Ecology is an excellent topic for a heated dispute today. Giving rise to numerous discussions, the environment is of great interest to everyone living on this planet. It means you won’t have any difficulties choosing a topic for an ecology essay.
Check out topics in different subfields of ecology below. 10 categories, 130+ topics!
Are you ready? Let’s go!
🔥 Hottest Ecology Topics for 2021
Here, you can find a hand-picked list of the most relevant topics in ecology worthy of your attention. Those questions have emerged over the last few years but still require close attention.
- The correlation between the expansion of Sweden’s economy and a carbon tax implemented in 1995.
- Greenhouse gas emissions issue: how can the most developed countries create technologies that emit less if they have to emit more to reach that level?
- Food insecurity and waste: food waste in the US where over a half of fruits and vegetables are thrown away due to unpresentable looks.
- How does the destruction of natural habitats by humans affect the rates of the sixth mass extinction?
- The main reasons why less than ten percent of plastic ever produced is being recycled.
- The most recent and useful technology concepts that can help decrease the amount of microplastic found in the oceans.
- How can the means of decreasing the deforestation levels used in Indonesia be implemented in other countries?
- How much do dust storms contribute to the high numbers of deaths related to outdoor air pollution in Europe?
- The results of the studies about the correlation between air pollution and the risks of mortalities related to COVID-19.
- How much freshwater is used to grow enough meat for one hamburger, and how sustainable is it?
- How soon will people start consuming lab-grown meat, and what will be its impact on the environment?
- Catastrophic events caused by increased greenhouse gas emissions and rising temperature: bushfire season in Australia went wrong.
- Promising renewable energy projects that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stop global warming.
- Future migration of the population living in the coastal areas due to sea-level rise and strain of resources.
- What are the predictions related to the melting of Greenland ice sheets and their effects on the world?
- The harm of fertilizers used on soil on contaminating fresh drinking water and the preventive measures.
- Food and water insecurity: what are the long-term effects of tilling the soil’s structure and fertility in the US?
- What are the main strategies regarding the food systems in Europe that aim to cope with the increasing food demand?
- How soon will we run out of freshwater, and what measures do we need to undertake to prevent it?
- Food and water insecurity: overfishing as a minor but still traceable environmental issue that needs attention.
However, you probably would like to study some more specific issues in detail. We have selected a wide range of ecology subfields that you might be interested in. You just need to look through all the ecology essay topics in the lists and pick one!
Don’t forget that you can alter the topics as you wish.
🗂️ Taxonomic Ecology Research Topics
Taxonomy is the study aiming to classify all living and extinct organisms. That’s a lot, right?! However, there are particular methods in this field to make the process easier. The systems of botany and zoology divide all organisms into groups, which forms hierarchies. Moreover, there are internationally accepted systems, such as binominal nomenclature. Each of the living and dead bodies has its place in this system.
- Historical analysis: what was the role of classifying medicinal plants in China in the later hydrological studies?
It is not a surprise to the experts that creating catalogs goes back to ancient China. The main focus was on the most useful plants since they were used for medical purposes. However, it appears that such an approach also allowed some further hydrological studies.
- How did Carolus Linnaeus develop his classification system known as nomenclature, and how is it different from Aristotle’s approach?
If you look back to Aristotle’s attempts to classify all living organisms and compare them to the Linnaeus system, you can see that there is a catch. Linnaeus binomial nomenclature was a result of quite a few failures. Therefore, your main task for this essay would be to try and find out how the founder of modern taxonomy worked.
- What are the main reasons that so many living organisms and their groups are still not identified and poorly studied?
It may be hard to believe, but the vast majority of living things are not studied thoroughly. To make it more shocking, even more of them are not classified yet! As a specialist who wishes to do research or write a paper on taxonomy, your task will be to determine the main reasons for such occurrences.
- Suggesting the course of specimen’s evolution: how successful usually the last step of the taxonomical method is?
