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Ecology and Biodiversity

In broad terms, Ecology is the scientific study of how organisms interact with each other and with their environment. Aquatic ecology includes the study of these relationships in all aquatic environments, including oceans, estuaries, lakes, ponds, wetlands, rivers, and streams.

Ecology is a complex study even at small scales and for this reason, the Limpopo River Awareness Kit will focus mainly on one type of ecosystem -the aquatic ecosystem- and the organisms found within this system.

The physical characteristics of aquatic habitats affect both the type and variety of organisms (biodiversity) found. Organisms in a particular environment are directly affected by its characteristics, such as nutrient concentrations, temperature, water flow, and shelter. Only those best adapted to these conditions, and best able to use the available resources, will thrive. Interactions between organisms also matter, as predation and competition for resources (e.g., food, habitat) affect species abundance and diversity. In turn, the organisms in an environment can influence some aspects of their environment.

Understanding aquatic ecosystems and the interaction between organisms and their environment can help manage human effects better. Key topics that will be discussed in this section include:

Chapter Summary

This chapter covers the following concepts and material:

  • The principles of aquatic ecology and the aquatic ecosystems of the Limpopo River basin
  • The importance and functions of wetlands and their distribution in the Limpopo River basin
  • The ecoregions of southern Africa that fall within the Limpopo River basin
  • Endemic and invasive species and the threats that invasive species pose to the ecosystems of the Limpopo River basin
  • The principles laid out in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the nature and importance of ecosystem goods and services
The Mashatu Tree, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana.
Source: Hatfield 2010
( click to enlarge )