Stream Ecology

John S. Richardson

in Ecology

ISBN: 9780199830060
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:
Stream Ecology

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  • Applied Ecology (Environmental Science)
  • Ecology and Conservation
  • Plant Ecology
  • Zoology and Animal Sciences


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Ecology is the scientific study of the interactions between organisms and their environment (including other organisms); therefore, stream ecology encompasses the full field of ecology using flowing waters as the system of study. A stream is the broad term applied to running waters of all sorts; streams may also be named rivers, creeks, brooks, etc., according to the size of the stream. The subdisciplines of stream ecology include all processes from evolutionary ecology to ecosystem and global scales. Stream ecology also includes the study of how energy and nutrients move through flowing, freshwater ecosystems and are captured by organisms directly from the environment (plants) or through their food (animals, fungi, bacteria, and protists). Stream ecologists also study how different organisms interact with each other to understand the interconnections and impacts, such as how the numbers and sizes of each species are influenced by its prey, its competitors and predators, and even diseases. All of this study allows us to predict how changes to the environment or abundances of species may affect the biological diversity, productivity, and stability of freshwater ecosystems. This gives us the ability to manage wisely and to know how to protect these important ecosystems. Particular features of streams create different challenges and solutions for life in a moving environment that give additional insights into ecological processes and their controls. Stream ecology is allied with limnology and is considered a component of limnology by some; however, limnology strictly means the “study of lakes.” Although many of the same ecological research themes are present in lakes and streams, this article distinguishes between these two subdisciplines of freshwater biology and focuses on streams. Some authors will refer to lotic ecology, or lotic ecosystems, in which “lotic” refers to flowing water, in contrast to “lentic,” or still-water ecosystems such as lakes and wetlands. Stream ecology also includes stream biogeochemistry and is linked closely to physical sciences such as hydrology and fluvial geomorphology.

Article.  14324 words. 

Subjects: Applied Ecology (Environmental Science) ; Ecology and Conservation ; Plant Ecology ; Zoology and Animal Sciences

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