Modern taxonomical methods consist of several simple steps. It all begins with finding a specimen and then comparing it to the existing ones. The purpose is to find a suitable place for it in nomenclature. You need to see what of the available evidence helps identify the course of evolution and how accurate it usually is.
- What are the reasons to believe that numerical taxonomy would be more effective and what may be the difficulties while using it?
Some ecologists have a faith that numerical taxonomy can be somehow more effective. For this essay, you should be able to recognize the reasons they have for such claims. However, no method is perfect. There are a lot of contradictions around this one.
- How different is the code for cultivated plants from the rest of them, and why it had to be established separately?
- The differences between collecting and preserving techniques of two groups of organisms of your choice and difficulties of their observation.
- Why do some taxonomy and genetics specialists say that each organism can only be classified if its genotype is available?
- Classifying fossils: what appears to be the main issues if little is known about a fossil, and how does it result in phenetic classification?
- The most effective ways to classify viruses as the organisms whose evolution and ancestral forms cannot be identified correctly.
⛏️ Applied Ecology
Applied ecology, like any other applied discipline, uses knowledge to address real problems. These problems are not necessarily only ecological but rather combine aspects of different fields.
Applied Ecology Research Topics
Unlike some of the more theoretical subfields of ecology, applied ecology is where all the action happens. It studies how the newest ecological findings can be used for real-world issues.
It appears that this area of research is also closely related to conservation ecology. Besides, applied ecology focuses on habitat and agroecosystem management, restoration ecology, and ecosystem restoration.
This field is worth digging into, so we prepared some of the most interesting ecology topics in this section!
- How much attention should be brought to the non-consumptive use of biota such as tourism in applied ecology? Applied ecology does not only focus on managing the natural resources that we need for survival. As humans, we use a lot of biota for recreational reasons. What is the perspective of applied ecology on such a use? Your task is to engage in the discussion on this topic!
- What is the role of explicit timescales in applied ecology, and how are the management decisions are made under the pressure of time? Everyone knows that time is money. However, sometimes, much more important things depend on the time available. In applied ecology, specific time frames affect a lot of decisions and options. If you decide to choose this topic, you would need to focus on the issues that arise whenever there are strict time frames
- Landscape-scale: how does the perspective change the methods used in applied ecology, and what is the use of large-scale view? It appears that a lot of things vary depending on the perspective. Applied ecology is not an exception. For example, when the specialists deal with forestry, they need to consider this aspect. In this case, many management issues are related to the processes found in relatively large areas.
- Historical analysis: where did the concept of carrying capacity originate from, and what does it have to do with cattle production on rangeland? This term is used in both basic and applied ecology and means the maximum population size that a particular environment manages to sustain. Many other definitions might highlight quite different aspects. However, your main task for this topic would be to look into the origins of this term in applied ecology
- The importance of studying the long-term environmental changes as they influence the higher levels of biological organization. By now, you can probably see how many vital issues applied ecology has to deal with daily. The topic of environmental changes is one of them. However, you might want to narrow it down and choose a specific species to consider. Moreover, if you need a more complex research topic, pick a particular environmental change.
- Limited information as one of the main challenges in applied ecology when making effective management decisions.
- How useful are diatoms as the tools for exploring and interpreting applied ecology problems, and how are they used?
- Waterfowls’ role in wetland habitats as the means of wetland restoration designs that can also benefit multiple other species.
- A case study of the impact of specific pollutants that affect pollinator activity in road verges and how it concerns other species.
Conservation Ecology Topics for Research
This branch of ecology had only recently started developing but already found some useful applications in the field. Conservation ecology deals with the means of preservation of biodiversity and natural resources.
You may have heard about the current sixth extinction. Well, conservation ecology is one of the ways humanity uses to slow it down. This field uses other disciplines such as biogeography, environmental ethics, and even genetics. If you want to work with some of the most critical topics in ecology, check out the list below!
