LEVELS of ECOLOGICAL ORGANIZATION: what are they and examples

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Ecology is a part or branch of science that is responsible for the study of the interactions of living things between them and their environment. These interactions occur in ecosystems, which can be defined as a multiple system in which living beings interrelate with each other and with the abiotic factors that make up the environment. To study all this, ecology makes a hierarchical organization at different levels of the biological systems that exist in nature.

If you want more information about the levels of organization of ecology, what are they and examples of these, continue reading this Green Ecologist article in which the hierarchical way in which our planet is organized from the point of view of ecology will be shown.

What are the levels of ecological organization

In nature, it is important to distinguish between abiotic factors, which are those that form the environment where the living beings of an ecosystem are found and are the temperature, the chemical substances present in the environment, the climate, the geological characteristics, etc., and the biotic factors, which are those that have life, such as flora and fauna. The interactions that take place between these two factors give rise to the survival and reproduction of a species. Here you can learn more about the Difference between biotic and abiotic.

In ecology, a classification or hierarchical organization of the different biological systems that we can find in nature. This hierarchical system allows the study of living beings can focus more directly on a single level of organization.

In each of these levels of organization there are a series of exchanges of matter and energy between the different elements that compose it. In addition to these exchanges of matter and energy, each level has its own characteristics and, likewise, the way of carrying out these exchanges of matter and energy does not have to be the same as those that occur in other systems.

We met with 6 ecological levels, which range from the simplest organization at the individual level to the most complex that encompasses all living beings on Earth. These levels of ecological organization are:

  • Individuals or organisms.
  • Population.
  • Community.
  • Ecosystem.
  • Biome.
  • Biosphere.

Ecological organization level 1: individuals or organisms - with examples

This level of ecological organization is the most primary, where you can find the basic units that ecology is going to study. The organisms that comprise this this level are independent of each other at the physiological level, although there are more than one individual of the same species.

What examples of ecological organization levels, in the case of the first who studies only the individuals or organisms, we put as examples that can be found a hummingbird (Trochilidae) or a poplar (Populus). At this level it is about studying or understanding the relationships that individuals have with the environment in which they live, since the environmental conditions are not always the same and, sometimes, they are not the most favorable. The morphology, physiology and behavior of individuals are also studied.

To learn more about individuals, you can read these other articles on What are unicellular and multicellular living beings with examples and the Difference between autotrophic and heterotrophic organisms.

Ecological organization level 2: population - with examples

The population is a set of individuals of the same speciesTo continue with the example set in the previous level, we refer to a colony of hummingbirds, or a mall. These populations are found in a certain geographic area and in a certain space of time, they relate to each other in a mutualistic way, competing, reproducing, parasitizing and predating, and they act in the same way before the environment.

We advise you to read this other post about What is population ecology or demoecology.

Ecological organization level 3: community - with examples

A community is a set of populations of different species which share the same geographic space in the same period of time. The most common structure of a community are plants, animals and decomposers (bacteria and fungi).

As an example of the level of ecological community organization we can find wolves (Canis lupus), vultures (Gyps fulvus) and holm oaks (Quercus ilex). To learn more about the level of ecological organization of the community, You can consult these other articles in which we talk about Ecological Community: definition and characteristics and Biological Community: what it is, structure and examples.

Ecological organization level 4: ecosystem - with examples

At this level of organization, as at the previous level, we find a set of populations that coexist in a given place and time, but the fundamental difference that exists between ecosystem and community is that energy and food recycling are generated at this level so that an ecosystem is self-sufficient with respect to other ecosystems. At this level of organization, we can already speak of both biotic and abiotic components involved.

Just as we make an organization of the different ecological levels, also in nature we can find and organize different ecosystems, which are mainly: water or aquatic ecosystems, such as the marine ecosystem and the freshwater ecosystem, terrestrial ecosystems, such as the desert ecosystem, mountain ecosystem and forest ecosystem, and artificial ecosystem.

To discover more about the Types of ecosystems we encourage you to read this other post by Green Ecologist and, furthermore, here below we leave you a video on this topic that we also recommend you to watch and, after this, we continue with the levels of ecological organization.

Ecological organization level 5: biome - with examples

In the biome comprises a set of different ecosystems that can have similar interactions with abiotic factors found in their environment. As an example we can say a continent, a country or a part of it, for example, in Spain we can find more humid ecosystems in the northern part of the country and ecosystems with less water needs in the southern part, and these are separated by a barrier natural. This level of organization gives the opportunity to study phenomena such as the melting of the poles or desertification.

As with ecosystems, we find different types of biomes. We can find eight main types of biomes, although there are other classifications, and these are: tundra, taiga, deciduous forests, steppes, grasslands and pampas, Mediterranean forests, desert tropical forest and aquatic biomes.

To have more information about this level of ecological organization, we recommend you read these articles about the Differences between ecosystem and biome and about What are biomes, types and examples.

Ecological organization level 6: biosphere - definition

This level of ecological organization is the most complex, since it encompasses all the previous levels of organization. The biosphere is a set of biomes and in fact, Earth has a biosphere where we can find all types of biomes, ecosystems, communities, populations and individuals. When we speak of the biosphere, we refer to the set of the three main parts that make up the Earth, which are parts where there is life. These parts are:

  • The lithosphere, which refers to the rocky, soil or terrestrial part of the Earth.
  • The atmosphere, which is the gaseous or airy part of the Earth.
  • The hydrosphere, which encompasses all parts of the planet's water, whether fresh or salty, whether superficial, underground or underwater, and regardless of the state it is in. Therefore, it is all the water on Earth wherever it is and in the state in which it is.

If you want to discover more about the biosphere, enter these articles in which we talk about What is the biosphere, layers and characteristics, Difference between biosphere, ecosphere and ecosystem and What are Biosphere Reserves with examples.

If you want to read more articles similar to Levels of ecological organization: what are they and examplesWe recommend that you enter our Environmental Education category.

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