How to Write a Compare & Contrast Essay in Ecology: Detailed Guide

Writing guide
Posted on September 12, 2019

Currently, ecology has become one of the dominant interdisciplinary synthetic sciences that solves the pressing problem of our time – the study of the relationship of humankind with the environment. This is due, first of all, to the negative environmental consequences of the impact of anthropogenic factors on the Earth’s biosphere: the greenhouse effect, acid rain, depletion of the ‘ozone layer’, desertification, and environmental pollution with various toxins.

Modern ecology is not limited only to the framework of biological discipline, which treats the relationship mainly of animals and plants. It studies the complex problem of human interaction with the environment. The relevance and versatility of this problem, caused by the aggravation of the ecological situation on a global scale, has led to the “greening” of many natural, technical and humanitarian sciences.

Ecology has become integrated. Therefore, not only future ecologists but also students studying other disciplines as the main ones may receive the task of writing a compare and contrast essay on ecology. In this article, we talk about how to do this.

How to Pick Up Research Objects for Compare & Contrast Essay in Ecology

Depending on the theoretical and methodological prerequisites that determine the content of science, theoretical (general) and applied ecology are distinguished.

The first considers the general laws of animate and inanimate nature, the second, along with the laws of interaction of living organisms and the environment, consider the influence of a person on them in the chosen sphere of life – industrial, agricultural, transport, medical, social, etc.

Theoretical ecology studies the activity of living organisms at different levels of the organization, starting with a single individual (organism) and ending with communities.

In relation to the subjects of study, it is possible to highlight the ecology of man, animals, plants, and microorganisms. All these components rely on the general laws of the relationship between the biosphere and its individual components.

Depending on the environments and components of the study, scientists distinguish the ecology of water bodies, land, air, and other geographical units; ecology of the tropics, temperate, polar zones.

You can choose two objects for comparison within any of the subdisciplines of ecology. The main requirement is that the two objects are comparable. That is, it is impossible to compare the technogenic activity of a person with the activity of termites. The objects to be compared must belong to the same class.

In your essay, you will need to answer key questions after analyzing two objects or phenomena. They are determined by the objects of environmental research and include:

  • analysis of the physical, chemical and biological parameters of the functioning of natural systems of various levels up to global;
  • establishment of patterns of life organization in connection with the increasing anthropogenic impact on the natural environment;
  • research and comparison of environmental management and resource conservation issues.

Criteria for Comparison and Contrasting in an Essay on Ecology

Comparison of Environmental Conditions in Two Different Regions
The environmental situation can be classified by increasing the degree of an environmental disadvantage as follows:

  • relatively satisfactory;
  • tense;
  • critical;
  • crisis (or zone of environmental emergency);
  • catastrophic (or environmental disaster area).

The greatest interest for scientific comparison is represented by extreme degrees of an environmental hazard. Comparing them, you can use the following criteria from the table.

environmental disadvantage

  1. Deep irreversible changes should be considered in a relatively short historical period – not less than the life expectancy of one generation of people.
  2. A significant deterioration in public health is:
    • an increase in irreversible, life-incompatible health problems;
    • a change in the structure of the causes of death (oncological diseases, congenital malformations, fetal death) and the appearance of specific diseases caused by environmental pollution;
    • as well as a significant increase in the frequency of reversible health disorders (non-specific diseases, deviations in physical and neuropsychic development, disruption of the course and outcomes of pregnancy and childbirth, etc.) associated with environmental pollution.
  3. A threat to public health is an increase in the frequency of reversible health disorders (non-specific diseases, deviations in physical and neuropsychic development, disturbances or complications of the course and outcomes of pregnancy and childbirth, etc.) associated with environmental pollution.

Criteria for Comparing Changes in Habitat and Human Health in Two Different Regions

You can compare changes in the living environment, and as a result, population health in two different regions, according to the following criteria:

  • Air pollution;
  • Pollution of drinking water and drinking and recreational sources;
  • Soil pollution in residential areas (chemical, biological, radioactive);
  • Ionizing radiation.

The health status of the population in two different regions is assessed in conjunction with the criteria and indicators of environmental pollution: atmospheric air, water, and soil.

The main medical and demographic indicators include morbidity, infant mortality, medical and genetic disorders, specific and oncological diseases associated with environmental pollution.
Medical and demographic indicators for ecologically unfavorable territories are compared with similar indicators of other territories in the same climatic and geographical zones. As such alternative territories, it is possible to choose the settlements or separate parts on which the most favorable values of medical and demographic indicators are recorded.

How to Compare Environmental Factors

Any organism in nature experiences the effects of a wide variety of environmental components. Any properties or components of the environment that affect organisms are called environmental factors.

