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Ecophysiology or environmental physiology is a biological discipline which studies the adaptation of organism's physiology to environmental conditions. It is closely related to comparative physiology and evolutionary physiology.


Ecophysiology of plants

Plant ecophysiology is an experimental science that seeks to describe the physiological mechanisms underlying ecological observations. In other words, ecophysiologists, or physiological ecologists, address ecological questions about the controls over the growth, reproduction, survival, abundance, and geographical distribution of plants, as these processes are affected by interactions between plants with their physical, chemical, and biotic environment. These ecophysiological patterns and mechanisms can help us understand the functional significance of specific plant traits and their evolutionary heritage. The questions addressed by ecophysiologists are derived from a higher level of integration, i.e. from “ecology” in its broadest sense, including questions originating from agriculture, horticulture, forestry, and environmental sciences. However, the ecophysiological explanations often require mechanistic understanding at a lower level of integration (physiology, biochemistry, biophysics, molecular biology). It is, therefore, quintessential for an ecophysiologist to have an appreciation of both ecological questions and biophysical, biochemical, and molecular methods and processes. In addition, many societal issues, often pertaining to agriculture, environmental change, or nature conservation, benefit from an ecophysiological perspective. A modern ecophysiologist thus requires a good understanding of both the molecular aspects of plant processes and the functioning of the intact plant in its environmental context.

In many cases, animals are able to escape unfavourable and changing environmental factors such as heat, cold, drought, or floods, while generally plants are unable to move away and therefor must endure the adverse conditions or perish. Some plants have an impressive array of genes which aid in adapting to changing conditions. It is hypothesized that this large number of genes can be partly explained by plant species' need to adapt to a wider range of conditions.

Lambers, H., Chapin, F.S. III & Pons, T.L. 1998. Plant Physiological Ecology. Springer-Verlag, New York. (cited over 700 times); available in Chinese and Persian translations. 2nd completely revised edition to appear in 2008.

Ecophysiology of animals

George A. Bartholomew (1919-2006) was a founder of animal physiological ecology. He served on the faculty at UCLA from 1947 to 1989, and almost 1,200 individuals can trace their academic lineages to him [1]. Knut Schmidt-Nielsen (1915-2007) was also an important contributor to this specific scientific field as well as comparative physiology.

Further reading

  • Bennett, A. F.; C. Lowe (2005). "The academic genealogy of George A. Bartholomew". Integrative and Comparative Biology 45 (2): 231-233. ISSN 1540-7063.
  • Bradshaw, Sidney Donald (2003). Vertebrate ecophysiology: an introduction to its principles and applications. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, xi + 287 pp. ISBN 0-521-81797-8. 
  • Calow, P. (1987). Evolutionary physiological ecology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 239 pp. ISBN 0-521-32058-5. 
  • Lambers, H. (1998). Plant physiological ecology. New York: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 0-387-98326-0. 
  • Larcher, W. (2001). Physiological plant ecology, 4th, Springer. ISBN 3-540-43516-6. 
  • McNab, B. K. (2002). The physiological ecology of vertebrates: a view from energetics. Ithaca and London: Comstock Publishing Associates, xxvii + 576 pp. ISBN 0-8014-3913-2. 
  • Sibly, R. M.; and P. Calow (1986). Physiological ecology of animals: an evolutionary approach. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 179 pp. ISBN 0-632-01494-6. 
  • Spicer, J. I., and K. J. Gaston. 1999. Physiological diversity and its ecological implications. Blackwell Science, Oxford, U.K. x + 241 pp.
  • Tracy, C. R.; and J. S. Turner (1982). "What is physiological ecology?". Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America (Bull. Ecol. Soc. Am.) 63: 340-347. ISSN 0012-9623.. Definitions and Opinions by: G. A. Bartholomew, A. F. Bennett, W. D. Billings, B. F. Chabot, D. M. Gates, B. Heinrich, R. B. Huey, D. H. Janzen, J. R. King, P. A. McClure, B. K. McNab, P. C. Miller, P. S. Nobel, B. R. Strain.

See also


  1. ^ BartGen Tree
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Ecophysiology". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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