The 6 levels of ecological organization (and their characteristics)

Levels of biological organization it is they which show to what extent, in biology, living beings do not exist in isolation and independently, but are in constant interaction with one another.

More precisely, the levels of biological organization are a hierarchy of categories ranging from micro to macro (and vice versa), showing us different dimensions of analysis of living things. These levels are: individual, population, community, ecosystem, biosphere and biome. In this article we will see its characteristics.

    Levels of ecological organization

    When you study nature, we need to choose a level of analysis to focus onThat is, a type of natural phenomenon that will force us to pay attention to what is happening on one scale and not another, leaving everything else aside.

    The levels of biological organization are the classification in which we divide the different elements to be studied, depending on whether they are more specific and local or more general and global. It is applied in sciences related to the study of nature and living things, such as zoology, ethology, anthropology, etc.

    In this way, the level of analysis of the community is broader and more general than that of the population, but lower than that of the ecosystem, and will therefore lead us to study phenomena that we could not find at levels more specific or more global.

    Therefore, this hierarchical organization of categories it makes it possible to know, by selecting one of them, how close we are to the scale of individuals or biomes, the two extremes of the classification of levels of ecological organization. Let’s take a closer look at what each of these categories is.

    1. Individual

    It is the basic unit, the most local and most concrete level within the levels of ecological organization.

    They are living things, not necessarily animals, which are often functional and can respond to stimuli or sometimes even perform complex actions. In the event that they are only examined to see physical or anatomical features, they do not need to be alive.

    At this level of study it is possible to study elements such as morphology, behavior, physiology, etc.

    Moreover, from this level of ecological organization, it is possible to establish theories and assumptions about things that go beyond the individual himself, such as the species to which he belongs, what the adaptations of his body must respond to, etc.

    2. Population

    Population is the level of ecological organization defined by a grouping of individuals of the same species who coexist or organize together to survive at a given time and in a specific place (of a rather local scale, since they share the same space).

    It should be noted that even within the same species there is a certain diversity in terms of genotypes (genes) and phenotypes (traits expressed in characteristics of the body or behavior), so it is not a question of assuming that a population is a succession of identical individuals. This enriches this level of study, because there are always phenomena to explore that are not present where we are only looking at a single individual.

    For example, aspects that we can study when we focus on the extent of populations are cooperation between family or tribe members, The expulsion of males when they reach puberty, the way food is shared, internal struggles for group leadership, etc.

    3. Community

    The community is the level made up of a set of populations of different species, and which interact with each other in a specific area. here life forms of all sizes are included: animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, etc..

    In addition, it is this constant interaction between the different forms of life that makes them exist, because it creates a biological balance that provides stability and support to most populations and individuals.

    From this level of ecological organization, they can study processes such as predation, parasitism, symbiosis, etc.

    4. Ecosystem

    Ecosystem is a type of extensive physical environment characterized by phenomena that go beyond the existence of living things, such as temperature, light level, precipitation, Geographical features, etc. They are also characterized by the community of living things they house, which can vary slightly depending on the part of the ecosystem we are in, because it is not completely homogeneous and regular.

    Thus, an ecosystem has two fundamental components: an abiotic element, which includes non-organic elements, and another biotic, which includes living beings.

    The combination of these two halves forms an environment with a dynamic of relatively autonomous existence, in which to maintain this balance, there should not be too much interference from elements foreign to the ecosystem.

    At this level of ecological organization, they can study, for example, the impact of pollution in an area, desertification processes, loss of biodiversity caused by droughts, etc.

      5. Biome

      A biome is a category that encompasses several ecosystems that have similarities to each other and that on many occasions they are in physical contact with each other (although this is not a fundamental requirement for establishing the existence of a biome, as there are sometimes geographic features that “divide” a biome).

      Thus, the biome is a type of landscape that can be identified to exhibit some uniformity with its larger life forms: usually animals and plants.

      Outraged, the extent of biomes is generally large, at the scale of a medium or large country (Although it is independent of the borders of states and nations); they are usually easily identifiable on a world map (although it costs more in underwater biomes).

      If we look at this level of analysis, it is possible to study phenomena such as the melting of the poles, the deforestation of large areas that threaten the mass extinction of species, etc.

        6. Biosphere

        the biosphere it is the greatest level of ecological organization, and covers the whole planet, Composed of the adjustment of different biomes.

        On the other hand, the biosphere is made up of three components: the listosphere, made up of all the regions in which the earth gives relief to the earth’s crust; the atmosphere, made up of the ozone layer that covers the entire earth’s crust, and the hydrosphere, made up of large masses of water that are distributed throughout the planet’s crust, whether they are visible by satellite or not .

        If we focus on this scale, we will be able to study almost entirely the consequences of climate change, as well as meteorology, The movement of tectonic plates, etc.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Alexander, David E. (May 1, 1999). Encyclopedia of Environmental Sciences. New York: Springer.
        • Bartsch, J., Colvard, MP (2009). The framework of life. New York: Prentice Hall.
        • Carson, R. (2002). Silent spring. Montreal: Mariner Books.
        • Lidicker W. (2008). Levels of organization in biology: on the nature and nomenclature of the fourth level of ecology. Biological examinations.
        • Odum, EP (1971). Fundamentals of ecology. New York: Saunders.
        • Schindler, David W. (1998). Replication versus realism: the need to experiment at the scale of an ecosystem. Ecosystems. 1 (4): 323–334.
        • Wicken JS, Ulanowicz RE (1988). Quantify hierarchical connections in ecology. Journal of Social and Biological Systems.

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