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Commoner's principles of ecology

Inorganic and Organic Matter

Water – Unique substance

~70% of the weight of living organisms

- Medium in which life's chemical reactions occur

- Water solutions – electrical conductors

- Highest surface tension

- Liquid over a wide temperature range

- Expands when it crystallizes, unlike most substances

- High heat of vaporization (latent heat)

- High specific heat

Organic matterconsists of molecules containing carbon atoms that are bonded to form chains or rings. All living things contain molecules of organic compounds. Chemical bonds in organic molecules contain a large amount of chemical energy that can be released when the bonds are broken. Essential Elements of Life: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen make up 96% of living matter

Barry Commoner (1972) proposed four principles:

1. "All parts are interrelated" (universal relationships between phenomena and processes in nature). = Everything is connected to everything else

2. "A change in one part of the system causes changes in other parts" (based on principle of matter and energy conservation) = Everything must go somewhere

3. "Nature knows better" (cooperation between people and nature, or coadaptation, instead taming).

4. "It did not get for nothing" (there is no "free of charge use" of nature).= There is no such thing as “free lunch”

4. World views and ethical perspectives on environment (a comparison):

Philosophy Intrinsic Value Role of Humans
Anthropocentric Humans Masters
Stewardship (управление) Humans and nature Caretakers
Biocentric Species One of many
Animal rights Individuals Equals
Ecocentric Processes Destroyers
Ecofeminist Relationships Caregivers

5. Ecology structure, approaches and objects:

Ecology structure and approaches Ecology objects
Autecology - the ecology of single species. Demecology - the ecology of populations. Synecology- the ecology of communities. Global ecology- the ecology of biosphere. Single species (organisms) Populations Communities Biosphere

6. Connection of the ecology to other disciplines:

Biology (Botany, Zoology, Physiology. Genetics etc..) Mathematics, Computer science Chemistry
Physics Geography Geology
Medicine Economics Engineering
Politics Law Philosophy
Sociology Ethics etc.  

7. Importance of knowledge of the ecology

Knowledge of the ecology is important for understanding such phenomena as:

- Species' conserving

- biodiversity’s preserving

- ecosystem functions’ maintenance

- soil fertility’s preserving (preventing the land degradation)

- studying the effects of pollutants

- preventing the global warming, air and water pollution

- calculating the sustainable yields in fisheries, forestry, and hunting etc.


Ecology has own subject, objects, tasks and methods of investigations;
therefore we should use its principles, definitions and terms correctly.

Modern Ecology - is universal fundamental integrated developing science.

Ecology is to environmental science as physics is to engineering.

Ecology - is the theoretical base for rational using of natural resources.

Key terms:

Ecology Community Autecology Ernest Heckel: The term "Ecology" (1868)
Environment Population Demecology
Environmental science Species Synecology Barry Commoner: Principles of ecology (1972)
Ecosystem Biosphere Global ecology

Questions for review:

1. What does ecology study?

2. Define ecological units refer to life levels organization.

3. Give classification of ecology refer to ecological objects.

4. Define the term “Sustainable development”. Why is it important to environment protection?

5. Name four Commoner’s principles of ecology. Give examples.

6. Present some philosophical and ethical world views on environment.

7. What is importance of knowledge ecology?

Make a synopsis: Daniel D. Chiras, “Environmental Science: Creating Sustainable Future”

1. Make a scheme of conditions created by sustainable development (p.10, fig. 1-6).

2. List the ten principles of sustainable development and briefly describe each one (p.15, table 1-1).

Critical Thinking (Writing an essay):

1. Ecology as separated science was formed in 1950s. Is it right to suggest that ecological knowledge were accumulated since ancient time? Prove it.

2. Ecology is the science of future. Is this assumption correct? Prove it.

3. Give some examples of connection Ecology to different natural and humanities sciences.

4. Discuss the origin, statements and bases of some environmental philosophies (listed above). Which is closest to your own views?

5. How are sustainable consumption and voluntary simplicity related?

4. Glossary: autecology – аутэкология; biodiversity – биоәртүрлілік, биоразнообразие; biosphere – биосфера; cell – клетка; community – топтану, сообщество; cytoplasm – цитоплазма; demecology –демэкология; ecosystem – экожүйесі, экосистема; environment – қоршаған орта, окружающая среда; multicellular – көпклеткалық, многоклеточный; organelle – органелла; pollution – ластану, загрязнение; population – популяция; sustainable – тұрақты, устойчивый; synecology – синекология.

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