Ecology is the analysis and study of interactions among organisms and their environment. Topics of interest to ecologists include the diversity, distribution, amount (biomass), number (population) of organisms, as well as competition between them within and among ecosystems.
Ecology is an interdisciplinary field that includes biology and Earth science. The word "ecology" ("Ökologie") was coined in 1866 CE by the German scientist Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919). Ancient Greek philosophers such as Hippocrates and Aristotle laid the foundations of ecology in their studies on natural history. Modern ecology transformed into a more rigorous science in the late 19th century CE.
Ecology is not synonymous with environment, environmentalism, natural history, or environmental science. It is closely related to evolutionary biology, genetics, and ethology. An understanding of how biodiversity affects ecological function is an important focus area in ecological studies. Ecologists seek to explain:
Life processes, interactions and adaptations
The movement of materials and energy through living communities
The successional development of ecosystems
- The abundance and distribution of organisms and biodiversity in the context of the environment.
Ecosystems sustain life-supporting functions and produce natural capital like biomass production (food, fuel, fiber and medicine), the regulation of climate, global biogeochemical cycles, water filtration, soil formation, erosion control, flood protection and many other natural features of scientific, historical, economic, or intrinsic value.