Ecology is a subdiscipline of biology that examines the interrelationships of organisms and their 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 :
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.
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:
From a global point of view,environmental protection is always related to one of these subdisciplines.
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.
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.
Researchers from UZH and Eawag have used “environmental DNA” to determine the biodiversity of a river. Previously, this involved collecting and identifying all the organisms living in it. Using environmental DNA, however, not only is it possible to characterize the river’s biodiversity, but also that of the surrounding landscape.
Most natural ecosystems are heavily affected by changes to the human habitat, climate change or invasive species. In order to protect these ecosystems, one...30.08.2016 | Read more
Drugs for livestock can harm beneficial organisms that break down dung. Therefore newly developed medical substances need to be tested on single species in the lab. An international research group including evolutionary biologists from the University of Zurich have been scrutinizing the reliability of such laboratory tests, evaluating the implementation of a field test based on the anti-parasitic drug ivermectin at four climatically different locations. The scientists thus presented a novel approach for more advanced environmental compatibility tests.
Livestock medications can impair beneficial organisms that break down dung. Too high a dosage of ivermectin, a common drug against parasites, harms...27.07.2016 | Read more
A new study from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) shows how improving communication and involvement could bring consensus solutions for the embattled Rio Grande/Bravo, which is shared between the USA and Mexico.
The Rio Grande (called Rio Bravo in Mexico) is the lifeline to an expansive desert in the southwest USA and northern Mexico. From Colorado to the Gulf of...18.07.2016 | Read more
Reptiles are exceedingly popular as pets, trade is booming. Between 2004 and 2014, official imports to the EU came to just under 21 million live specimens, more than six million of these ended up on the German market. These also include a large number of representatives of threatened species that can be sold at extremely high profits. An international team of experts led by Mark Auliya of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Leipzig has now documented the implications of such transactions in the scientific journal Biological Conservation.
They are some of the rarest reptiles in the world. According to the latest surveys, there are not even 250 adult ploughshare tortoises left to crawl through...13.07.2016 | Read more
Wind turbines attract bats. They seem to appear particularly appealing to female noctule bats in early summer. In a pilot study, researchers of the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin noticed this when they tracked the flight paths of noctule bats, Nyctalus noctula, using the latest GPS tracking devices . The bats managed to take even seasoned experts by surprise.
The motive behind the study is the conflict between the exploitation of wind energy and the conservation of the protected bats. The German so-called...08.07.2016 | Read more
The soil is still under threat from urban sprawl. Small municipalities with little planning capacity and more easily accessible conurbations in particular are doing little to counter the issue. Researchers from the National Research Programme "Sustainable Use of Soil as a Resource" (NRP 68) have analysed the reasons for this by surveying Swiss municipalities.
Since the 1950s, urban sprawl in Switzerland has been progressing virtually unchecked. The trend towards greater levels of soil consumption is expected to...14.06.2016 | Read more
Study finds that shark conservation must go hand-in-hand with livelihood diversification
Scientists working for Murdoch University, the Wildlife Conservation Society, The Nature Conservancy, and other groups have good news about fishing closures...09.06.2016 | Read more
Using a new satellite-based method, scientists at NASA, Environment and Climate Change Canada, and two universities have located 39 unreported and major human-made sources of toxic sulfur dioxide emissions.
A known health hazard and contributor to acid rain, sulfur dioxide (SO2) is one of six air pollutants regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency....02.06.2016 | Read more
Habitat conversion and fragmentation, logging, illegal hunting, fires: The rainforests and wildlife on Borneo, the third largest island in the world, are highly threatened. Now, an international research team under the leadership of the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Species Survival Commission, has published a roadmap for more targeted conservation efforts for Bornean cats and small carnivores in a special supplement of the Raffles Bulletin of Zoology.
Borneo harbours more endemic carnivores than any other island except Madagascar and about half of these carnivores are globally threatened with extinction. In...30.05.2016 | Read more
A biological and energy-efficient process, developed and patented by the University of Innsbruck, converts nitrogen compounds in wastewater treatment facilities into harmless atmospheric nitrogen gas. This innovative technology is now being refined and marketed jointly with the United States’ DC Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water). The largest DEMON®-system in a wastewater treatment plant is currently being built in Washington, DC.
The DEMON®-system was developed and patented by the University of Innsbruck 11 years ago. Today this successful technology has been implemented in about 70...27.05.2016 | Read more
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...
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...
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...
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...
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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