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Ecology, environmental protection and nature conservation - for a green future

Ecology is a subdiscipline of biology that examines the interrelationships of organisms and their environment.

Ecology as a generic term for the overall relationship between living beings and the environment

Environmental protection and nature conservation are elements of ecology. Because environmental awareness has been on the rise since the middle of the 20th century, the term ecology is frequently used in the same breath as environmental protection andnature conservation. There is a demarcation line however. Ecology describes the relationship between living beings and the environment, while environmental protection and nature conservation involve measures aimed at preserving the environment. Although ecology research is a broad field, it can be broken down into three main subdisciplines :

  • Population ecology
  • Community ecology
  • Ecological system analyses

At a high level, ecology involves the propagation and frequency of organisms. Where do they come from? What type of organism did they originate from? How many are there? And where do they appear? The goal of ecological analyses is providing answers to these questions. Biotic and abiotic environmental factors that can influence the environment are also part any ecological analysis. What makes ecological research so difficult is the complexity of the biological systems. Individual observations serve less as focal points and more as general conclusions produced from mathematics, statistics or experiments. A vital part of ecology is reducing complex structures to simple conclusions based on natural science.

Environmental protection and its subdisciplines

While ecology takes a holistic approach, environmental protectionmainly involves measures aimed at preserving the basic existence of all living beings. This calls for maintaining a healthy ecosystem. For this reason, nature conservation plays a leading role in ecology as well as in environmental protection. A basic element of environmental protection involves rectifying human-induced damage to the environment. As a result, this requires observing not only the individual parts, but the overall relationships between the parts as well, The term environmental protection first gained attention in the 1970s. One of the primary goals of environmental protection is preserving the human ecosystem. Although preservation of the human ecosystem is a major aspect of environmental protection, technical solutions are still frequently employed. Environmental protection can be divided into several disciplines:

  • climate protection as a subdiscipline of environmental protection
  • forest protection as a subdiscipline of environmental protection
  • water protection as a subdiscipline of environmental protection

From a global point of view,environmental protection is always related to one of these subdisciplines.

Nature conservation as a demarcation line between environmental protection and ecology

Apart from ecology and environmental protection, an important area is nature conservation. Although environmental protection and nature conservation typically complement one another, there are certain exceptions. In the field of ecology, renewable raw materials such as wood are points of conflict between nature conservation and environmental protection. While nature conservation demands that trees be preserved as long as possible and eventually turned into deadwood for the ecosystem of a variety of animals, environmental protection views wood as a sustainable energy source and raw material. Environmental protection also seeks to avoid the radical deforesting of lands and forests. Within nature conservation there are also initiatives that oppose wind power and small hydropower systems. Under the context of nature conservation, the idea is to impact nature as little as possible. Nature conservation is also a local issue. Nature conservation frequently involves single locations. As it pertains to ecology, nature conservation examines ways to preserve and reestablish a balanced ecosystem. Nature conservation strives toward sustainable human use of our natural environment. Nature conservation is a goal of government and is established in Article 20a of the German constitution. Nature conservation also means the protection of animals and homelands. Many individuals also view nature conservation as important, because they understand the dramatic consequences if society is not actively engaged in nature conservation.

Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

This complex theme deals primarily with interactions between organisms and the environmental factors that impact them, but to a greater extent between individual inanimate environmental factors.

innovations-report offers informative reports and articles on topics such as climate protection, landscape conservation, ecological systems, wildlife and nature parks and ecosystem efficiency and balance.

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Dune ecosystem modelling

Using the acacia as an example, researchers show that the location has an effect on interaction with other species

Acacia longifolia, which is native to Australia, is a species which was cultivated in Portugal primarily to stabilize dunes and as an ornamental plant; now it...

26.06.2017 | nachricht Read more

Understanding animal social networks can aid wildlife conservation

As with humans, most animals prefer to associate with some individuals and not with others. The social structure can influence how a population responds to changes in its environment. Examining social networks is a promising technique for understanding, predicting and – if for the better – manipulating this structure. However, whereas the contribution of behavioural biology to conservation is already well recognized, the usefulness of animal social network analysis as a conservation tool has not yet been addressed.

