Ecology is the study of the communities of organisms, the ecosystems they inhabit, the relationships between these species and with their own environment. Ecology is, therefore, a fairly broad science, in terms of its field of study. However, we can divide ecology into smaller branches of study. Two of these branches are autoecology and synecology.
What is synecology and examples
Synecology is the branch of ecology that studies how the communities of an ecosystem are composed and structured , their variations over time, the relationships between the different species that exist in the community and between the ecosystems of the earth. The synecological study of a community can be done following two points of view:
- Descriptive synecology uses a static point of view, that is, it limits itself to describing the groups of species that inhabit a given ecosystem. From descriptive synecology we can obtain data on the specific composition of a community, data on abundance, frequencies, constancy or their spatial distributions.
- Functional synecology uses a much more dynamic point of dress. This approach considers two aspects. On the one hand, it aims to describe the evolution of two groups and evaluate the influences that allow their existence in that particular environment and, on the other, to study the exchanges of matter and energy between all the components of the ecosystem. An example of synecology is the study of the food, biomass or energy chain that is established in that ecosystem.
The study of synecology offers a wide range of applications that are very useful in the study of the environment . A very interesting type of application of synecology is to compare the aforementioned indices between various terrestrial ecosystems and relate them to the degree of contamination existing in the soil or with the vegetation present. Some of these studies that have already been carried out have found that the degree of contamination of an environment produces loss of biodiversityof the ecosystem and degrades it. This is so because all species, both plant and animal, have a maximum level of tolerance to certain pollutants. Once this limit is exceeded, species become more vulnerable and begin to decline, thereby degrading the ecosystem.
Another application is, for example, dividing plant species according to the height above the ground that their perennial tissues reach, so that we have classes of plants. This is a way to find out the strategies that plants follow to adapt to the climatic conditions of their ecosystem. Thus, studies have found that the majority of plants in the more humid tropics are phanerophytes (plants that rise up to 25 cm above the ground), epiphytes (plants that grow on another plant) and lianas, in the desert there are a majority of Therophytic plants (complete their life cycle only in the favorable season) and in non-humid tropical and subtropical regions there are a majority of succulent plants (which accumulate amounts of water)
Another application is the study of the distribution of species in the environment . This can be divided into three:
- Random form: all areas of the space have the same probability of being occupied and the presence of one does not affect the location of another.
- Uniform shape: all areas of space have the same probability of being occupied and the presence of one affects the location of another.
- Grouped form: all areas of the space may or may not have the same probability of being occupied and the presence of one affects the location of another.
Autoecology is the branch of ecology that is responsible for studying the adaptations that a species undergoes in order to inhabit its specific ecosystem, that is, the physiological, morphological and ethological characteristics that allow it to cope with the abiotic or biotic conditions of the ecosystem in the one who lives. These adaptations are generally common in members of the population and inherited. Evolution can give:
- Homologous organs : they are similar organs and with the same embryonic origin in two different species, but with different functions.
- Analogous organs : they are similar organs in terms of morphology and function in two different species, but different in their embryonic origin.
In summary, the clear difference between autoecology and synecology is that both branches differ in that autoecology studies relationships of individual species with their environment and synecology studies several species.