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Ecosystem, Meaning, Components, Types and Functions

What is Ecosystem?

An ecosystem is the fundamental functional unit of an environment where living and nonliving creatures interact with one another, both of which are essential for the continuation of life on Earth. All the living beings, whether it is plants, animals, and microorganisms, depends on non-living substances for their survive and maintaining the equilibrium of the natural environment and this relationship between the living and nonliving elements is handled by the ecosystem.

An ecologist named Arthur Tansley used the term “ecosystem” for the first time in an article in 1935. Living species’ ability to exist in their surroundings depends heavily on the surrounding living and non-living elements.

Components of an Ecosystem

An ecosystem’s structure is made up of the biotic and abiotic components. The creature communicates with both parts. The surroundings is filled with energy. The ecosystem consists of two essential elements for a healthy environment:

  • Biotic Components
  • Abiotic Components

Biotic Components

The biotic components of the ecosystem are all living things, including plants, animals, microbes, aquatic plants, and all other types of organisms. These biotic components fall into several categories as mentioned below:

  • Producers: All the plants which haves the ability to produce their own food using natural sources like sun, water, and carbon dioxide belong to this category.
  • Consumers: All heterotrophs, primarily the animals, that are being dependent over the producers are considered as consumers, which can be subdivided into the following categories:
    • Primary Consumers: All herbivores which are directly depends over plants for their food, such as cows, goats, rabbits, and sheep, are considered primary consumers.
    • Secondary consumers: All consumers that directly depend on primary consumers for their food are considered secondary consumers. The secondary consumer can be omnivores or carnivores.
    • Tertiary consumers: All animals which depend on the organisms of the secondary level for their food is known as tertiary consumers.
    • Quaternary consumer: Those animals that depend on the organisms of the tertiary level for their food and are known as the quaternary consumer. This level is present in some food chains only.
  • Decomposers: Microorganisms, as the bacteria and fungi, that depend on decay as well as the dead matter for their food comes under it. It contributes to environmental cleanup and ecosystem nutrient recycling. These nutrients support plant development and subsequently ecosystem maintenance.

Abiotic Components

It includes every non-living object in the environment. Sun, soil, water, minerals, climate, rocks, temperature, and humidity are a few examples of abiotic components. The ecosystem’s energy and food cycles are made possible by these parts working together. The main source of energy is the sun’s rays. Changes in an ecosystem’s temperature have an effect on the kinds of plants that might thrive there.

Types of Ecosystem

Ecosystems are divided into many types in ecology according to the location or the type of environment, such as land or water. It can also be categorized according to how much energy an Ecosystem uses.

  • Aquatic Ecosystem
  • Terrestrial Ecosystem

Aquatic Ecosystem

Aquatic biomes include lakes, rivers, seas, oceans, and other bodies of water. The watery realm covers the majority of the earth’s surface. Oceans, seas, the intertidal zone, reefs, the seafloor, and rock pools make up two-thirds of the earth’s surface. Plants, fish, amphibians, coral reefs, enormous sea animals, and insects are all part of this ecosystem. Two types of aquatic ecosystems exist:

  • Marine Ecosystem
    • Marine ecosystems are aquatic settings with high concentrations of dissolved salt. The deep ocean, the open ocean, and the coastal marine ecosystems are made up of these. which each have distinctive biological and physical characteristics. Significant abiotic elements include the ecosystem’s exposure to sunlight, the amount of oxygen and nutrients that are dissolved in the water, the distance from land, the depth, and the temperature. Both the biotic and abiotic aspects of marine ecosystems are distinctive.
  • Freshwater Ecosystem
    • Low salt levels in freshwater ecosystems make them ideal for a wide range of plants and animals. Freshwater resources come in a variety of sizes, from little ponds to enormous rivers. The modes of transportation of different freshwater resources differ from one another. While certain freshwater areas, like rivers, are always in motion, others, like ponds, are calm. The lotic, lentic, and wetland freshwater ecosystems are the three primary divisions of the freshwater environment based on the location.
      • Lotic: The water bodies in a lotic freshwater ecosystem flow in a single direction. Many rivers and streams have their origins as rivers or oceans, and as they move toward their final destinations, they meet at their mouths.
      • Lentic: All still (non-flowing) waterways, including lakes, ponds, marshes, bogs, and lagoons, are lentic environments. Water will momentarily stay on the earth’s surface due to the saturation of the beneath-surface soil. They keep the water calm because they are closed constructions. Every lentic system has many regions with various biological conditions, which causes the animals and plants there to behave and adapt differently.
      • Wetlands: Vascular plants live in wetlands, which also contain water. Marshes, swamps, and bogs are more commonly used names for wetlands. Wetlands are very productive because the soil and water are so close together. Since they have adapted to the moist and humid climate of the region, the plant species that can be found in wetlands are known as hydrophytes. Hydrophyte plants including cattails, pond lilies, and sedges are found in wetland habitats. Wetlands serve as a haven for a variety of amphibian, reptile, bird, shrimp, shellfish, and other animal species.

