What is aquatic ecology?

Ecology, term created by Ernst Haeckelé, the scientific branch dedicated to the study of the interaction of living organisms with each other and with the environment, including the so-called abiotic factors, such as climate or geology, and the so-called biotic factors, that is, other living organisms.

Aquatic ecology specifically deals with the study of these interactions in aquatic ecosystems, which include marine and freshwater ecosystems such as lakes, rivers, swamps, or estuaries.

Water is necessary for life on planet Earth and covers more than three quarters of its surface. Aquatic ecosystems are responsible for more than 30% of primary production and about 50% of atmospheric oxygen. In addition, humans use them as a source of resources, so their study is essential to understand how they work and minimize the negative impact that human activity can generate.

Types of aquatic ecosystems

An ecosystem is made up of a community of living organisms and their environment, all of which are closely related through the flow of matter, energy and nutrients. In this sense, the ecosystem is the main unit of study of ecology.

The boundaries of an ecosystem are often diffuse and arbitrary, although they are generally considered boundaries at which nutrient, energy and water flows can be measured, or at least estimated. For example, a lake can be considered an aquatic ecosystem, but also a small lake or an entire ocean.

As in all ecosystems, the physical and chemical characteristics of the aquatic environment determine the types of organisms that can live in it. Only organisms capable of surviving in the specific conditions of an ecosystem and capable of utilizing the resources available in that specific environment will be able to develop and reproduce.

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There are two main types of aquatic ecosystems, marine ecosystems and freshwater ecosystems, clearly differentiated by the amount of dissolved mineral salts. Although the concentration of salt in seas and oceans varies across the planet, the average is around 3.5% (3.5 g/L).

Marine ecosystems are all those that develop in the seas, oceans and their environments. Freshwater ecosystems include rivers, lakes and their floodplains, as well as other freshwater bodies such as streams, ponds, swamps or estuaries.

Based on water flow, freshwater ecosystems can be divided into:

swamp ecosystem: ecosystem characterized by a soil saturated with water or flooded, permanently or periodically. lentic ecosystem: bodies of water that are stagnant or with little current, for example, lakes, ponds, swamps and reservoirs, including artificial ones. lotic ecosystem: are aquatic ecosystems with abundant currents, such as rivers and streams.

In any type of aquatic ecosystem, studies generally focus on populations of organisms and the impact that environmental variations have on them, particularly temperature, salinity, water depth, and seasonal effects.

Many of these studies are carried out from the perspective of the interaction of human activity with aquatic ecosystems. Thus, aquatic ecology provides information about the conservation of water, its pollution, or how aquatic resources are used for commercial purposes.

Based on this information, aquatic ecology can also make political decision-making proposals for a rational use that guarantees the preservation of aquatic ecosystems and their biodiversity.

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