The science of ecology involves the study of interactions between organisms and their environment, both biotic and abiotic, with particular focus on those interactions that determine their distribution and abundance. Applied ecology is the science of the application of ecology to contemporary problems in managing our biological resources. It includes scientific study of the effects of humans on the interactions between organisms and their environment, but excludes human ecology.
Applied ecology has two broad themes. The utilitarian theme concerns the interests of humans in their food, shelter, welfare, and health, that is, the material services the natural environment provides. Such ecosystem services, once compromised, can be very expensive to replace despite our technological advances. How do we bring ecology to bear in maintaining and improving these ecosystem services where they currently exist, in restoring or replacing them if they have been lost, or in mitigating the impact if those services are under threat? A second theme concerns nonconsumptive values of the biota, for recreation, tourism, psychological well-being, or simply because humans have an ethical responsibility as custodians of the natural environment and the species it contains. How do we bring ecology to bear in conserving these important nonconsumptive values?
These two broad themes overlap, since the noncon-sumptive values of the environment are connected through biodiversity to the services healthy environments deliver. Naturally biodiverse systems are typically more resilient to human-induced perturbation than are systems that are highly modified, structurally simplified or degraded, and so are better able to sustainably provide the ecosystem services we expect.
Topics included under the broad discipline area of 'applied ecology' are those where ecological knowledge and understanding are brought to bear on policy setting, decision making, and practice. The directions of the discipline are very much driven by the problems given priority by contemporary society, its governments and industry.
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