- What agricultural practices have been presented as climate-smart but do not meet the requirements for helping climate change issues? Climate-smart agriculture techniques have been used in conservation ecology for a while now. The primary efforts are focused on supporting farmers by increasing productivity while reducing greenhouse gases and adapting to climate change. However, recently some of the climate-smart solutions that do not address those issues have been claimed to do so.
- The influence of positive and negative framing in the campaigns that encourage people to support conservation ecology projects. When people tune in to the news about the ecological situation regarding biodiversity, all they hear is negativity. The predictions are quite discouraging since we are doomed to lose so many species, and the rates of extinction are increasing. However, what if the perspective was on the brighter side? Some organizations focus on the positive future that we can achieve by taking action right now.
- What tools are used in marine protected areas to support sustainable use of that environment and the role of marine spatial planning in it? People do not usually associate marine spatial planning with the protected areas. However, this method helps analyze the marine space and inform the responsible divisions. It also appears that the areas that are vital for conservation reasons come as some of the most common data layers within the marine plans.
- The conflict between the new and old approaches to conservational ecology and its effect on other academic disciplines. The specialists and supporters of conservation to protect nature have been divided into two groups. It seems like the new conservationists see this field as more adjustable and ready for changes. Simultaneously, the traditional values supporters prefer to stick to their established methods of managing ecosystems.
- What methods can conservational ecology use to determine when and why a specific ecosystem reaches a critical resilience threshold? Ecosystems are adaptive structures, and they can bounce back after the disturbances and regain their functions. However, human activities cause ecosystems to become more vulnerable. The resilience is getting worse due to environmental thresholds such as biodiversity decrease and climate change. In your essay, you should study this question in detail.
- From the perspective of conservational ecology, is it more important to focus on maintaining the evolutionary capacity or preserving current levels of diversity?
- Changes in animal responses to climate and natural disturbances should now be considered normal and regular events during conservation projects.
- What is the importance of thiamine and its availability to protect and conserve some species in the northern hemisphere?
- The genetic pesticide control approach and the potential threats it may bring on the nontarget species.
- Laser beams as the innovation aimed to help catch ocean fish and the issues with the speed of fish replenishing their populations.
Functional Ecology Topics
Functional ecology studies how ecosystems function. However, it is not the whole truth. The thing is that this subfield focuses on how different species influence the environment they inhabit. Special attention is brought to their natural traits. For example, the specialists would study how some plants’ defense mechanisms alter the way their ecosystems operate.
- The significance of Charles Darwin’s works considering the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem health for modern functional ecology. Even though this topic has some historical hint to it, you would be mainly working on linking Charles Darwin’s works with the study of functional ecology how we know it today. Try to find some of his writings that directly connect to this issue and pick the main one. For example, On the Origin of Species might be a great start!
- Case study: what are the reasons why, in some situations, diversity shows an adverse effect and slows down ecological productivity? In general, biodiversity is a good thing. It positively impacts the productivity of an ecosystem. Not only it regulates the most effective and efficient exchange of energy and matter, but it also helps produce extra resources useful for humans. However, nothing is perfect. Sometimes, it happens that diversity causes more issues than brings profits.
- What are the benefits and potential threats of implying complex functional diversity models in larger scales in functional ecology? It seems like most of those models are usually applied on small scales. However, it is suggested that more functional groups of a particular species can positively affect the ecosystem functions. On the other hand, it is the idea that has some limitations. Your task would be to analyze those potential issues that may or may not occur.
- How does functional ecology help in species detection and classification, and how is it different from other approaches? When the specialists try to detect a species, they measure and analyze its unique traits. However, the likelihood of a minor mistake is always there due to the limitation of such data. Therefore, some other approaches should be used instead of or in combination during such research. Functional ecology is a great help in this case.
- Functional ecology and de-extinction: what aspects do researchers consider while planning on reintroducing an extinct species into an ecosystem? The science of de-extinction is very delicate. A full functional analysis needs to be performed before placing a species into the ecosystem that previously assisted in its extinction — no wonder the specialists need to include many aspects into such research. Your task for this topic is to look into them.