Terrestrial Ecosystem

  • Forests: 
    • A location that is covered in trees, forming multiple canopy layers, is referred to as a forest ecosystem. Tropical rainforests and dense tree cover are home to a diversity of animal species. About 300 million different plant and animal species can be found in forests. Tropical rainforests, plantation forests, and temperate deciduous forests are all examples of the type of environment known as a forest.
  • Grasslands:
    • It has an arid climate, thus there isn’t much flora there. The grassland environment is primarily defined by the various varieties of grasses that grow there. Herbs and grass are the predominant plant life here. The grassland ecosystem is important to the animal kingdom.
  • Tundra:
    • The polar regions’ harsh environmental conditions are similar to those of the tundra. The area is usually windy, snow-covered, and without any trees. Its surroundings are perpetually covered in completely frozen earth. When the snow melts, little ponds are created. Such ponds are favorable to several lichens.
  • Desert:
    • Deserts are barren geographical areas with sharp temperature fluctuations and poorly maintained species. among the driest terrain areas on earth. Rainfall in a desert is incredibly infrequent. There is less vegetation as a result. Plants and animals in the desert ecosystem have mastered the ability to endure hostile settings.

Functions of Ecosystem

The purpose of the ecosystem is to keep all of its components cooperating. It is a normal procedure for energy to move between various biotic and abiotic components of the planet. All significant ecological processes, including nutrient cycling, are maintained by ecosystems. Different functional units that make up ecosystems include:

  • Production: Any ecosystem’s ability to exist and operate depends on the availability of solar energy. The kinds of plants that exist there have an impact on primary production. While roots pull minerals from the soil, green leaves prepare meals. Carnivores get their nourishment from the plants after herbivores eat them.
  • Decomposition: The major energy source for all ecosystems is solar radiation. The autotrophic, or self-sustaining, organisms in the ecosystem use the sun’s energy. Carbon dioxide and water are converted by plants into simple, energetic carbohydrates using the energy of the sun. Autotrophs manufacture the more sophisticated chemical compounds, such as proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates.
  • Energy Flow: The major energy source for all ecosystems is solar radiation. The autotrophic, or self-sustaining, organisms in the ecosystem use the sun’s energy. Carbon dioxide and water are converted by plants into simple, energetic carbohydrates using the energy of the sun. Autotrophs manufacture the more sophisticated chemical compounds, such as proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates. The flow of energy from the sun to producers, herbivores, and carnivores is unidirectional. The deceased autotrophs and heterotrophs are transformed into nutrients by decomposers, which plants use as fuel.
  • Nutrient Cycle: Nutrients are the chemical components that organisms require for development and life support. When bio-elements interact, a wide variety of chemical compounds are produced. During metabolism and death, the organisms catch them, concentrate and combine them in various ways, and then release them.

Important Ecological Concepts

These are the important concept under the ecosystem have been discussed below:

Ecological Pyramids

  • A graphical representation of the quantity, energy, and biomass of an ecosystem’s many trophic levels is called an ecological pyramid. The ecological pyramid and its tenets were first described by Charles Elton in 1927.
  • The ecological pyramid is a representation of the biomass, quantity, and energy of organisms from the producer level to the consumer level in the form of a pyramid.
  • The producers are at the bottom of the ecological pyramid, followed by primary and secondary consumers. The apex is held by the tertiary consumers. The quaternary consumers are at the top of the food chain in some food chains.
  • Similar to how primary consumers outweigh secondary consumers, producers typically outnumber primary consumers. Last but not least, apex predators likewise exhibit the same pattern as the other consumers in that they are much rarer than secondary consumers.
  • For instance, grasshoppers consume abundant crops like cotton and wheat. The ordinary mouse, which is comparably less numerous, then preys upon these grasshoppers. Snakes, including cobras, feed on the mice. Apex predators like the brown snake eagle feed primarily on snakes.

Food Chain

  • The sun is the primary energy source for the planet. All plant life depends on it for the energy needed to function. The plants use this energy to create their food through the process of photosynthesis.
  • Light energy is transformed into chemical energy and transferred through trophic levels in this biological process. The term “food chain” refers to the transfer of energy from a producer to a consumer and ultimately to an apex predator or a detritivore.
  • Scavengers break down organic waste and dead and decaying stuff into their component parts. These components are then absorbed by the reducers. After gaining energy, the reducers release molecules into the environment that the producers can use again.

Food Web

A network of linked food chains is referred to as a food web. Within a single ecosystem, it includes complete food chains. Understanding that plants form the basis of all food systems is helpful. The main producer in a maritime environment is phytoplankton.


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Ecosystem FAQs

What is the ecosystem?

The ecosystem is the community of living organisms in conjunction with non-living components of their environment, interacting as a system.

What are the different types of ecosystems?

The different types of ecosystems are Terrestrial and Aquatic ecosystem.

What are the functional components of an ecosystem?

The four main components of an ecosystem are - Productivity, Decomposition, Energy flow and Nutrient cycling.

In which ecosystem do we live?

We live in a terrestrial ecosystem.

Which is the largest ecosystem in the world?

The largest ecosystem in the world is the aquatic ecosystem.

What is the major function of an ecosystem?

The ecosystem is the functional unit of the environment system. The abiotic components provide the matrix for the synthesis of organic components. This process involves the exchange of energy.

What all include the non-living things in an ecosystem?

The non-living things in an ecosystem include air, wind, water, rocks, soil, temperature and sunlight.

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