AskDefine | Define ecophysiology

Extensive Definition

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 800 times); available in Chinese and Persian translations. 2nd completely revised edition to appear in August 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 . Knut Schmidt-Nielsen (1915-2007) was also an important contributor to this specific scientific field as well as comparative physiology.
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Further reading

  • Vertebrate ecophysiology: an introduction to its principles and applications
  • Evolutionary physiological ecology
  • Plant physiological ecology
  • Physiological plant ecology
  • The physiological ecology of vertebrates: a view from energetics
  • Physiological ecology of animals: an evolutionary approach
  • Spicer, J. I., and K. J. Gaston. 1999. Physiological diversity and its ecological implications. Blackwell Science, Oxford, U.K. x + 241 pp.
  • . 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.


ecophysiology in German: Ökophysiologie
ecophysiology in Portuguese: Ecofisiologia
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