What Is an Ecosystem?
An ecosystem is an interaction among the members of a biotic community and includes their interaction with the non-living environment. The environment determines what organisms can live where and how many of them can live there. These organisms live in a specific type of environment called a habitat.
For instance, an earthworm lives in the soil. Worms have very delicate and moistened skin. They will die if exposed for a long time under the sun and wind above the ground. The soil is an example of land or terrestrial habitat. Another example is the frogs. Frogs spend much of their life in a pond. A pond is an example of aquatic habitat, specifically a freshwater habitat.
Each habitat has its own set of environmental factors that make it different from other habitats. Some of these factors are moisture content, temperature, amount of sunlight, salt content, and type of soil. These factors determine what plants and animals can live in those environments. In other words, living things are affected by the nonliving or abiotic factors of the environment.
The Three Types of Ecosystems
- Special Micro-ecosystem
What Are the Characteristics of an Ecosystem?
The different kinds of ecosystems on the earth's surfaces share particular characteristics, such as the energy flow through a tropic structure, the continuous input of energy, the pathways of the energy, and the population interaction of organisms in an ecosystem.
Energy comes into the living world in the form of sunlight. Green plants trap this energy and store it in the form of chemical energy from food. Food consists of nutrients or chemical substances that serve as energy sources and building materials for an organism. These substances are passed on from one organism to another in a food chain. In a food chain, the chemical energy of food is transferred through a series of organisms, repeatedly eating and being eaten. A food chain is both a food and an energy pathway.
As energy is transferred from one trophic level to another, less of the original energy becomes available to the higher-order consumers. This being the case, the energy transfer in the biosphere can be presented in the form of energy. Refer to the first image below. There is more energy at the first trophic level, less at the second level, and still less at the third trophic level, and so on.
The Pathways of Energy in Ecosystems
The pathway of energy in the living world may be viewed in this manner:
- Energy enters the biosphere in the form of light during photosynthesis.
- Green plants convert this light energy into the chemical energy of food.
- The chemical energy of food is transformed into other forms of energy in the bodies of herbivores and higher-order consumers.
- Energy leaves the biosphere mostly in the form of heat.
1. Natural Ecosystem
Original forests are also called primary forests. When the forest trees are cut down and they grow again, the forest is then called a second-growth forest or secondary forest. Primary forests in the lowlands include mangrove forests, dipterocarp forests, and molave forests. In the highlands, they include pine forests and mossy forests. There are also called tropical rain forests which are characterized by high temperatures and high rainfall practically throughout the year.
The richest type of tropical rainforest is the dipterocarp forest. It has the biggest number of plant and animal species. The thick canopy is the richest habitat for birds. The thick layer of decaying leaves on the forest floor is the richest habitat for leeches, millipedes, centipedes, and land snails. The untouched dipterocarp forest abounds with mammals, birds, reptiles, and insects that live on the trees, ground, and soil.
The term grassland refers to land with natural grass cover, without trees or very few widely scattered trees. Most of the grasslands in tropical countries result from the destruction of forests, and some are natural formations.
For instance, the dominant vegetations in many grasslands in the Philippines are cogon along hillsides and talahib in the lowlands with more water. These grass species need abundant sunlight. The animal species in grasslands include snakes, lizards, rats, birds, and insects.
c. Coastal Zones
The term coastal zone is a type of ecosystem referring to a strip of land at the edge of the sea or lake. It includes both the exposed and the submerged portions of the land. The coastal zone has mangrove forests, beaches, tidal flats, and coral reefs.
Coastal zone ecosystems vary tremendously in biotic and abiotic components, and mangrove forests and coral reefs are among the richest habitats. For example, a mangrove forest has many tree species lived by birds, lizards, snails, and insects.
2. Man-Made Ecosystems
A man-made ecosystem is a kind of ecosystem that is built and maintained by people. Man-made ecosystems are unique in the sense that people deliberately play a major role in the functioning of the ecosystem. Examples of man-made ecosystems are rice fields, fish ponds, and urban ecosystems.
Rice fields represent one kind of agricultural ecosystem. Agricultural ecosystems cover lands planted with crops such as corn, sugar cane, tobacco, cotton, coconut, and abaca. Some examples of countries with many kinds of agricultural ecosystems are Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia.
In some places, freshwater lakes are considered a man-made ecosystem because they are utilized as fish ponds by constructing fish pens close to the shore. Two examples of this are Laguna Lake and Sampaloc Lake in the province of Laguna in the Philippines.
Urban lands are also considered a man-made ecosystem since they are developed for people's residence and activities. Examples of urban lands are subdivisions, parks, and cemeteries.
3. Special Micro-ecosystem
If you examine the different habitats closely on land and in water, you will see that within each of them are smaller units of habitat where smaller interaction takes place. Such interactions on a small scale characterize a micro-ecosystem.
Some examples of a micro-ecosystem are the hay fusion in a laboratory, a fallen log on the forest floor, rotting fruits in market stalls, and soil where different organisms live.
- Ecosystem: Structure, Functions, Units and Types of Ecosystem
An ecosystem is the structural and functional unit of the biosphere. It is defined as the interaction between organisms and the surrounding environment.
- What is an ecosystem? | Khan Academy
Learn what an ecosystem is, how energy and matter move through ecosystems, and what makes an ecosystem stable.
- Ecosystems | National Geographic
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.
© 2020 Ray
Ray (author) from Philippines on February 29, 2020:
Yeah Eric. This kind of articles will be really helpful for students and other people curious about the topic.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 27, 2020:
Good stuff to know. I really like the differences as I go out to hike in the coastal desert.
Ray (author) from Philippines on February 26, 2020:
Thanks! I appreciate it.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on February 26, 2020:
This is an excellent write up on ecosystem and habitat. Well conceived and well presented.