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Levels of Organization in Ecology

The 6 Chief Levels of Organization in Ecology

Being well-versed with the different levels of organization in ecology is a basic requirement when it comes to environmental studies. In this Buzzle article, we will stress on these ecological levels and help you get a better understanding of this concept.
Abhijit Naik
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Ecology is the scientific study of relationship between living organisms and the environment. A sub-set of biology, it involves the study of various attributes of lifeforms, including their life process, distribution, adaptation, succession, movement, and role in energy transfer. While it is not associated with environmental science directly, various aspects of this discipline have a crucial role to play when it comes a strong base of environmental studies. Ecological organization is one such aspect of this discipline, which makes things simple by classifying the environment in different levels, starting from individual organism to the biosphere as a whole.
What Are the 6 Levels of Organization in Ecology?
Biological organization is a hierarchy of complex biological structures and systems, ranging from atoms at the lowest level to biosphere at the highest, which are used to define life by resorting to what is referred to as the reductionist approach. Ecological organization refers to the levels of biological organization which lie at the higher end of the hierarchy, ranging from individual organism to the biosphere. The other part of the biological organization includes the different levels of organization of living things, which range from individual cells to an organism.
Ecological Organization
1. At the lowest level of ecological organization, you find individual species of living organisms. Every single plant and animal species on the planet, right from microscopic bacteria and fungi to mammoth blue whale and Giant Sequoias, finds a place at this level of the ecological pyramid. The distribution of these species is governed by abiotic factors of the said region.

2. The second level of this pyramid comprises the population of individual species featuring in the first level. In this case, population refers to a group of species living together in a demarcated geographical area. For instance, a herd of wildebeests in African Savannah or coyotes in North American Prairies.

3. The third level of ecological pyramid comprises communities of different species which live together in a demarcated geographical area and interact with each other. This interaction between the members of these communities often revolves around the concept of predator-prey and symbiotic relationships.

4. At the next level of ecological organization lies the ecosystem, a biological environment comprising all the living organisms and non-living things (or abiotic factors such as air, soil, and water) in a particular region and the interaction between them. Though many people refer to these levels as the levels of organization in an ecosystem, it is technically incorrect as ecosystem in itself is one of the levels of ecological organization.

5. The fifth level of an ecological pyramid is that of a biome, a major biotic community which is typically characterized by dominant forms of vegetation and climatic conditions. Some of the most prominent biomes of the world include the desert biome, rainforest biome, Savannah biome, etc.

6. The last level of the ecological pyramid is the biosphere, which is made up of the Earth's surface and atmosphere. It is also known as the zone of life on Earth, owing to the fact that all lifeforms found on the planet coexist here. Simply put, it is the sum of all the ecosystems of this planet.
Though technically there are six levels of organization in ecology, there do exist some sources which only identify five levels, namely organism, population, communities, ecosystem, and biome; excluding biosphere from the list. With the amount of biodiversity that the planet boasts of, the idea of classifying environment into different levels surely comes handy in studying the environment.