- Functional Ecology: the importance and applications of the understanding of ecosystems with the help of functional diversity.
- What are the benefits and disadvantages of using screening and empiricism to study the species traits in functional ecology?
- Functional ecology as the field at the crossroads of genetics, ecology, and evolutionary biology and the combination of the features those disciplines provide.
- Functional ecology in nitrogen-limited grassland: how are plant species traits analyzed to check resource production capacity?
- What is functional ecology in ecological preservation and restoration based on a chosen species considered ecosystem engineers?
🏜️🌊 Ecosystem Ecology
An ecosystem is a complex of living organisms. Ecosystem ecology studies not only the organisms themselves but also their physical environment. A significant focus of this subfield is all the interactions and dependencies that happen in a specific ecosystem.
Terrestrial Ecology Topics
The science of living organisms deals with massive areas. Terrestrial ecology is all about ecosystems based on land.
For example, a desert and a rainforest are in the focus of its study. However, terrestrial ecology covers a lot more details than you might expect. The experts look into all the living organisms in the chosen area, their interactions, and their role in the cycles.
- The effects of extensive farming that led to the destruction of the vast majority of prairie grasslands in North America in the twentieth century.
- Tall trees: how soon will all redwoods die out, and what would be the leading causes of their extinction?
- Plant-herbivore and plant-plant interactions in trait-mediated ecology and their effects on a plant community structure in the Amazon rainforest.
- The correlation between the railroad construction in the Amazon rainforest and climate change regarding the carbon sink status.
- What are the leading natural and human-made causes of the floodplains’ build-up in land elevation, and how is this process explained?
- How are humans utilizing the cloud forest ecosystems, and what are the potential dangers that lead them to be endangered?
- What are the pros and cons of building a road on the edge of the Amazon River from the perspective of survival of the great mahogany trees?
- The most effective way to protect the Amazon rainforest from the dangers of the construction of oil and gas blocks.
- Terrestrial ecology marvels: how does the unique location and variations in elevation help the Madrean Archipelago stay biologically rich?
- Deciduous trees in the cold northern taiga’s harsh area: what helps the larch survive extreme temperatures?
- The use of studying plastic waste that ends up in the US’s terrestrial environments and the application of the results.
- The negative influence of the rising temperatures and delayed snowmelt on sub-Arctic plants’ vegetative phenology, and ways to prevent them.
Aquatic Ecology Topics
This sub-field is a counterpart of the terrestrial ecology.
Aquatic ecology is the study of ecosystems located in the different kinds of water. It focuses on the interactions of all the living organisms found in the bodies of water.
Besides, aquatic ecology also considers the effects of temperature, oxygen, and nutrient concentration as the factors that directly affect the habitat. We would not be surprised if this section appears to contain some of the most interesting ecology topics!
- Climate change in developing countries: the cost-effective tools aimed to help sustain freshwater ecosystem services as a replacement for standard conservation efforts.
- The case study comparing biodiversity in tropical and boreal streams with the intent to identify the differences in the patterns of beta diversity.
- How aquatic biota reacts to drivers while taking into consideration local scale variables and large-scale climatic ones.
- How reliable can the bioindicators in freshwaters be, and what are the main environmental quality disruptors that can affect them?
- The case study of the Baltic Sea area: diatom functional biogeography from a trait-based approach.
- The arctic pond ecosystem diversity assessment and the main aspects influencing it, such as climate and catchment.
- A research of the aquatic invertebrate digestion that gets helps from gut microbes and develops resistance to toxins related to gut fauna.
- Water pollution: movement of genes and degradation of the compounds from rare species into more common ones in lakes with organic toxins.
- The examples of trade-offs that may be involved in guarding native species in regulated rivers by trying to copy natural water discharge patterns.
- The main differences between fluxes and compartments in water cycles, and the kinds of units often used to describe them.
- A case study of conservation of aquatic resources in the US and its dangers from the economic perspective.
