Difference Between Ecology and Ecosystem

Ecology vs Ecosystem

Ecology and ecosystem are two confusing concepts for those who are not aware of them. Ecology is sometimes called study of nature. Well, it is, but it is much more than life sciences like biology and physics, and includes geography, environment, oceanography etc. It is a comprehensive study of organisms and their relation with the environment they live in and interact with one another. It includes the amount and spread of organisms and how and why their distribution is affected by their relationship with the environment. An ecosystem on the other hand is a subset of ecology and refers to a system that includes all the organisms in an area along with the physical environment they live in. There are many more differences between ecology and ecosystem that will be discussed in this article.

What is Ecosystem?

As described above, an ecosystem is the entire biological community in an area along with the physical and chemical environment that includes the non living, or abiotic components. An ecosystem boundary is not fixed in any way though sometimes they are obvious like a pond. However, those involved in studies of ecosystems generally demarcate the boundaries of an ecosystem for their convenience.

The main focuses behind study of ecosystems are the processes that link the living organisms in an ecosystem with the non living things or components. The energy transformations and biogeochemical cycles are the two processes between biotic and non biotic components that make up the subject matter of any study of an ecosystem.

Transformation of energy in an ecosystem begins with input of energy from the sun. This energy is utilized by plants through photosynthesis to make food. Herbivores eat these plant and carnivores eat herbivores for their energy requirements. This is an oversimplification of food chain really, and there are many food chains existing in an ecosystem that have cross links. These linkages are referred to as food web.

Biogeochemistry is a study that includes elements of biology, chemistry and geology. It is a detailed study of how living systems influence and in turn are themselves influenced by geology and chemistry of earth. Thus it includes many aspects of both biotic as well as abiotic world.

What is Ecology?

We often hear phrases like ecologically bad or something that is not good for ecology. However, ecology is not a normative subject and is a purely an academic discipline. The vast subject of ecology is divided into 4 categories namely physiological ecology, population ecology, community ecology, and ecosystems ecology. Physiological ecology has to do with the response and effect of environmental conditions on a specific species. Population ecology studies the amount and distribution of species and the environmental factors affecting this distribution. Community ecology is concerned with particular number of species found in an area and their interactions, and ecosystems ecology studies the structure and function of entire population of living (biotic components) things, abiotic components, and their interactions.

What is the difference between Ecology and Ecosystem?

• An ecosystem is a natural unit comprising all living and non living things in the area and how biotic and abiotic components function together while influencing each other. Thus it talks about not just the living organisms but also abiotic factors that affect life inside the system

• Ecology is the study of relationships between different organisms and their environment

• Ecosystem is thus a subset of ecology which is a vast subject area