An Ecosystem is a geographic area where plants, animals, and other organisms, as well as weather and landscapes, work together to form a bubble of life. Ecosystems are dynamic entities—they are subject to periodic disturbances and are always in the process of recovering from some past disturbance. The tendency of an ecosystem to remain close to its equilibrium state, despite that disturbance, is termed its resistance. The capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedback is termed its ecological resilience. Ecosystems can be studied through a variety of approaches—theoretical studies, studies monitoring specific ecosystems over long periods of time, those that look at differences between ecosystems to elucidate how they work and direct manipulative experimentation. Biomes are general classes or categories of ecosystems. Ecosystems are controlled by external and internal factors. External factors such as climate, parent material which forms the soil and topography, control the overall structure of an ecosystem but are not themselves influenced by the ecosystem. Internal factors are controlled, for example, by decomposition, root competition, shading, disturbance, succession, and the types of species present. While the resource inputs are generally controlled by external processes, the availability of these resources within the ecosystem is controlled by internal factors. Therefore, internal factors not only control ecosystem processes but are also controlled by them.
The structure of an ecosystem consists of two major components:
- Biotic components
- Abiotic components
Biotic Components – It can be described as any living component that affects another organism or shapes the ecosystem. This includes both animals that consume other organisms within their ecosystem, and the organism that is being consumed. Biotic factors also include human influence, pathogens, and disease outbreaks. Each biotic factor needs a proper amount of energy and nutrition to function healthily.
Biotic components are typically sorted into three main categories:
- Producers, otherwise known as Autotrophs, convert energy (through the process of photosynthesis) into food.
- Consumers, otherwise known as Heterotrophs, depend upon producers (and occasionally other consumers) for food.
- Decomposers, otherwise known as Detritivores, break down chemicals from producers and consumers (usually antibiotic) into simpler form which can be reused.
Abiotic components – This are non-living chemical and physical parts of the environment that affect living organisms and the functioning of ecosystems. Abiotic factors and the phenomena associated with them underpin biology as a whole. They effect a plethora of species, in all forms of environmental conditions such as marine or land animals. We humans can make or change abiotic factors in a species’ environment. For instance, fertilizers can effect a snail’s habitat, or the greenhouse gases which humans utilize can change marine pH levels.
Types of Ecosystems
The four types of ecosystems are Terrestrial, Freshwater, Marine, and Artificial ecosystems.
Terrestrial ecosystem – A terrestrial ecosystem is a land-based community of organisms and the interactions of biotic and abiotic components in a given area. Examples of terrestrial ecosystems include the tundra, taigas, temperate deciduous forests, tropical rainforests, grasslands, and deserts.
- A Forest ecosystem is one that consists of various plants, particularly trees. Because of the abundance of plants that serve as producers, this ecosystem abounds in life. Not only plants but also animals are teeming in a forest. They are also a great source of fruits, wood, They also help maintain the earth’s temperature. They are also a major carbon sink.
- Grassland ecosystems are typically found in tropical or temperate regions. They are dominated by grasses. As such, the animals commonly found in this type of ecosystem are grazing animals, such as cattle, goats, and deer.
- Tundra ecosystems are characterized as being treeless and snow-covered. The snow melts briefly in spring and summer, producing shallow ponds. During this time, lichens and flowering plants typically grow. Because of the ice that covers the land in the tundra, this type of ecosystem is important in regulating the earth’s temperature. It also serves as a water reservoir (in the form of ice or frost).
- Desert ecosystems are the ones occurring in desert habitats. Deserts are typically arid and windy. Some of them contain sand dunes, others, mostly rock. Organisms in the desert are not as diverse as those in forests but they possess adaptations that make them suited to their environment. Plants that are commonly found in the desert are CAM plants, such as cacti. Desert animals include insects, reptiles, and birds.
Freshwater ecosystems – Freshwater ecosystems are a subset of Earth’s aquatic ecosystems. They include lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, springs, bogs, and wetlands.They can be contrasted with marine ecosystems, which have a larger salt content.
- Lentic ecosystem – A lentic ecosystem refers to ecosystems in still waters. Examples include the following: ponds, puddles, and lakes. Lakes, in particular, may form zonation. That is when it becomes very well established that different zones are formed. These zones are as follows: littoral, limnetic, and profundal. The littoral zone is the part that is near the shore. Here, light can penetrate up to the bottom. The limnetic zone is the zone in which light does not completely penetrate through. The part of the limnetic zone that is penetrated by light is the photic zone whereas the zone in which light cannot penetrate through, and therefore is dark, is the benthic zone. The plants and animals vary in these zones. For instance, rooted plants are found in the littoral zone but not in the limnetic zone. Rather, freely-floating plants are the ones commonly seen on the surface of the limnetic zone.
- Lotic ecosystem – A lotic ecosystem is an aquatic ecosystem characterized by a freshwater habitat that is freely flowing. That is as opposed to the lentic that is nearly stationary. Examples include rivers and streams. Many plants and animals in these ecosystems have adaptations to help them cope with the force and the different conditions that running water brings.
Marine ecosystem – Marine ecosystems are aquatic environments with high levels of dissolved salt. These include the open ocean, the deep-sea ocean, and coastal marine ecosystems, each of which have different physical and biological characteristics. The ocean ecosystems, in particular, are an important source of atmospheric oxygen due to the vast population of autotrophic algae that release oxygen through photosynthesis. Marine ecosystems are regarded as the most abundant type of ecosystem in the world.
Artificial ecosystem – An artificial ecosystem is not self-sustaining, and the ecosystem would perish without human assistance. For example, a farm is an artificial ecosystem that consists of plants and species outside their natural habitat. Many man-made ecosystems are built for conservation purposes, aesthetics, and for studying biology and ecology.
Ecosystems provides a variety of goods and services upon which people depend. Ecosystem goods include the “tangible, material products” of ecosystem processes such as water, food, fuel, construction material, and medicinal plants. Ecosystem services, on the other hand, are generally “improvements in the condition or location of things of value”. These include things like the maintenance of hydrological cycles, cleaning air and water, the maintenance of oxygen in the atmosphere, crop pollination and even things like beauty, inspiration and opportunities for research.Thus the ecosystems are the integral part of our Earth. They bind the fauna & flora all together in the same environment to co-exist and thus being one dependable to the other. Our purpose is to look after our Mother Earth and therefore to preserve her so that she can be as perennial as forever.