Each environment an organism inhabits holds a different set of constraints for processes related to the survival, growth, and reproductive ability of a species.
Different patterns of temperature, precipitation, seasonality, depth, salinity, pH, and dissolved oxygen among terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems are reflected in the different characteristics that an organism exhibits. These characteristics include the physiology, morphology, behaviour, and lifetime pattern of development (known as life history) of an organism. Any of these characteristics which can be transferred from one generation to the next and serves to increase the ability for the organism to survive under a given environmental condition is known as an adaptation. Not all characteristics can be considered adaptations as the characteristic which enable an organism to succeed in one environment may prove to be detrimental in another. As the environment is constantly shifting, this leads to a game of cat and mouse, with organisms adapting to try and keep up with the rapidly changing environment. The patchwork of environmental conditions present on the earth lead to gradual changes in characteristics associated with these environmental gradients and is known as a cline. Amongst this patchwork will be distinct environmental conditions, such as mountaintops and grasslands, and populations which are highly adapted to these local environments are known as ecotypes.
Ecology is the study of the relationship between organisms and their environment
Ecology is the scientific study of the relationships between the processes behind an organism’s ability to survive, grow and reproduce, and the physical/chemical components (abiotic – temperature, moisture, oxygen concentration, light availability) and the biological/living components (biotic) of their environment. Stemming from the Greek root work “Oikos” (family household), modern-day ecology has strong roots to the plant geography and natural history movements of the 1800’s.