[JOAN CARTAN-HANSEN] Ecology is the science that studies how plants and animals and other living things live in relation to each other and to their environment.
Look around you. Do you live in a forest or a desert?
The earth has more than 30 biomes. A biome is a large natural area where certain types of plants grow. A biome may be a forest, grasslands, shrubs and shrub lands, desert, mountains or tundra. Idaho has a number of these types of biomes. The types of plants and animals that live in a biome depend on its climate or weather
If it's cold like in the mountains different kinds of plants and animals will live there than if it were hot like on the desert. An ecosystem is made up of all the living and nonliving things within a certain area. It could be as large as an entire forest or as small as a single pond. In an ecosystem living things include the plants and animals. Nonliving things include the rocks and soils. To understand an ecosystem is like learning about a city. You have to know where the streets are and about the people who live there to really know what a place is like.
Scientists who study ecosystems study all the living and nonliving things there and how they work together. All the living things in an ecosystem need energy to survive. Plants grow because of the soil, the rain and mostly the sun. Green plants are called primary producers. They make all the food energy in an ecosystem.
In a process called photosynthesis, plants turn sunlight, water and a gas called carbon dioxide into food for the plant to grow. And during photosynthesis the plants give off oxygen and that makes up the air we all breathe. We need the plants for something else too - for food. It's called the food chain. Small animals eat plants to survive. Bigger animals then eat the smaller ones. The food chain is the pattern of eating and being eaten. But again, it all starts with the sun. That energy gets transmitted through soil and the plants to the animals and eventually to humans but if you lose a link in the chain everything would suffer. Some scientists study the impact on the ecosystem when humans make a change like removing a pond or adding a plant or animal.
In an ecosystem all things depend upon one another but they also compete. Plants compete for space and sunshine. Animals compete for food so everything competes and cooperates. And when you study about a place and the living and nonliving things in it you're learning about ecology.