“An ecosystem is defined as a community of living and nonliving components that interact with one another.”
What exactly is an Ecosystem?
An ecosystem is a structural and functional unit of ecology in which living organisms interact with one another and with their surroundings. An ecosystem, in other words, is a series of interactions between organisms and their surroundings. A.G. Tansley, an English botanist, coined the term “ecosystem” in 1935.
The Ecosystem’s Structure
An ecosystem’s structure is defined by the organization of both biotic and abiotic components. This includes energy distribution in our environment. It also includes the prevailing climatic conditions in that particular environment.
An ecosystem’s structure can be divided into two major components, namely:
Components of an Ecosystem
In an ecosystem, the biotic and abiotic components are inextricably linked. It is an open system in which energy and components can flow freely across the boundaries.
All living components in an ecosystem are referred to as biotic components. Nutrition classifies biotic components as autotrophs, heterotrophs, or saprotrophs (or decomposers).
All autotrophs, such as plants, are producers. They are called autotrophs because they can produce food through photosynthesis. As a result, all organisms higher up the food chain rely on producers for food.
Consumers, also known as heterotrophs, are organisms that rely on other organisms for food. Consumers are further subdivided into primary, secondary, and tertiary consumers.
Because they rely on producers for food, primary consumers are always herbivores.
Primary consumers provide energy to secondary consumers. They can be carnivorous or omnivorous.
Tertiary consumers are organisms that get their food from secondary consumers. Tertiary consumers can be either carnivorous or omnivorous.
Some food chains contain Quaternary consumers. For energy, these organisms prey on tertiary consumers. Furthermore, because they have no natural predators, they are usually at the top of a food chain.
Saprophytes such as fungi and bacteria are decomposers. They feed directly on dead and decaying organic matter.
Decomposers are important for the ecosystem because they recycle nutrients that plants can use.
The non-living components of an ecosystem are known as abiotic components. It consists of air, water, soil, minerals, sunlight, temperature, nutrients, wind, altitude, turbidity, and other factors.
Functions of the Ecosystem
The ecosystem serves the following purposes:
- It regulates critical ecological processes, supports living systems, and provides stability.
- It is also in charge of nutrient cycling between biotic and abiotic components.
- It keeps the ecosystem’s various trophic levels in balance.
- It transports minerals throughout the biosphere.
- Abiotic components aid in the synthesis of organic components that involve energy exchange.
So the functional units of an ecosystem, or functional components that interact in an ecosystem, are as follows:
Productivity is the rate at which biomass is produced.
Energy flow is the sequential process by which energy moves from one trophic level to the next. The sun’s energy flows from producers to consumers, then to decomposers, and finally back to the environment.
Decomposition is the process of breaking down dead organic matter. The topsoil is the primary decomposition site.
Nutrient cycling occurs in an ecosystem when nutrients are consumed and recycled in various forms for use by various organisms.
Types of Ecosystem
An ecosystem can be as small as a desert oasis or as large as an ocean stretching thousands of miles. Ecosystems are classified into two types:
- Terrestrial Ecosystem
- Aquatic Ecosystem
Terrestrial ecosystems are the only ecosystems that exist on land. There are various types of terrestrial ecosystems found in various geological zones. These are their names:
- Forest Ecosystem
- Grassland Ecosystem
- Tundra Ecosystem
- Desert Ecosystem
A forest ecosystem is made up of various plants, particularly trees, animals, and microorganisms that coexist with the abiotic factors of the environment. Forests help to keep the earth’s temperature stable and act as a major carbon sink.
Grass and herbs dominate the vegetation in a grassland ecosystem. Grassland ecosystems include temperate grasslands and tropical or savanna grasslands.
Tundra ecosystems are found in cold climates or where rainfall is scarce and are devoid of trees. For the majority of the year, these are covered in snow. Tundra ecosystems can be found in the Arctic or on mountain peaks.
Deserts can be found all over the world. These are low-lying areas with sparse vegetation. The days there are warm, but the nights are chilly.
Aquatic Ecosystems are ecosystems that exist in bodies of water. These are further classified into two types:
- Marine Ecosystem
- Freshwater Ecosystem
Lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, and wetlands are all part of the freshwater ecosystem. In contrast to the marine ecosystem, these contain no salt.
Seas and oceans are part of the marine ecosystem. In comparison to the freshwater ecosystem, these have a higher salt content and more biodiversity.