Community Ecology – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Ecological Terms Glossary

What is Community Ecology?

Community ecology is a branch of ecology that focuses on the interactions between different species within a particular ecosystem. It examines how species coexist, compete, and interact with one another, as well as how these interactions influence the structure and function of the community as a whole. Community ecology seeks to understand the patterns and processes that shape the diversity and dynamics of ecological communities.

What are Species Interactions in Community Ecology?

Species interactions are the relationships between different species within a community. These interactions can be classified into several categories, including competition, predation, mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism. Competition occurs when two or more species compete for limited resources, such as food, water, or space. Predation involves one species consuming another for energy. Mutualism is a relationship in which both species benefit from the interaction, while commensalism benefits one species without affecting the other. Parasitism is a relationship in which one species benefits at the expense of another.

What is Species Diversity in Community Ecology?

Species diversity refers to the variety of different species present within a community. It includes both the number of species (species richness) and the relative abundance of each species (species evenness). High species diversity is often associated with a healthy and stable ecosystem, as it can increase resilience to environmental changes and provide a wider range of ecosystem services. Species diversity is influenced by factors such as habitat complexity, resource availability, and species interactions.

What are Trophic Levels in Community Ecology?

Trophic levels are the hierarchical levels in a food chain or food web, representing the position of an organism in the flow of energy and nutrients within an ecosystem. Producers, such as plants and algae, occupy the first trophic level and convert sunlight into energy through photosynthesis. Herbivores, which feed on producers, occupy the second trophic level. Carnivores that feed on herbivores occupy higher trophic levels, with top predators at the highest trophic level. Each trophic level represents a transfer of energy and nutrients from one group of organisms to another.

What is Keystone Species in Community Ecology?

A keystone species is a species that has a disproportionately large impact on its ecosystem relative to its abundance. Keystone species play a crucial role in maintaining the structure and function of the community, often by influencing the abundance or behavior of other species. Removing a keystone species can have cascading effects throughout the ecosystem, leading to significant changes in species composition and ecosystem dynamics. Examples of keystone species include sea otters, wolves, and bees.

What is Succession in Community Ecology?

Succession is the process by which a community undergoes predictable and orderly changes in species composition over time. Primary succession occurs on bare, newly formed habitats, such as volcanic islands or glacial moraines, while secondary succession occurs on previously inhabited but disturbed habitats, such as abandoned farmland or clear-cut forests. Succession typically involves a series of stages, starting with pioneer species that colonize the area and ending with a stable climax community. Succession is driven by factors such as competition, facilitation, and environmental conditions.