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Practising science: Reading the rocks and ecology
Practising science: Reading the rocks and ecology

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2 What is ecology?

Ecology is usually defined as the study of organisms in their environments. In its broadest sense this definition includes the way we, the human species (Homo sapiens), interact with and use the environment. However, in the sense in which most ecologists work, ecological studies are limited to studies of the ways plants and animals interact with each other and with their physical environment, and hence survive in natural and semi-natural habitats. The ways in which the human species affect the environment – for instance, by polluting the air, growing crops, digging peat, eroding the landscape or even extracting water – form part of the study of the factors that affect other organisms.