Updated: Apr 24, 2020
Depending on where you live, there’s a good chance you see something like this when you step outside your front door. After all, the human population is steadily increasing and more and more land is used for housing. Even if you have heard your neighborhood being referred to as a community, by the ecological definition, all of your human neighbors are actually part of a population.
· A population is a group of organisms belonging to the same species that live in the same area and interact with one another.
· A community is all of the populations of different species that live in the same area and interact with one another. A community is composed of all of the biotic (living) factors that share an area.
In this housing tract, the existing human population is growing as the new homes are built across the way. They all exist as a part of the same community, even if it is not always obvious.
Spend a few moments observing, and it becomes clear that a rather diverse group of organisms share this habitat with the people who reside there.
This small patch of seemingly sparse vegetation is rich with animals. You might see a pair of cautious squirrels or a few grazing rabbits, ever alert to their surroundings.
Birds are a common sight. Such as this male Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus):
Or this beautiful Say's Phoebe (Sayornis saya):
These are among the community's primary and secondary consumers, in that their diet consists of plants and small herbivores like insects.
The plants themselves are the primary producers, and while they are often overlooked, they are abundant and significant to overall community health.
Don't be afraid to get even closer.
Nothing in nature is without its role, and even the smallest and least assuming species around you influences its environment by occupying a specific niche or "job" in the ecosystem.
Flip over a stone (be sure to put it back where you found it) and you might uncover an amazing insect and its larval parasitoid prey!
Moss can serve as a vital habitat and food source for tiny organisms, as well as providing ground cover to reduce water loss from the underlying soil.
Lichens are an amazing example of plant and fungal symbiosis.
And even the humble house fly is not without its charms.
People impacts the environment in a dramatic way, but there is wildlife all around. No matter where you are, take a few minutes to appreciate your surroundings.
You might be surprised by what you can find!