An ecosystem is a naturally occurring functional unit of organisms—also referred to as a biotic community. The ecosystem comprises an interacting synergism of living organisms in a particular environment; every plant, insect, aquatic animal, bird, or land species that forms a complex interconnected web of dependency. In an ecosystem, the connections between species are generally related to food and their role in the food chain, but their dependencies also includes all the non-living physical and chemical factors of their environment, which they are linked to through nutrient cycling and energy flow. Therefore, an action taken at any level in the food chain, use of pesticides for example, has a potential domino effect on every other occupant of that system.
Categories of Organisms
- Main Article: Trophic level
The ecosystem is a community of three basic types of organisms - producers, consumers, and decomposers that are linked by energy and nutrient flows, and that interact with each other and with the physical environment.
- Producers -- plants which are capable of photosynthesis
- Consumers -- animals, which can be primary consumers (herbivorous), or secondary or tertiary consumers (carnivorous).
- Decomposers -- bacteria and fungi, which degrade organic matter and restore minerals to the environment.
Types of Biomes
- Main Article: Biomes
An ecosystem can be as small as a rotting log, pond, field, or forest. In contrast, a biome is a large area with specific types of flora, fauna, and microorganisms, and which may contain many ecosystems. A biome can be thought of as many similar ecosystems throughout the world that share certain similarities. Ecosystems and Biomes are typically identified as a specific type of environment or biotope, possessing characteristic habitats, niches, and species.
- Coral reef
- Habitat and Ecosystem Franklin Institue: Science and Learning