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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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Conservationists Identify Marine Biodiversity "Hotspots"

Conservation-oriented parks and reserves are fairly common on land, but comparatively few marine regions receive protection from human activities. This situation has, for the most part, elicited little concern, owing to the widely held belief that the large geographic ranges of most marine species would ensure their survival. But new research on restricted-range marine life—that is, species limited to small areas—challenges that idea, identifying 10 regions where further damage to coral reefs could l 18.02.2002 | nachricht Read more

Sperm and eggs fall foul of fallout

Nuclear tests up gene mutation risk. People in the remote former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan who were exposed to fallout from nuclear-weapon tests have more genetic mutations in their eggs and sperm than normal, researchers have found 1 . Their children could inherit health defects caused by such mutations. The Soviet Union detonated 470 nuclear weapons at the Semipalatinsk nuclear-testing site between 1949 and 1989, many above ground. The blasts showered r 08.02.2002 | nachricht Read more

Water pollutants purged

Smart process cleans up contaminated water. A smart material identifies and destroys toxic pollutants in water. When exposed to the offending molecules, tiny light-emitting zinc oxide particles glow dimly, burn them up, and glow brightly to show they’ve finished 1 . The advantage of such an approach, say Prashant Kamat and co-workers at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, is that the energy-consuming burn-up stage switches on only when pollutants are pre 04.02.2002 | nachricht Read more

Scientists use llama droppings to help combat water pollution

Scientists from Newcastle University are using llama droppings to help combat environmental problems caused by polluted water seeping from abandoned silver and tin mines in the Bolivian Andes. The project is being spearheaded by Paul Younger, Professor of Hydrogeochemical Engineering at Newcastle University. It has been adapted from a community-based natural regeneration technique which uses waste materials to treat polluted mine waters. Professor Younger pioneered the technique, along with 31.01.2002 | nachricht Read more

Atmosphere and Oceans Finely Balanced

The atmosphere and oceans exist in a delicate state of balance according to research co-ordinated by the University of East Anglia (UEA) and published this month by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). The recently completed five year research programme of Atmospheric Chemistry Studies in the Oceanic Environment (ACSOE) concludes that atmospheric pollution travels much further than previously thought and that this has important consequences for global chemistry and climate. 24.01.2002 | nachricht Read more

Clean forests prompt pollution rethink

South American streams call current nitrogen-cycle theory into question. Pollution may have altered northern hemisphere forests dramatically. The surprise finding that clean forests use nitrogen differently to polluted ones emphasizes the effect that humans have on the planet’s nitrogen cycle 1 . It may even prompt a rethink of the way that this cycle works. Humans have added vast amounts of nitrogen to the earth’s ecosystems. The element fertilizes plants. T 24.01.2002 | nachricht Read more

Recycled plastic - the fashion fabric of the future

A novel research project is looking at ways to recycle plastic bottles for use in the fashion industry in a bid to halt the landfill crisis. Although recycled PET (Polyethylene terepthalate) has been used in a limited way in the fashion industry, Northumbria University PhD student Yukie Nakano is working to identify the barriers affecting the wider introduction of recycled textile products. Yukie, who is also a research assistant in the Centre for Design Research, is also experimenting with 23.01.2002 | nachricht Read more

Ozone and UV over Europe: no sign of improvement

“The occurrence of ozone mini-holes over Europe increases and any ozone layer recovery could only become measurable around 2010 at the earliest” concludes an assessment report, released today, on European research in the stratosphere. The report concerns loss of ozone, increases in ultraviolet radiation as well as the impact of aircraft on the atmosphere. It covers European research efforts during the period 1996-2000 including the Third European Stratospheric Experiment on Ozone – THESEO, which is t 22.01.2002 | nachricht Read more

Slick birds are wearing wool

Knitted pullovers protect penguins from oil discharge Knitters around the world have pulled together to save thousands of oil-soaked little penguins on Phillip Island, southern Australia. Ten thousand penguin-sized, pure-wool jumpers have flooded into the offices of the Tasmanian Conservation Trust in response to their call for emergency insulation for a vulnerable population of world’s smallest penguins - sometimes known as fairy penguins. In mid-December 2001 a cru 22.01.2002 | nachricht Read more

Bacterial batteries clean up

Researchers name the microbes that could produce power by munching pollution. Bacteria could clear up oil spills and generate electricity at the same time. US scientists have identified microbes that produce power as they digest organic waste 1 . The bacteria strip electrons from carbon in ocean sediments to convert it into the carbon dioxide they need for metabolism and growth. Usually the organisms just dump the electrons onto iron or sulphate minerals on 18.01.2002 | 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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