Ecosystems and Ecology
Ecosystems and Ecology
Author: Prof Koos Bothma
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license.
Ecology is one of the oldest of all sciences on the Earth and yet its principles have largely been neglected
in creating a better environment for its multitude of inhabitants. Ecological principles are the basis for the
development of the One Health approach to improving the health of habitats, as well as of people,
livestock and wildlife. It is increasingly recognised that no regional event is limited in its effect and that
global ecological problems affect the health of all living organisms. Ecological processes function as an
intricate mosaic of interrelated links. There is no pristine region left in the world because there are no
barriers to many of the components that affect these links. The One Health approach is a step toward
harnessing these principles into a globally effective ecologically based management strategy which aims
at the re-establishment of healthy ecosystems globally.
The material that is presented below was compiled with the aid of the various resources as noted in the
reference lists. However, it is in the interest of the reader to study the original publications too because
they contain additional relevant information.
Ecosystems and ecology
An ecosystem is a functional environmental unit that consists of a diversity of organisms that interact with
each other and their physical environment. When these physical components are local or regional their
effect can lead to the development of ecotypes. Ecotypes are genetically determined local products of the
interaction between individual organisms and their environment within a given species. They can have a
decided impact on ecosystem health when they become extinct or when alien ecotypes are introduced
into new environments. The relationship between wildlife and various species of ticks and tick-borne
diseases is an excellent example. The spread of viruses that are associated with illegally imported wildlife
products is another one. Similar threats exist when importing live wildlife. Ecotypes also provide any
organism with the necessary genetic base that allows it to adapt to sudden changes in the environment,
such as those that are being predicted following global climatic change. Ecology in turn is the study of the
interaction between living organisms and their physical environment.