other hand, is to conduct a thorough, substantive discussion, develop expert reports or issue opinions confirmed by scientific research.

Eco-friendly – what does it mean?

Undoubtedly, ecology is an extremely broad concept, which means that many people may have doubts about what the phrase “being eco-friendly” really means. Is an eco-friendly person the one who gives up plastic, uses renewable energy sources or avoids eating meat and products of animal origin? In fact, you can be eco-friendly in many ways, and giving up disposable tableware or plastic bags will be just as important as replacing a coal burning stove with an ecological source of heat.

A universal, simple definition of “being eco-friendly” can simply mean living in harmony with nature and the environment, but also promoting such attitudes in society.

Ecology – definition for children

Currently, there is a strong emphasis on pro-ecological education from as young an age as possible. The ecological upbringing requires a lot of work from schools and organisations, but also from parents, who can pass on certain attitudes to their children on a daily basis. How to explain to a child what ecology is and why caring for the environment is important? First of all, you should remember that knowledge should be passed on to children in a way appropriate to their age.

They should be encouraged to save water when brushing their teeth, clean up after their pets while walking them, pack their lunch in a reusable container instead of plastic bags or choose eco-friendly toys and clothes. These are just some of the real-life examples which can help develop a pro-ecological attitude and behaviour in the youngest.

What challenges does ecology face in Poland?

Although pro-ecological attitudes are becoming more and more popular in Poland and the Zero Waste and recycling trends are celebrating real triumphs, you should remember that ecology also faces a number of limitations and challenges there. The key challenges that inhibit or prevent the implementation of many important initiatives include:

  • poor representation of pro-ecological environments, both at the level of central and local government administration,
  • lack of extensive public consultations during the planning and implementation phases of investment projects and other endeavours,
  • low share of renewable energy sources in Poland’s energy mix (industry and economy based on fossil fuels),
  • diminishing the importance of impact that specific investment projects have on the natural environment,
  • low penalties and low effectiveness in enforcing the law on eradicating crimes related to polluting the environment.

Ecology – glossary of concepts and terms

You already know what ecology is, what it is involved in and who an ecologist is. However, these are only some of the concepts and terms that you should know if you want to have a well-informed discussion about how to protect our environment. Other important words and definitions related to ecology and nature conservation include:

  • ecosystem – living organisms and their environment (soil, water),
  • biome – an area, characteristic environment in which specific species live (for example, savanna, polar region, etc.),
  • biocenosis – populations of different species occupying the same area and interacting with each other,
  • population – a group of individuals belonging to the same species, living in a particular area and having mutual effects on each other,
  • habitat – an area in which a specific population grows,
  • competition – a competitive relationship between individuals of different species due to their similar requirements (intraspecific competition is also possible),
  • homeostasis – a balance between processes happening in an environment,
  • commensalism – a symbiosis of two species in which one species gains benefits without harming the latter,
  • parasitism – coexistence of two organisms in which only one of them benefits from the other,
  • protocooperation – periodic coexistence of two species which brings them mutual benefits (both species are also capable of living independently).

What does ecology give us?

The result of the ecologists’ work is that we have advanced knowledge of the processes happening in the natural environment. Ecology, understood not only as a field of science which studies organisms in their environments, but also as the promotion of nature conservation, allows us to realtise that all our initiatives and actions have an impact on nature. We believe that after reading this article, the correct answers to questions about what ecology is involved in and who ecologists are will no longer be a problem for anyone. Also, it is a good idea to think about what all of us can do to protect the nature so we can live a greener life and be aware that caring for the purity of our planet is something much more important than a trend.

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