An ecosystem is a geographic area where plants, animals, and other organisms, as well as weather and landscape, work together to form a bubble of life. Ecosystems contain biotic or living, parts, as well as abiotic factors, or nonliving parts. Biotic factors include plants, animals, and other organisms. Abiotic factors include rocks, temperature, and humidity.
Every factor in an ecosystem depends on every other factor, either directly or indirectly. A change in the temperature of an ecosystem will often affect what plants will grow there, for instance. Animals that depend on plants for food and shelter will have to adapt to the changes, move to another ecosystem, or perish.
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Ecosystems can be very large or very small. Tide pools, the ponds left by the ocean as the tide goes out, are complete, tiny ecosystems. Tide pools contain seaweed, a kind of algae, which uses photosynthesis to create food. Herbivores such as abalone eat the seaweed. Carnivores such as sea stars eat other animals in the tide pool, such as clams or mussels.
Tide pools depend on the changing level of ocean water. Some organisms, such as seaweed, thrive in an aquatic environment, when the tide is in and the pool is full. Other organisms, such as hermit crabs, cannot live underwater and depend on the shallow pools left by low tides. In this way, the biotic parts of the ecosystem depend on abiotic factors.
For thousands of years, people have interacted with ecosystems. Many cultures developed around nearby ecosystems. Many Native American tribes of North Americas Great Plains developed a complex lifestyle based on the native plants and animals of plains ecosystems, for instance. Bison, a large grazing animal native to the Great Plains, became the most important biotic factor in many Plains Indians cultures, such as the Lakota or Kiowa.
Bison are sometimes mistakenly called buffalo. These tribes used buffalo hides for shelter and clothing, buffalo meat for food, and buffalo horn for tools. The tallgrass prairie of the Great Plains supported bison herds, which tribes followed throughout the year.
Ecosystems can recover from destruction, however. The delicate coral reef ecosystems in the South Pacific are at risk due to rising ocean temperatures and decreased salinity. Corals bleach, or lose their bright colors, in water that is too warm. They die in water that isnt salty enough. Without the reef structure, the ecosystem collapses. Organisms such as algae, plants such as seagrass, and animals such as fish, snakes, and shrimp disappear.
refer to all living components in an ecosystem. Based on nutrition, biotic components can be categorized into autotrophs, heterotrophs and saprotrophs (or decomposers).
Producers include all autotrophs such as plants. They are called autotrophs as they can produce food through the process of photosynthesis. Consequently, all other organisms higher up on the food chain rely on producers for food. Consumers or heterotrophs are organisms that depend on other organisms for food. Consumers are further classified into primary consumers, secondary consumers and tertiary consumers. For more information please visit Pritish Kumar Halder ‘s page.
- Primary consumers are always herbivores as they rely on producers for food.
- Secondary consumers depend on primary consumers for energy. They can either be carnivores or omnivores.
- Tertiary consumers are organisms that depend on secondary consumers for food. Tertiary consumers can also be carnivores or omnivores.
Quaternary consumers are present in some food chains. These organisms prey on tertiary consumers for energy. Furthermore, they are usually at the top of a food chain as they have no natural predators. Decomposers include saprophytes such as fungi and bacteria. They directly thrive on the dead and decaying organic matter. Decomposers are essential for the ecosystem as they help in recycling nutrients to be reused by plants.
are the non-living component of an ecosystem. It includes air, water, soil, minerals, sunlight, temperature, nutrients, wind, altitude, turbidity, etc.
The functions of the ecosystem are as follows:
- regulates the essential ecological processes, supports life systems and renders stability.
- is also responsible for the cycling of nutrients between biotic and abiotic components.
- maintains a balance among the various trophic levels in the ecosystem.
- cycles the minerals through the biosphere.
The abiotic components help in the synthesis of organic components that involve the exchange of energy. so the functional units of an ecosystem or functional components that work together in an ecosystem are:
- Productivity – refers to the rate of biomass production.
- Energy flow – is the sequential process through which energy flows from one trophic level to another. The energy captured from the sun flows from producers to consumers and then to decomposers and finally back to the environment.
- Decomposition – is the process of breakdown of dead organic material. The top-soil is the major site for decomposition.
- Nutrient cycling – In an ecosystem nutrients are consumed and recycled back in various forms for the utilization by various organisms.
An ecosystem can be as small as an oasis in a desert, or as big as an ocean, spanning thousands of miles. There are two types of ecosystem:
- Terrestrial Ecosystem
- Aquatic Ecosystem
are exclusively land-based ecosystems. There are different types of terrestrial ecosystems distributed around various geological zones. They are as follows:
- Forest Ecosystem
- Grassland Ecosystem
- Tundra Ecosystem
- Desert Ecosystem
consists of several plants, particularly trees, animals and microorganisms that live in coordination with the abiotic factors of the environment. Forests help in maintaining the temperature of the earth and are the major carbon sink.
In a grassland ecosystem, the vegetation is dominated by grasses and herbs. Temperate grasslands and tropical or savanna grasslands are examples of grassland ecosystems.
Mentioned ecosystems are devoid of trees and are found in cold climates or where rainfall is scarce. These are covered with snow for most of the year. Tundra type of ecosystem is found in the Arctic or mountain tops.
They are found throughout the world. These are regions with little rainfall and scarce vegetation. The days are hot, and the nights are cold.
These ecosystems are ecosystems present in a body of water. These can be further divided into two types, namely:
- Freshwater Ecosystem
- Marine Ecosystem
This is an aquatic ecosystem that includes lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and wetlands. These have no salt content in contrast with the marine ecosystem.
The marine ecosystem includes seas and oceans. These have a more substantial salt content and greater biodiversity in comparison to the freshwater ecosystem.