What is Ecosystem: Define, Structure, Scale & Facts

Ecosystems can be small-scale, covering a small area such as a pond or large-scale covering a large area such as a tropical rainforest. The world is divided up into ten major ecosystems. An ecosystem is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment things like air, water and mineral soil interacting as a system.

All the populations in a specific area at a given time a community includes populations of organisms of different species. These biotic and abiotic components are regarded as linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. As ecosystems are defined by the network of interactions among organisms, and between organisms and their environment, they can be of any size but usually encompass specific, limited spaces although some scientists say that the entire planet is an ecosystem.

An ecosystem can be destroyed by a stranger. The stranger could be the rise in temperature or rise in sea level or climate change. The stranger can affect the natural balance and can harm or destroy the ecosystem. It is a bit unfortunate but ecosystems have been destroyed and vanished by man-made activities like deforestation, urbanization and natural activities like floods, storms, fires or volcanic eruptions.

A very large ecosystem or collection of ecosystems with similar biotic and abiotic factors such as an entire Rainforest with millions of animals and trees, with many different water bodies running through them.

Structure of ecosystem:

Structure of ecosystem

At basic plants are capable of harvesting energy from the sun through the process called photosynthesis. This energy then flows through the food chain. Next, come consumers. Consumers could be primary consumers herbivores or secondary consumers carnivores. These consumers feed on the captured energy. Decomposers work at the bottom of the food chain. Dead tissues and waste products are produced at all levels. Scavengers, detritivores, and decomposers not only feed on this energy but also break organic matter back into its organic constituents. It is the microbes that finish the job of decomposition and produce organic constituents that can again be used by producers. The energy that flows through the food chain i.e. from producers to consumers to decomposers is always inefficient. That means less energy is available at secondary consumers level than at primary producers level. It is not surprising but the amount of energy produced from place to place varies a lot due to the amount of solar radiation and the availability of nutrients and water.


Scales of the ecosystem:

Scales of the ecosystem

There are three main scales in the ecosystem:

An ecosystem is a complete community of living organisms and the nonliving materials of their surroundings. Thus, its components include plants, animals, and microorganisms; soil, rocks, and minerals; as well as surrounding water sources and the local atmosphere

Micro: A small-scale ecosystem such as the pond, puddle, tree trunk under a rock

Messo: A medium scale ecosystem such as forest or a large lake.

Biome: It is a very large ecosystem with same biotic and abiotic factors such as an entire rainforest with millions of animals and trees, with many different water bodies running through them. Ecosystem boundaries are not marked separated by rigid lines. They are separated by geographical barriers such as deserts, mountains, oceans, lakes, and rivers. As these borders are never rigid, ecosystems tend to blend into each other. This is why a lake can have many small ecosystems with their own unique characteristics. Scientists call this blending ecotone.

Facts of the ecosystem:

Facts of the ecosystem

Ecosystems come in indefinite sizes. It can exist in a small area such as underneath a rock, a decaying tree trunk, or a pond in your village, or it can exist in large forms such as an entire rainforest.

  • Animals and plants within an ecosystem depend on each other for their survival. If conditions change, the animals and plants have to adapt.
  • Plants can’t migrate when conditions change. During drought and heat, they might die. If they die, then herbivores won’t have anything to eat. They must either find new plants to eat or move to a new place. If they move, then carnivores have no food. They must move too.
  • Sometime ecosystems change because of a climate change or a natural disaster. Sometimes, ecosystems are destroyed by humans.
  • Think about the ecosystems that might exist in your neighborhood or even in your own yard. If you have a vegetable garden, the plants attract plant-eating insects. The insects attract birds, snakes, and frogs. These animals might attract predators, including fox, raccoons, coyotes, and owls. Who knew there was so much going on right outside your door! A vegetable garden is a man-made ecosystem.

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