Orians, Gordon H. Department of Zoology, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.
Last reviewed:June 2018
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- Responses to environments
- Social systems
- Influences on environments
- Future outlook
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
The branch of ecology that considers the relations of individual persons and human communities with their particular environment. Human ecology is concerned with learning how the distributions and numbers of humans are determined by interactions with conspecific individuals (that is, members of the same species), with members of other species, and with the abiotic (nonliving) environment. Human ecology encompasses the responses of humans to the environment and the effects of humans on the environment (Fig. 1). The lineage leading to modern humans arose in Africa millions of years ago. The oldest fossil remains of members of the genus Homo are estimated to be about 2 million years old. The tools associated with human fossils, as well as cave paintings created by early humans, reveal the existence of culture. Cultural learning greatly facilitated the spread of domestic plants and animals and the development of pastoral and agricultural societies. Agriculture, in turn, led to an increasingly sedentary life, greatly expanded food supplies, the development of cities, and the rapid growth of the human population. Human ecology today is the combined result of humans' evolutionary nature and cultural developments. See also: Agriculture; Applied ecology; Biosphere; Ecological communities; Ecology; Ecosystem; Environment; Environmental management; Population ecology
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