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What is Global Ecology?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 December 2016
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Ecology is the study of how organisms interact with each other and their surroundings in a given environment. Ecologists spend their lives compiling data on ecosystems, giving both the scientific and broader world valuable data on how species are surviving and what is happening to the environment. Although many ecologists choose to specialize in a particular type of ecosystem, such as marine ecology or freshwater ecology, these ecosystems don't exist in a vacuum. The planet Earth is one vast ecosystem in and of itself, and global ecology is the study of how all organisms interact and survive in their planetary environment.

Since the earliest days of scientific study, attempts have been made to observe and report on the flora and fauna of every ecosystem. With 20th and 21st century advances in travel, technology and communication, field scientists have been able to share gathered data with nearly impossible speed and accuracy. As many governments and influential groups have focused their attention on creating the concept of a global community, many people have begun to think of the planet as one interdependent ecosystem worthy of study. These advances have created a shift in thinking that has contributed to the creation of many highly-funded and lauded centers for global ecology, such as the Carnegie Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University.

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Global ecology is a tremendously complex form of science that requires a broad spectrum of knowledge. If it is accepted that the planet is an interdependent system, every aspect of every local ecosystem must be considered to fully understand a problem. For instance, if a logging or mining project starts at one end of a river, global ecologists might look at not only the localized effects, but how the runoff would effect the whole river, ecosystems far down stream, and even the possible added pollution to the ocean at the end of the river. Additionally, scientists might study how the added pollution would affect the composition of the air, how far any fumes or gases might rise, if harmful vapors might be absorbed into clouds, and where the contaminated rain might then fall.

Clearly, global ecologists need a tremendous amount of data from specialized studies in order to conduct their work. Keeping tabs on Earth-wide environmental issues, such as the thinning of the ozone layer, require dozens if not hundreds of dedicated field researchers obtaining information in different areas around the globe. While a relatively new form of research, global ecology can capitalize and even invent new technology to improve communication speed and data sharing, and even boost relationships with other nations through scientific collaboration.

Some critics consider global ecology to be heavily biased toward environmentalists and anti-industry by nature. As a serious science, global ecology is motivated primarily by the search for data, rather than for political or even environmental concerns, but by nature it has certain overtones consistent with an environmentalist position. Most research on global ecology suggests that no one part of the world is expendable; that to protect humans, people must protect the Earth.

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istria
Post 3

@amphibious54- You have an interesting viewpoint. I must admit that I think of people who study global ecological systems as environmentalists...but I am not against environmentalists. I think they are necessary to keep society balanced. I actually praise environmentalists because they bring awareness to issues that our "race to the top" society would trample without a second thought. I think that thinking of environmentalists as anti-industry is old thinking, and those that support that stereotype value the present instead of the future (which there is nothing necessarily wrong with that).

Amphibious54
Post 2

Why is there such a dichotomy between nature and industry? I hate that people assume anyone who studies an environmental science or a subject studying the dynamic interactions of people and the environment are environmentalists. The word environmentalist has been stigmatized to the point that it is almost derogatory if you consider yourself a professional.

This just goes to show how disconnected people think they are from nature. Natural things are important. Any human no matter how hard he or she tries cannot recreate the complex nature of an ecosystem. Industry, believe it or not, is just as dependent on nature as birds, bees, polar bears, and everything else environmentalists try to protect.

People just need to understand that a symbiotic relationship with nature is necessary for long-term survival. A parasitic relationship only works until the host dies.

anon80591
Post 1

most beneficent writings. Keep it up.

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