The science of ecology examines the inter-relationships between organisms and their environment. The physical environment includes all of the factors with which an organism interacts: solar radiation, transfer of energy, temperature, water, wind, soil, rock, and air.  Thus, a mastery of the nature and action of environmental factors is essential to understanding how organisms respond to the environment.

For example, to understand how solar radiation penetrates through the atmosphere to the ground or into water, and how solar radiation is absorbed and re-emitted as heat by the terrestrial environment, requires understanding of physics. This is combined with knowledge of biology (e.g., genetics, physiology, growth and development) to understand the complex set of processes involved in how organisms respond to radiation. For example, a lizard, which is a poikilotherm or "cold blooded" organism, relies on the energy exchange between the lizard and its environment to regulate its body temperature.

Thus, an ecologist must master a variety of scientific disciplines in order to study and understand the physical environment and how organisms respond to the stress of various environmental factors.


The environment: The physical and living factors with which organisms interact (Copyright: Robberecht 2007 | No use of any kind without permission)

Explore what you know about the science of ecology
Explore what you know about the physical environment
Explore what you know about the response of organisms to their environment

Explore what you know about communities, ecosystems, and biomes
Explore what you know about ecology at the global scale


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Featured books and journals

An introduction to environmental biophysics. 1998. Campbell, G.S., and J.M. Norman. Spinger Verlag.

Biophysical ecology. 1980. Gates, D.M. Springer Verlag

Color and light in nature. 1995. Lynch, D.K., and W. Livingston. Cambridge University Press.

Ecological climatology: Concepts and applications. 2002. Bonan, G. B. Cambridge University Press.

Environmental physiology of animals. 2000. Willmer, P. Balckwell Science.

Fundamentals of biometeorology: Volume 1: The physical environment. Volume 2: The biological environment. 2002. Lowry, W.P., Lowry, P.P.

Fundamentals of biometeorology: Volume 2: The biological environment. 1989. Lowry, W.P., Lowry, P.P., and L. Milam. Peavine.

Microclimate: The biological environment. 1974. Rosenberg, N.J., B.L. blad, and S.B. Verma. John Wiley.

Plant ecophysiology. 2003. Larcher, W. Springer Verlag.

Ecological Society of America
British Ecological Society

Agricultural and Forest Meteorology
International Journal of Biometeorology

Internet resources