The 6 Ecological Principles of Sustainability

The 6 Ecological Principles of Sustainability
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The 6 Ecological Principles of Sustainability are the basic elements of a ecological community. The first principle of sustainability is to utilize ecosystem services to meet needs today and tomorrow. Sustainability means using the ecosystem for its full potential rather than just extracting it from it. For example, sustainable farming practices use as much as possible of the land and water to produce the food and energy needed by humans. But what about using the ecosystem to meet other needs? These principles must be applied to every aspect of our lives, including the production of goods and services.

Biotic Communities Change Over A Period Of Time

Ecological succession describes the process by which biotic communities change over time. Early pioneer species create a simple, homogeneous community, and as new species arrive, the structure changes. These changes are due to species specializing in different proportions of resources. The first stage of succession occurs rapidly, as the pioneer species colonize new areas. The next stage occurs slowly and gradually, with the structure becoming increasingly complex.

  • While there are several types of biotic communities, they are all related to one another. Some communities are closed and others are open. The term ecosystem is derived from the concept of ecosystem, which is the study of organisms and their interactions with their physical and abiotic environment. The word “ecosystem” refers to the entire ecosystem of organisms and also includes a variety of nonliving elements, such as the soil, water, and inorganic nutrients.
  • Secondary succession occurs when a new environment develops and the species present in the ecosystem adapt to its conditions. It is the sequential progression of species that determines the composition of a community. In primary succession, species emerge to colonize new locations, which often lack vegetation. Then, they adapt to these new environments by acquiring their life histories and changing their habitat. Ultimately, the species composition of a biotic community is partially predictable, and it can be predicted.

Physical and Biological Processes Follow The Principle Of Uniformitarianism

The idea that all biological and physical processes are similar is an important aspect of the theory of evolution. Charles Darwin, a founder of evolutionary biology, used uniformitarianism as evidence to support his theory. Originally, Charles Lyell believed that Niagara Falls would move upstream. However, modern science has proven otherwise. The theory of evolution is based on palaeoecological principles.

The concept of uniformitarianism is essential for understanding the history of the Earth. Before the 1830s, scientists tended to subscribe to a theory called catastrophism, which posited that the earth’s landscapes had formed over large periods. Uniformitarianism has its critics, however, who argue that certain past conditions or communities did not exist today.

Changing land use can influence the ecology of particular ecosystems. For example, activities may alter the ratio of primary producers or affect the storage and cycling of carbon and nutrients. These changes could affect the sustainability of animal populations that depend on plants for their existence. So, it is important to understand these processes as they relate to sustainability. There are several ways in which human activity may disrupt these processes.

Ecological Principles of Sustainability
Ecological Principles of Sustainability – Photo by Mert Guller on Unsplash

Habitat Is a Unit Of Nature

In simple terms, a habitat is a place where an organism can live and thrive. It must have the necessary conditions to support all of its life processes, including food gathering, mate selection, and shelter. For example, a desert habitat must have a specific mix of air, water, and soil conditions for a desert cactus to thrive. In contrast, a humid climate would be too wet and the desert cactus would not survive.

  • The ecosystems in which animals and plants live can contain many different types of habitats. Some habitats support young vegetation, while others contain mature vegetation. The diversity of organisms allows nature to create new successful forms of life and strengthens the entire ecosystem. Species differ in size, shape, and temperature, and therefore habitat is also a unit of nature. The habitat is a complex system of interdependent habitats, and human-made development can harm the quality of the environment.
  • Overpopulation is another ecological issue. Habitats have a finite carrying capacity. As populations increase in number, they will eventually crash back to a lower abundance or even extinction. Rapid growth and habitat degradation will result in unsustainable levels of abundance. Another example of an unsustainable level of growth is a deadly disease. For instance, Dutch elm disease, which is causing a massive decline in the native white elm tree in North America, is a case in point. Similarly, unsustainable levels of predation will result in population crashes and extensive disturbances.

Competitive Exclusion Principle

The principle of competitive exclusion is an important part of ecology, but it is often neglected. Competition between species is inevitable, regardless of their size, but the principle of competitive exclusion is especially important in ecosystems. Essentially, two populations cannot coexist if they compete for the same resource. Hence, it is important to protect natural resources by limiting the number of humans. However, it is important to recognize that human beings are not the only species that need resources, and thus, they may not always be able to compete with each other.

In this case, two species compete for the same resource, such as food or water. Because of their different habits and needs, they can coexist without harming each other. This resource partitioning allows species to coexist while reducing direct competition. It is important to understand the implications of the principle before it is too late to save our planet from environmental degradation. So, the six ecological principles of sustainability are essential for maintaining our planet’s natural resources.

As the size of the population increases, the time it takes to eliminate 50% of species is greater. In a simulation involving 10,000 individuals, the time required to reduce 5% of the diversity takes 10 generations, and one million individuals, 100 generations. In a physically homogenized water mass, phytoplankton concentration is between 1 and 105 individuals per milliliter. Its total population is approximately 1017 cells.

Need for Constant Inputs Of Energy

A major focus in today’s eco-conscious culture is the importance of harnessing renewable energy sources. With the soaring costs of fossil fuels and the environmental impact of particular energy sources, the focus on clean energy sources has shifted. In addition to addressing long-term energy security, renewable sources have become increasingly attractive, especially with the recent implementation of the EU’s carbon emission pricing policy.

Interconnectedness

According to Ben-Eli (2015), sustainability is a dynamic equilibrium between humans and the environment, wherein human development expresses its full potential without compromising the integrity of the ecosystem and societal resources. Sustainability emphasizes the need to meet human needs and wants while considering environmental, economic, and social factors to balance the well-being of all. Sustainability is the way to go if we want to achieve these objectives and protect the environment in the long run.

Sustainable development is compatible with the principle of interconnectedness. Human systems are inextricably linked to the environment. Changes imposed by the environment must be less than the pace of human adaptation. This is where the concept of sustainable development comes in. Developing a sustainable society requires a long-term vision. The six ecological principles are an ongoing discussion. Ultimately, they will guide decisions for future generations.

Strong sustainability assumes that human-made capital cannot substitute for ecosystem services or natural capital. The main versions of this principle claim that natural capital should be preserved for all time and that scarcity rents from extracting non-renewable resources should be invested in the development of alternative means. For example, the royalties from coal mining would go towards developing renewable energy sources. This principle reflects an approach to sustainability that is both sustainable and economically viable.

Homeostasis

Environmental conditions affect the ability of ecosystems to maintain homeostasis. Those environmental conditions are known as modulators in ecosystem ecology. They determine the activity of organisms and the interactions among them. Changes in pH, salinity, temperature and physical structures of vegetation can disrupt the equilibrium between species. Changes in one of these conditions may result in a decline of a species, while changes in another might result in a significant increase.

  • When ecosystems are well-integrated and coordinated, the maintenance of homeostasis is relatively straightforward. In contrast, when a system is not coordinated or lacks a centralized control system, maintaining homeostasis is more difficult. For example, the body’s temperature, blood pressure, blood sugar concentration, and hormone concentrations are dependent on the setpoints, which represent the optimal operating conditions of each organ. These organs monitor system properties and implement the negative feedback response to maintain homeostasis.

Managing natural ecosystems means sustaining their functions. Ecosystems that function well must maintain their homeostasis to provide the ecosystems with the services that they provide. The ability to provide these services to human society depends on the health of ecosystems. Valuing ecosystem natural capital allows us to separate trade-offs between human society and nature. By considering natural capital, we can measure our welfare in terms of what we can do without destroying them.