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Difference Between Environment and Ecology

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Ecology and Environment

MVSAT Dec 2023

Knowing Ecology vs Environment will become easier if we understand ecology meaning and environment meaning. Ecology is a study of the biosphere, whereas ecosystems are created by the interconnections between the living organisms and the physical environments they inhabit which can be water, land, or air. Ecosystems need a source of energy i.e. light from the sun enables them to be able to work.

What is Ecology?

Reiter used the word ‘Ecology’ in the year 1865 and Ernst Hackel explained it more profoundly in the year 1869. Ecology is the study of relationships between living organisms (plants, animals, bacteria, humans) and the environment. Its major components are individual or organisms, species, population, community, ecosystem, and biosphere. All of the components are interrelated and can be determined on the basis of the composition and distribution of a variety of resources like heat, sunlight, nutrients and water.

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Ecology is divided into two main branches, (i) autecology, and (ii) synecology. 

  • Autecology deals with species or an organism, its adaptations, and its interaction with its environment. 

  • Synecology deals with the study of different species living in a community and their relation with the surrounding. Examples of aquatic ecology include freshwater, marine, etc. It is further classified into two branches, aquatic and terrestrial ecology. 

Aquatic ecology deals with aquatic ecosystems, whereas terrestrial ecology deals with terrestrial ecosystems. For example, desert, forest, grassland, and so on. System ecology, applied ecology, and genecology are the modern branches of ecology. 

What is the Environment?

Environment is the totality of the surroundings that we live in. It is the combination of physical and biological components such as animals, plants, air, water, sunlight; we can study the effect of all organisms and the effects of their way of living on the environment. Climate and weather changes take place due to different impacts on the environment and hence can alter the natural cycles.

As a result, if a healthy environment is disturbed, there can be disturbance in ecology too as disturbances in various ecosystems take place. Due to too hot/too cold or humid conditions, organisms may not survive and there can be decrease in the population, community or species. For example, when an uncontrollable wild forest fire, bush fire or grassland fire takes place, many living organisms including plants, animals and vegetation may die and result in the loss of an ecosystem. It ultimately affects the ecology. This is how we can portray the difference between environmental biology and ecology.

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Components of the Environment

There are two main components of the environment, biotic and abiotic. 

  • The biotic components of the environment are all organisms like human beings, animals, birds, reptiles, including the microorganisms like viruses, bacteria, algae, and so on. 

  • The abiotic components of the environment include land, river, air, soil, mountain, cloud, and physical components like humidity, temperature, and so on.

With the help of the below tabular chart, we will make you understand the ecology and environmental science differences.

Difference Between Environmental Biology and Ecology



A broader field of Science incorporating many elements of life sciences and earth.

It is more focused on how organisms interact among each other and their surroundings; It is a specific population of living things.

It is the set of conditions that surround an organism.

Study of the interactions between organisms and the environment they live in.

Environmental factors include temperature, water, light, air, soil and nutrients.

Ecology involves the study of different ecosystems and how organisms survive by depending upon each other. 

Environment can be very large as well as very small. 

It is a wide spectrum that includes many smaller ecosystems.

In terms of ecology, all abiotic factors or non living environmental factors surrounding an organism come under Environment.

It covers a wider way of interactions including microscopic observations as well as up to the global scale. It includes how organisms are affected by the environment and how in turn, ecology affects it. 

Humans have a huge impact on many different ecosystems resulting in impact on the global environment.

Different levels of organization within ecology include Organismal ecology, Population Ecology, Community ecology, Ecosystem Ecology and Biosphere Ecology.

Either it is biotic or chemical components, the surrounding where living organisms live, it is called environment.

How living organisms sustain in their habitat, the study is called ecology. Eco means friendly, without harming any particular nature or substance.

The environmental factors include pollution, global warming, deforestation and other broader issues.

The ecological factors include population size, distribution of organisms, diversity and also the competition between them.

It aims to study the internal and external factors affecting the environment.