- What organisms may be responsible for the unwanted methane production found in anoxic sediments in most aquatic habitats?
Microbial Ecology Research Topics
Even the tiniest living organisms influence our planet. Microbial ecology looks into microorganisms’ processes and how their communities colonize abiotic surfaces.
Moreover, it is fascinating to learn how they interact with each other in that environment. The study of microbial ecology is quite broad. It covers micro-flora in animal and human guts, prokaryotes and eukaryotes with complex yet exciting relationships, and even genotypically complicated biofilms. Find out what other ecological topics you can study in this field!
- What is the connection between antibiotics used by humans for medicinal properties and microbial communities in soil and freshwater?
- Microbial species distributed regarding climate alternations and their influence on human health and food security.
- Microbial diversity: how much did we lose due to the effects of monoculture, and why this issue is so essential for our future?
- Agriculture and microbial ecology: the adverse long-term effects of agrochemicals and antibiotic usage on microbial communities’ farming.
- What are the potential ways that the microbiomes found in wildlife and can be used for health enhancements and disease treatments?
- The network theory and its potential applications in the prediction and management of infections in animals and plants.
- Microbial ecology: the importance of the internalization of bacterial pathogens with the help of protozoa regarding their survival and spread rates?
- Microbial ecology and hosts: what evolutionary changes in microbiomes can help hosts adapt to environmental change while the host is alive?
- A case study: what is the potential use of the associated microbiota for the effective risk assessments related to invasive non-native species?
- Climate change and microbial ecology: the cascading effects of ocean acidification, rising sea levels, and temperature on microbial diversity and its function?
- Manipulation of microbial succession as an effective way of repopulating soils with poor species diversity by flora and fauna.
- What is functional redundancy, and how is it represented in microbial communities regarding its effects on diversity and niche overlap measures?
- What are the ecological rules and principles of microbial communities’ structure, and do they follow the same ones found in other organizations?
- The benefits of creating an open-access database or integrating the existing ones as a centralized way for data sharing in microbial ecology.
Population Ecology Topics
As we all know population can either grow or decrease. The study that deals with the levels of species populations is called populational ecology.
It tries to explain how they interact with the environment. One of this sub-field aims is to track and examine such aspects of population rates as birth and death and migration processes. The dynamics of species are constantly changing in different areas, and it is essential to track and analyze them. Dive into this study!
- The importance of plant populations for conservation biology: the most effective ways to study the functioning for future conservation plans.
- What is the correlation between dispersal and population ecology aspects such as habitat quality, connectivity of local populations, and population regulations?
- The effect of sampling short and long distances and its frequency on the quality of capture-recapture data used for dispersal estimation.
- Density dependence: competition for resources between multiple organizations that occupied the niche as a determining and obligatory force for survival.
- What forces influence specific plants’ fecundity, and how is it related to the fitness of different population variants?
- Why do populations that delay reproduction tend to have better surfing chances than those that try to leave offspring early?
- The main reasons for high mortality throughout the first year of life and lower rates in the following years among passerine birds.
- What rates do population ecologists use to analyze population growth and estimate the possible effects of conservation on endangered species?
- Except for food availability and predation, what other environmental factors influence geometric and exponential growths of populations?
- A case study: observe a link between the regularity of fluctuations in population size and specific predators’ activities.
- How much can populations of weeds and pests expand with their enemies’ absence after being released in the new environment?
🐛 Organismal Ecology
Organismal ecology focuses on specific individual organisms and, more importantly, their interactions with the physical environment. Researchers of this field study how particular organisms interact with each other and change their behavior over time.
Evolutionary Ecology Topics for Research
Evolutionary ecology looks into how species evolve and adapt to environmental changes. Mainly it focuses on predators, prey, and mutualists.
Evolution studies how species change genetically over generations but rarely attempts to question the underlying mechanisms. Evolutionary ecology is what aims to find those answers. Therefore, if you’re fascinated by how prey adapts to avoid death from predators, this section is for you! Find some of the finest topics in ecology below.
