Although the field of ecology was not named until 1866, ecological information and understanding have always been crucial to humans. Before the development of agriculture, about 10,000-12,000 years ago, our ancestors obtained all of their food by hunting animals and gathering plants, seeds, berries, and nuts. Their survival depended on practical knowledge about the environment. Although most humans today don't survive as hunter-gatherers, they interact with the environment and other organisms every day.
All organisms interact with other organisms in their surroundings and with the nonliving portion of their environment. Their survival depends on these interactions. Ecologists refer to this quality as interconnectedness or interdependence.
Interdependence is a key theme found throughout ecology. For example, you could not survive without the plants and other photosynthetic organisms that produce oxygen. Your cells need oxygen to release the energy in food, and cells will die if deprived of oxygen for even a few minutes. Conversely, photosynthetic organisms depend on the release of carbon dioxide gas by the cellular respiration of other organisms, such as humans, and geochemical processes, such as volcanic eruptions. Carbon dioxide gas is an essential raw material for making carbohydrates by photosynthesizers.
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