In order to compare environmental factors, they must be classified. Environmental factors (environmental factors) are diverse, have different nature and specificity of action. The following groups of environmental factors are distinguished:

  1. Abiotic (factors of inanimate nature):
    • climatic – lighting conditions, temperature conditions, etc .;
    • edaphic (local) – water supply, soil type, topography;
    • orographic – air (wind) and water currents.
  2. Biotic factors are all forms of the impact of living organisms on each other:
    Plants ↔ Plants. Plants ↔Animals. Plants ↔ Mushrooms. Plants ↔ Microorganisms. Animals ↔ Animals. Animals ↔ Mushrooms. Animals ↔ Microorganisms. Mushrooms ↔Mushrooms. Fungi ↔Microorganisms. Microorganisms ↔Microorganisms.
  3. Anthropogenic factors are all forms of human society that lead to changes in the environment of other species or directly affect their lives. The impact of this group of environmental factors is growing rapidly from year to year.

Environmental factors have various effects on living organisms. They may be:

  • irritants that contribute to the appearance of adaptive physiological and biochemical changes (hibernation, photoperiodism);
  • limiters that change the geographical distribution of organisms due to the impossibility of existence in these conditions;
  • modifiers that cause morphological and anatomical changes in organisms;
  • signals indicating changes in other environmental factors.

Despite the wide variety of environmental factors, there are a number of general patterns in the nature of their effects on organisms and in the responses of living things.

How to compare the effect of factors of a different nature?

  • The action of environmental factors is always expressed in a change in the life of organisms;
  • This leads to a change in their numbers;
  • The effect of a factor is determined not by the nature of the factor, but by its dose.

Thus, the factor affects the body at a certain dose, and among these doses, it is possible to distinguish the minimum, maximum and optimal doses, as well as lethal values, at which the life of an individual ceases.

Before comparing the effects of factors in your essay, you can graphically describe the effects of different doses on the population as a whole very clearly.

On the ordinate axis, the number (vital activity) is plotted depending on the intensity of the action of one or another factor (abscissa axis). Now you need to find the optimal doses of the factor and the doses of the factor at which the inhibition of the vital activity of this organism occurs, they correspond to the following zones:

  • the optimum zone is the intensity of the factor most favorable for the functioning of the body (i.e., optimal for growth, existence, and reproduction);
  • to the right and to the left of it are pessimum zones (from the boundary of the optimum zone to max or min). This is the area in which the body lives but is in a depressed state or in a state of stress;
  • lethal zones (outside of max and min), in which the population is 0;
  • the range of values of a factor beyond whose normal functioning of individuals becomes impossible is called the limits of endurance. The smallest permissible value of factors is the lower limit of endurance; the highest permissible value of factors is the upper limit of endurance. The range of optimum and pessimum zones reflects the living organism’s resistance to the action of any environmental factor and is called the ecological valency.

You can draw up such graphs of the influence of factors for each of the two objects of your research, and consistently describe the influence and consequences of each environmental factor.

San-Francisco vs Switzerland – Compare & Contrast Essay in Ecology Example

If we consider that, on average, every inhabitant of the planet produces several tons of household garbage per year, most of which are indelible plastic, then it’s easy to imagine what the Earth will turn into in at least a few years if the government doesn’t take any measures. New studies show that water and food in plastic bottles and packaging are extremely harmful to health, as chemicals from plastic enter the human body. That is why it will be reasonable to compare and contrast the experience of the countries that are already several steps ahead in solving ecological issues. These countries are the USA, and San-Francisco in particular, and Switzerland.

Over 99% of garbage in Sweden is recycled and reused in one way or another – this phenomenon has already been called the “Swedish recycling revolution”. No other country in the world has so far managed to get so close to the dream of waste-free production and clean water and air. Sweden is one of the countries that have succeeded in terms of waste management. Only 0.7% of household waste in Sweden is disposed of through landfills at special landfills, while in the EU as a whole this figure is as much as 34%.

As for San Francisco, by 2020, the city’s authorities plan to eliminate all waste going to the landfill. San Francisco in the United States was the first city to ban the sale of plastic water bottles. This is the beginning of a global movement that should reduce plastic pollution. According to the ban, the sale of plastic water bottles will gradually decrease over 4 years. Such water can only be sold if there is no other source of water. San Francisco has previously banned plastic bags and Styrofoam containers.

As we can see, both initiatives have a common goal – the absolute recycling of any garbage. Although at the moment, Sweden’s indicators, depending on the amount of waste recycled, are the best in the world, they still do not recycle plastic.

San Francisco in this regard went further and developed a comprehensive strategy, which involves not only one hundred percent waste recycling, but also a complete rejection of the most dangerous and non-recyclable substance – plastic.


As you can see, the list of topics and opportunities for comparison in the framework of environmental science is almost endless. We recommend choosing a topic that will be of practical value and will allow you to develop new environmental initiatives based on the successful strategy of other countries or cities. In addition, since ecology has become a complex science, you do not have to limit yourself to its scope in the classical sense. Look for new objects for research that will indirectly relate to sociology, political science, psychology or other science.

Upgrade your essays with these FREE writing tools!
Get started now