Ecology and Biodiversity
One of the roots of the environmental movement was concern over the state of the natural ecology of the nation and the world. In the 1970s, the science of ecology suddenly became popular on campuses, and it wasn’t long before a large section of American society embraced ecology as a general area of concern. Ecology is a complex and difficult branch of biology that began to enjoy an explosive popularity at the beginning of the era of environmental awareness. Of course ecology, per se, is not a synonym for environmental science. The two fields are related but quite distinct.
Environmental factors, which include human activities and pollution, can have dramatic impacts on an ecology, but ecology itself is far more than the study of such effects. Ecology is the science of how living organisms interact with one another and with the physical and chemical aspects of their habitats and feeding ranges. Some of the most interesting theoretical and conceptual ideas in biology have come from ecology, such as the dynamics of how populations of species depend on one another and how fluctuations in population size can (or cannot) be predicted. An ecosystem, which is the sum of the myriad complex interactions among living organisms sharing a biologically defined space or niche, can be characterized and studied in many ways.
Mainstream ecologists, trained in what is actually a very rigorous and