A group of behavioural ecologists led by Lysanne Snijders from the Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) outlines how the...

23.06.2017 | nachricht Read more

Making Oceans Plastic Free - Project tackles the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans

With their Tasini project, Roger Spranz, a PhD student at the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research, and three colleagues – one German and two Indonesians – want to take action against ocean pollution. The scientists developed the Tasini, a reusable shopping bag made of recycled plastic in the form of small marine animals to replace the plastic bag in Indonesia. Their project will start in the run-up to World Oceans Day on 8 June.

Indonesia is the second largest source of plastic pollution to the world’s oceans. Around 10 million plastic bags are used here every day. At present, no...

31.05.2017 | nachricht Read more

Nitrogen Oxides Emissions: Traffic Dramatically Underestimated as Major Polluter

Traffic contributes more to nitrogen oxide emissions in Europe than previously thought. This is the result of a current study carried out by scientists from the University of Innsbruck. The research team headed by Thomas Karl shows that even newer air quality models underestimate traffic related nitrogen oxide pollution by up to a factor of 4. The results of the study are published in the Nature journal Scientific Reports.

In metropolitan areas throughout Europe maximum permissible values of nitrogen oxide are consistently breached. It has been a challenge to determine how much...

31.05.2017 | nachricht Read more

Cleaning waste water effectively

Water is vital – therefore, waste water has to be cleaned as efficiently as possible. Ceramic membranes make this possible. Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Hermsdorf, Germany were able to significantly reduce the separation limits of these membranes and to reliably filter off dissolved organic molecules with a molar mass of only 200 Dalton. Even industrial sewage water can thus be cleaned efficiently.

Anyone who has dragged himself along a sunny coastal path at the height of summer with too little water in his bag knows all too well: without water, we cannot...

30.05.2017 | nachricht Read more

How does the loss of species alter ecosystems?

The iDiv Ecotron, a central experimental platform of the DFG Research Centre iDiv, was officially launched during a ceremony last Wednesday. Researchers will use this unique facility to better understand the consequences of species loss. The iDiv Ecotron will enable investigations into the interactions within food webs among plants, animals, microbes and the soil under controlled conditions in 24 experimental chambers. Over 3.7 million euros have been invested into this modern platform, which is operated jointly by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ).

It is anticipated to bridge the gap between simple laboratory experiments and complex ecosystem approaches. The iDiv Ecotron enriches the field research...

18.05.2017 | nachricht Read more

Excess diesel emissions bring global health & environmental impacts

Excess NOx emissions from diesel engines have been linked to approximately 38,000 premature deaths worldwide in 2015—mostly in the European Union, China, and India.

Nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from diesel cars, trucks, and buses are a major contributor to air pollution-related deaths worldwide—and the impacts are...

16.05.2017 | nachricht Read more

Vital information used to inform about the conservation of one of Europe’s most endangered sharks

Saving angels: Vital information on Angelshark ecology used to inform the conservation of one of Europe’s most endangered sharks

The angel shark family (Squatinidae) is the second most threatened group of sharks and rays in the world. The Angelshark (Squatina squatina) was once...

15.05.2017 | nachricht Read more

Reducing black carbon to protect health and the climate

On 15 May IASS Director Mark Lawrence will present the latest research on black carbon and its effects on health, the climate, and development in a short talk at the preparatory meeting for the UN Climate Conference in Bonn.

Particulate matter puts human health in danger: Everybody who inhales it is at risk of developing cardiovascular and respiratory problems. Soot, which is...

12.05.2017 | nachricht Read more

UNH researchers find significant increase of invasive seaweed changing sea habitat

Walking along the beaches of New England, it is easy to spot large amounts of a fine red seaweed clogging the coastline, the result of sweeping changes in the marine environment occurring beneath the water. To further investigate, researchers at the University of New Hampshire looked at seaweed populations over the last 30 years in the Southwestern Gulf of Maine and found the once predominant and towering kelp seaweed beds are declining and more invasive, shrub-like species have taken their place, altering the look of the ocean floor and the base of the marine food chain.

In the study, recently published in the Journal of Ecology, researchers compared photos of sections of the sea floor, collected over 30 years, at several...

10.05.2017 | nachricht Read more
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Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

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