March 05, 2012

#03-017: Habitats and Ecology

lush plants growing on a tree trunk with vines hanging around it; a tropical rainforest
A rainforest

Note: Ecology is much more than just recycling cans and bottles; it's the study of the relationships of living organisms to their habitats.

Get Ready: What kind of habitat do you live in (or near)? Mountains? Seashore? Something else?

Antonio is chatting with his classmate Akemi in the Common Room of their dorm.

Antonio: Hi, Akemi. Got a minute?

Akemi: Of course!

Antonio: Dr. Kupper was talking about something in bio class that I didn't quite get.

Akemi: Oh? What was that?

Antonio: Something about "habitats"?

Akemi: Ah, studying ecology, huh?

Antonio: Yeah. I was really surprised! I thought "ecology" meant recycling and stuff.

Akemi: Well, that's an application of the idea. But in science, "ecology" is the study of relationships between plants and animals and their environments. Recycling and limiting our use of resources helps us keep ecological systems from being damaged.

Antonio: Right. Kupper said something about eco- meaning "house"?

Akemi: Yeah, it's from the Greek word for house, so ecology literally means "study of the house." And economics, by the way, means "the study of the laws of the house."

Antonio: Interesting! So how does "habitat" relate to all this?

Akemi: Well, a particular organism's habitat is the environment most suitable for it to live in.

Antonio: "Organism"?

Akemi: Ummm, plant or animal.

Antonio: Got it. So, for example, water is the right habitat for fish.

Akemi: Simply put, yes. But it's more complex than that. For example, salt-water fish couldn't live in a freshwater lake. Fish who live near the surface of the ocean couldn't live in its depths. And so on.

Antonio: I see. How many habitats are there?

Akemi: Again, it's not that simple. I could say there are "water habitat," "desert habitat," "forest habitat," "underground habitat," and so on.

Antonio: But?

Akemi: But as we've seen, not all fish would be comfortable in all "water habitats."

Antonio: Uh-huh...

Akemi: You're not getting this. Let me see... OK, take for example a forest habitat, like in the northern US or Canada. What animals live there?

Antonio: Uh... bears?

Akemi: Good choice. So take a big, furry grizzly bear or brown bear and stick them in a rainforest in the tropics. Would they be happy?

Antonio: No way! It'd be too hot for them.

Akemi: Right. And even in the rainforest, some critters dwell on the floor, some up in the canopy, and so on.

Antonio: So, to each his own?

Akemi: Right. You know, speaking of that, Tony, I've seen the room you share with Mark. I couldn't live there!

Antonio: Ooo, low blow!

Akemi: Just kidding.

Antonio: Anyway, thanks for the help.

Akemi: My pleasure.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. Anyway...
  2. bio
  3. canopy
  4. complex
  5. critters
  6. ecology
  7. economics
  8. floor
  9. Got a minute?
  10. low blow
  11. No way!
  12. organism
  13. recycling and stuff
  14. resources
  15. to each his own

  1. not simple
  2. food, water, air, etc.
  3. an unkind or unfair remark
  4. the study of the relationships between plants, animals, and their environments
  5. the tree covering at the top of a forest
  6. a proverb meaning "everyone is different"
  7. a living thing
  8. the ecology movement uses a slogan: "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle"
  9. short for "biology," or life science
  10. strong denial
  11. the ground in a forest
  12. the study of the production and use of wealth
  13. means that Antonio is thankful, even though Akemi insulted his tidiness
  14. slang for "creatures," or animals
  15. a way to ask if someone is busy

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for March 5, 2012

This lesson received 191 visits on my old site between March, 2012, and July, 2021.

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. m; 2. i; 3. e; 4. a; 5. n; 6. d; 7. l; 8. k; 9. o; 10. c; 11. j; 12. g; 13. h; 14. b; 15. f