After reading this article you will learn about:- 1. Definition of Community 2. Concept of Community 3. Structure 4. Dynamics.
Definition of Community:
By definition, community represents the population of all species living and interacting in an area at a particular time. Population can, within limits, adapt to changes in environmental conditions. The major driving force of adaptation to environmental changes is believed by most biologists to be biological evolution, the change in a population’s genetic make up through successive generation.
Concept of Community:
A group of organisms constitute population. Each population has characteristics like natality, mortality, age structure, growth dynamics and so on. But when several populations share a common habitat and its resources, they interact among themselves and develop into a biotic community or simply, a community.
Microorganisms, plants and animals populations sharing a common habitat and interacting among themselves develop into biotic communities. The composition of a biotic community in any habitat is dependent upon the prevalence of environmental conditions in that habitat and the ecological amplitude of species populations.
Thus the climate and other abiotic as well as biotic conditions of a habitat determine the type of community which survives and develops. The organisms of a community usually exhibit trophic (feeding) relationships among themselves. They also interact in sharing the space and there may be interactions at a reproductive and behavioural level.
Each biotic community exhibits a number of characteristics, such as diversity, density, dominance, composition and stratification. Each community has its special limit. Sometimes the boundary between two communities may be very sharp or gradual.
The transitional zone or junction between two or more diverse communities is called “eco-tone”. The eco-tone harbours a community termed eco-tonal community with organisms of overlapping communities and some of unique types.
Structure of Community:
Communities may be small, consisting of few species populations in a small space, or large, comprising several species populations in a large area. The community structures, composition and other characteristics can be readily described by visual observation without actual measurement.
This is a qualitative approach which is easier than the quantitative population analysis where measurements are actually made. Communities usually categories by the ecologists in various ways primarily based of habitat features like water availability, high exposure, or other habitat features.
For instance, depending on the amount of water availability, plant communities may be hydrophytic (aquatic habitats), mesophytic (moderately moist soil habitat) and xerophytic (dry or arid habitat).
Similarly communities growing on conditions of abundant light are called heliophytic and those growing in shade sciophytic. Identically communities growing on various habitats designated as desert communities, mountain communities and estuarine communities and so on.
In general, a community is dynamic since it changes over time. This dynamic nature is reflected in the succession of organisms in a habitat. A series of changes results in the development of a relatively stable community, which maintains its structure and influences the climate of the area.
Such a stable and mature community is called a climax community, while communities of successional stages are called seral communities. The plant community structures, composition and other characterizes can be described in both qualitative or quantitative means.
Communities are dynamic systems constantly interacting with another system, the environment, which is equally dynamic. The community charges are gradual and imperceptible at any time but easily recognisable if observed at regular intervals over a long period of time. Seasonal changes in plant communities always occur at every place, particularly in areas where temperature variation is significant.
However, in course of very long period of time at many places the communities have reached a peak stage and attained a dynamic balance with the environmental changes. The process of change in communities and their environment at one place in the course of time is called “ecological succession”.