What is Population Ecology?
What does population ecology mean? Population ecology, or simply population ecology, is the study of populations, that is, how they change over time and their relationship with the environment around them.
Basically, it’s all about how populations interact with each other and with their ecosystem to ensure their survival and, as we will see later on in this article, reproduction and evolution.
What Is Population Ecology
The study of how animal populations interact with their environments and with each other.
It looks at things like reproduction, food sources, age structure, disease and what conditions are necessary for animals to thrive.
An understanding of population ecology can help us manage wildlife populations and maintain biodiversity. One challenge faced by ecologists today is that while we know a lot about specific species, overall knowledge of animal populations in many areas is limited.
History of Population Ecology
The field of population ecology was founded in 1927 by a German scientist named Hans Gadow.
Gadow’s defining paper, Experimental Studies on Animal Populations I: A Study of Competition Between Two Species of Daphnia, used daphnia—small planktonic crustaceans—to study how various food supplies impact populations.
Since then, population ecology has grown into its own major scientific discipline with distinct methodologies and specialties.
Today, it is studied in academia as well as professionally (by conservationists and wildlife biologists).
Though it borrows concepts from a number of fields (biology, geology, epidemiology), population ecology remains highly interdisciplinary. It draws heavily from mathematics, statistics, economics, computer science and other disciplines to better understand how species interact with their environments.
It also relies heavily on spatial data analysis methods to model complex systems like migration patterns or disease transmission.
Despite its diverse interests and methods, population ecology shares one common goal: to understand what factors determine how many individuals of a given species are present at any given time in an environment.
Key Concepts in Ecology
A student’s guide to population ecology, including definitions and explanations of basic terms. Learn about ecology in general and population ecology specifically.
Explore topics such as photosynthesis, nitrogen fixation, carbon cycle and more. Find out how different species interact with each other and their environment on a global scale.
Understand how these interactions affect us all.
Theories in Environmental Biology
Explore a few of these highly influential concepts, developed by some of history’s most important naturalists and scientists. By gaining an understanding of these theories, you can better appreciate your role in maintaining ecological balance and harmony on Earth. For example, be sure to check out how ecology has been used to describe our place in nature as part of what biologists call the great chain of being. The theory of evolution may also help you understand why species often come into conflict over resources such as food or territory.
Terminology Commonly Used in Animal Populations
food chain, biomass, carrying capacity, and population pressure. Food Chain: a series of organisms that depend on one another for survival—also called a food web. Biomass: The total weight of all individuals in a population at a given time; any organism can be classified as having high or low biomass depending on whether it makes up a large proportion of all other organisms in its species’ habitat. Carrying Capacity: How many individuals an environment can support over time.
Important Factors in a Population Study
Factors that affect a population are studied in a field known as population ecology. In order to understand how human impacts on populations affect different species, it’s important to understand what factors make up a healthy population.
These can include abundance, distribution, growth rates and population density of an animal or plant species. Understanding how these factors change over time can give scientists insight into improving endangered populations.
Populations Ebb and Flow with Habitat Conditions
Like an ecosystem, a population of plants or animals doesn’t stand still; it ebbs and flows with habitat conditions. If food becomes scarce for one species in an area, for example, that animal’s numbers will dwindle.
But as conditions improve—when another plant dies off and frees up some space in its niche—that species can grow to its normal size once again.
Succession Involves Changes in Biomes Over Time
A biome changes over time through a process called succession. When an area of land has been cleared, most likely by humans, different plants are able to establish themselves in that space and begin growing there.
As they grow, they break down any debris left behind from human activity or natural disasters. They also release chemicals into the soil which change its pH level and create better conditions for other plants to grow. Over time, as generations of plants become established in a location, a new biome emerges with its own unique characteristics.
Methods for Studying Populations
There are two primary ways of studying populations: ecological studies and field studies. Ecological studies on populations involve in-depth data analysis of a specific environment in order to understand how different elements interact and what factors drive them
Field studies involve a closer look at individual animals within that environment, with special focus on their mating habits, nest sites, interactions with predators and more. Both types of studies can be used to track population changes over time.
Population ecology is an interdisciplinary science that uses concepts from many related fields of study. Ecosystem ecologists combine their knowledge of population dynamics with concepts from chemistry, geology, microbiology and other fields to further our understanding of ecological communities.
Most ecosystems can support several levels of population density as long as each level has a food source and sufficient space for individuals to survive and reproduce.