What is Ecosystem?
An ecosystem is a natural system that encompasses all the interrelationships between living organisms and the physical environment where they live. Ecosystems bring together both the biotic elements of a space zone and the abiotic ones. Basically there are two types of ecosystem, Aquatic ecosystem, and the Terrestrial ecosystem.
The concept was developed in the 1930s thanks to the work of botanist Roy Clapham and ecologist Arthur Tansley. This concept allowed the full development of ecology within the field of biology.
An ecosystem is a unit made up of food chains, which express the transmission of energy and matter throughout the species of the ecosystem and between them and their physical environment.
These chains show the interdependence of organisms with each other, which implies that ecosystems have a balance that can be broken both by natural factors and by human intervention. The characteristics of each ecosystem determine the type of life that can exist in it, as well as the possibilities of evolution.
Elements of ecosystems
There are several elements of the utmost importance to understand the natural functioning of ecosystems:
- Biomes: they are ecologically similar areas that present the same climatic, geological and biological conditions. Biomes determine the variety and type of animal and plant organisms that can survive in them, as well as their geographical distribution.
- Habitat: implies a specific physical place that offers natural conditions (food, shelter) for the species to survive and reproduce. Similar habitats may exist distributed along the Earth’s surface, extremely distant from each other.
- Biodiversity: it is another important element: it refers to thequantity and variety of species (both microorganisms and plants and animals) that exist in an ecosystem. Biodiversity can be higher or lower depending on variables such as humidity, water availability, vegetation, temperature, etc.
- Ecological niches: these are the positions that each species occupies in relation to abiotic and biotic factors, which allow it to survive. If more than one species occupies the same ecological niche, then both compete evolutionarily. The totality of all ecological niches makes up the balance of the ecosystem, which can vary after long periods of time.
Within the various classification modalities, the most common distinguishes ecosystems according to the area on which they are based:
1. Aquatic ecosystems are natural systems that comprise bodies of water, such as rivers, lakes, seas, and oceans. They cover all the aquatic life that proliferates in them and the relationships they establish with each other. There are two types of aquatic ecosystems: freshwater ecosystems, studied by limnology, and marine ecosystems, studied by oceanography.
- The Freshwater Ecosystems can be lentic, standing water, as in the case of a lake or a pool of rain; lotics, where there is moving water, such as in a river or in a waterfall; or underground.
- The marine ecosystems are ecosystems taking place in saltwater areas, and can be either photic (where photosynthesis occurs, generally shallow) or aphotic (where the process does not occur photosynthesis and energy must be obtained from another source, such as underwater hydrothermal vents).
2. Terrestrial ecosystems are natural systems that take place on Earth or underground. This type of ecosystem can include a huge variety of habitats, from forests and jungles to deserts and tundras.