It aims to understand life processes, adaptation, distribution, and biodiversity.

Different Levels of Organisms within Ecology


When an individual living thing is capable of responding to stimuli, growing, reproducing and maintaining homeostasis. Example, a plant, animal or human.


A population is the sum of all of the individuals of the same species living within an ecological community.


Community ecology, also known as synecology, includes the study of the interactions between species in communities on many spatial and temporal scales. It also involves the distribution, abundance, structure, demography, and interactions between all coexisting populations.


It consists of a large community of living organisms including plants, animals and microbes in a particular area. It can be of any size but exist in a particular place. The living and physical components of an ecosystem are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. 

Energy pyramids can be drawn to show the interdependence of organisms on one another and how energy flow takes place in any ecosystem. Variety of food chains or versatility of food chains in an ecosystem leads to its strong foundation. Environment pollution and deforestation are major problems for ecosystem sustenance.


It is one of the four layers surrounding the Earth along with other layers. The other layers are lithosphere (rocky area), hydrosphere (water bodies) and atmosphere (air) and it is the sum of all the ecosystems. 


The ecosystem is termed as the structural and functional unit of ecology, where the living and nonliving components of the environment are in continuous interaction. The ecosystem is defined as the chain of interactions taking place between living organisms and the environment, which can be small or huge. In other words, itI can be an oasis in the desert or an ocean that covers thousands of miles.

The ecosystem is responsible for maintaining stability within the environment. It is either aquatic or terrestrial. Aquatic exists in the water, whereas terrestrial refers to the land-based ecosystems. Forest, desert, grassland, and tundra are different land-based ecosystems. All biotic and abiotic components are interconnected in an ecosystem. The ecosystem is always in the state of continuous evolution.

Important Points

  • Ecology is generally termed as studying the interactions and other properties of biological organisms and non-biological items in the environment. Contradictorily, an environment is termed as a surrounding containing living and nonliving things that coexist.

  • For the first time, Reiter invented the term ‘ecology’, and Ernst Haeckel defined the term. Ramdeo Misra is renowned as the ‘Father of Ecology’ in India.

  • The environment of an organism changes when it moves from one location to another, whereas an ecology does not change and stays the same for an organism no matter where it goes.

  • Ecology provides an interrelation between the elements, whereas an environment allows the elements to exist.

  • It is often believed that an environment and ecology are the same things. However, they differ in terms of functions, their habitat, and qualities, as well as other significant characteristics. Ecology and environment, both are major components that are observed in our surroundings. 

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FAQs on Difference Between Environment and Ecology

What is the Importance of Ecology?

There is a vast significance of ecology in our planet that includes conservation of the environment, distribution of resources, energy conservation, and eco-friendliness. Conserving the environment means how ecology provides a proper guidance in our behaviour to impact the ecosystem. Studying ecology can make us aware aware of the endangered and extinction of species. Also, ecology makes us aware of the variety of resources that help in the survival of various organisms. Energy conservation is also equally important and understanding ecology helps us in realizing the proper usage of energy and avoiding exploitation of resources like light, nutrition, and radiation. An eco-friendly environment results in harmonious living and interactions among various species, without harming the environment and other ecosystems.

What is the Importance of the Environment?

Environment is an important parameter in the healthy living of organisms. It provides suitable conditions including air, food, sunlight, sustainable temperature, and other needs for them to support life and well-being. A clean environment is mandatory for good flourishing of all ecosystems. An environment is an essential factor for the existence of life on earth. There can be no life on earth without an environment. There are other big planets in the solar system but have no life because of the lack of environment.

What are the key differences between environment and ecology?

The environment is defined as the relationship of components present in the surroundings, whereas ecology is defined as the study of the relationship between organisms and their environment. An environment provides a place for the elements, whereas, an ecosystem provides an interaction between the elements. An environment comprises only physical components, whereas an ecosystem comprises only biological components. An environment can be filled with micro or macro-organisms, whereas an ecosystem can be filled with aquatic or terrestrial organisms.

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