What is synecology and examples

Ecology is a branch of biology that studies the connections and relationships that are created between different living beings and of these with their environment. Ecology is also divided into smaller branches of study, among them are autoecology, demoecology and synecology. While the first studies the adaptations that a species develops to inhabit an ecosystem, the second studies the size, structure and dynamics of a population and the third, also called community ecology, studies the composition and structure of the different species, thus as their relationships between them and the environment.

What is synecology

The definition of synecology is a bit complex, since this science that is part of the branches of ecology studies the composition and structure of the different communities of an ecosystem , their variations over time, the relationships that exist between the different species that they belong to a community or biocenosis and of these with ecosystems or biotope .

Types of synecology

Synecology has two approaches: on the one hand, there is descriptive synecology and, on the other hand, there is functional synecology. However, there is another that can be used as support, called quantitative synecology. Each of the types of synecology will be described in more detail below :

Descriptive synecology

It is used from a static point of view and describes the groups of organisms existing in a certain ecosystem. From descriptive synecology data are obtained on the structure of the community, establishing the density, frequency, constancy, abundance and spatial distribution of the species.

Thanks to descriptive synecology, it is possible to know the distribution of a community and how abundant it is, allowing to know if a species is in danger, thus being able to design and develop species conservation programs .

Functional synecology

It is used from a more dynamic point of view and considers two aspects. On the one hand, it studies the exchanges of matter and energy between all the components that inhabit an ecosystem. On the other hand, it can describe the evolution of two groups and evaluate the factors that make them appear in a certain territory.

Food webs are essential to understand the complex relationships of matter and energy exchange that are established between different species.

Quantitative synecology

As mentioned above, this serves to support the other two, since thanks to it it is possible to process all the data obtained on the density of organisms, amount of matter and energy transferred and frequency, among others.

Taking into account the types of this branch of ecology, there are different applications of synecology , such as:

  • The ecological succession : that is the sequence of changes experienced by communities of species over time), which would be the basis for ecosystem restoration programs. Here you can learn about Ecological Succession: definition, stages and examples .
  • The epidemiology : trying to understand the dynamics of a parasite (such as a bacteria or virus) and host or host (such as humans). For example, currently, with the pandemic present by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19, synecology serves to understand how the virus evolves.

Here are two examples of synecology ; one on the study of food chains and another on the study of biomes:

The study of the food chain

Among the examples of synecology in animals we can talk about food or trophic chains . A food chain is a linear sequence of organisms that, ultimately, depend on each other for their food and each occupies a position in it called ” trophic level “. For example, there are producer organisms, primary consumers, secondary consumers, tertiary consumers, quaternary consumers, and decomposers. Food chains are ideal to understand and study the exchanges of matter and energythat occur between species and the environment. For example, the producers absorb the energy from the sun, part of this energy returns to the environment and another goes to the primary consumers, the same happens when the energy passes from the primary consumer to the secondary and from the secondary to the tertiary; and it also goes on to the rest of the trophic levels, up to the decomposers, to start over.

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