- Climate change and evolutionary ecology: the harmful effects of too high temperatures in deserts on male and female ostrich fertility.
- Risk management in evolutionary ecology: What adaptations have female sea turtles made to prevent large clutch losses?
- What may be the role of a tsunami in promoting a gene flow and improving genetic diversity regarding endangered plant species?
- The impact of humans frequently feeding wild birds on their transition to urbanized environments and its effect on population size.
- A study of marine invertebrates and resilience: does protecting their offspring increase their chances to overcome ocean acidification?
- The first northwest Chinese farmers exploiting grain-fed pheasants and the effects of such management practices on animals’ domestication.
- Coexisting cryptic species: the study of evolutionary ecology forces that play a role in coexistence and coevolution of the fig and pollinator.
- Dietary plasticity: what kinds of competitive pressures may have caused the signs of dental caries to appear in the fossils of an extinct bear?
- Fruit flies and predator-specific responses to olfactory cues: what are the costs imposed on general activity and reproductive behavior?
- Incomplete dominance on an amphibian model example: what are the best ways to study the genetically determined tolerance?
- What may be the phylogenetic implications of crocodilians’ response: skin color alterations regarding environmental color conditions?
- Climate change and evolutionary ecology: the case of adaptive evolution of a sexually selected trait in a specific wild bird.
Behavioral Ecology Topics for Research
This sub-field of ecology might seem hard to understand. However, we always know how to make things easier!
Behavioral ecology studies how organisms interact with each other and the environment. In most cases, it concerns evolutional processes. Long story short, if you choose this area, you will be analyzing how species cooperate and compete with each other.
- What pattern does the chosen species follow to transmit vital information and navigate and respond to environmental variables effectively?
- The differences between the males’ mating strategies within a chosen species and the effects on their chances of producing offspring.
- The main reasons why the life cycles of migratory birds’ species are greatly affected by the cycles of habitats they choose as targets.
- Why are fluctuating resources exploited more efficiently while species migrate between trophic levels to look for food and better breeding environments?
- Studying animal neural processes and communication: what is the importance of such traits as participation in cooperative activities within animal groups?
- What are the main reasons for animals to make signals and attract the attention of the direct members of their species and share the food source?
- The correlation between the choice of parenting style and population: the example of invertebrates that have no parental care and produce many eggs.
- What motivates cuckoos to be such an aggressive parasite since they eject all the hatchlings out of the nest?
- Infanticide among male lions: how to prove the theory that killing the cubs in the new pride helps females start reproducing faster?
- Economic dependability as the central aspect of behavioral ecology: the imbalance in the costs and benefits as the cause of territorial behavior.
- Desertion as the main parental care pattern in most birds: how much do population and environmental factors influence desertion rates?
- What are the examples of highly altruistic behavior in the animal species of your choice that increases their fitness levels?
- Foraging as the most common technique to find food: the correlation between the efficiency of social foraging and ‘intelligence’ in animals.
🕵️ BONUS: Interesting Ecology Topics Resources
In case you cannot find anything that catches your attention, there are other sources of inspiration. The best ideas usually come from the themed magazines and scientific journals. They have fresh materials to help you navigate and check the most recent discoveries on your interest topic.
- Nature ecology & evolution
- Collection of Top 100 Most Downloaded Ecology Topics; nature. com
- ScienceDaily; Ecology News
- TheScientist; Ecology & Environment
- World Wide Fund for Nature
- The Ecologist
- Earth Magazine
- The Environmental Magazine
- Discover Magazine
- Mother Earth News
Wow! You are a hero if you read all topics.
Hopefully, you were not scared with the complicated language of some of them.
Did you manage to find your theme? Or did you get inspired for writing?
Anyway, this was a helpful paper, offering multiple ways to explore ecology and its wide variety of questions.
That’s it, dear friends.
Good luck with all your writings 😊