In ecology, many structural units co-exist where living organisms interact and evolve with the environment. Such an interactive chain is called an ecosystem. Be it a small pond or the vast expanse of an ocean, both water bodies can be termed as ecosystems.
In keeping with this, the Earth’s ecosystem is divided into two main categories. These are terrestrial and aquatic, which will be discussed in the article ahead.
A detailed description of the types of ecosystem
Terrestrial Ecosystems: Terrestrial ecosystems are primarily land-based environments spread across various topographical zones. The different types of terrestrial ecosystems are as follows:
Forests consist of plants, animals, and other microorganisms that live with abiotic variables found in the environment. They are important parts of the ecosystem since they help maintain the Earth’s temperature.
Grasslands usually consist of fields and grasses such as, temperate grasslands and savanna prairies
Tundra vegetations are found in colder climates with less rainfall, in areas usually covered in snow for most of the year. The Arctic regions are a prime example of such an ecosystem.
Deserts are dry and arid landscapes that receive very little rainfall. As such the days are very hot and nights cold.
Aquatic ecosystems refer to those present in water bodies. These can be further divided into two types:
The water bodies that comprise freshwater ecosystems do not contain salt in them, which is the major feature that sets them apart from marine ecosystems. Lakes, rivers, streams, and wetlands are examples of the same.
Seas and oceans comprise marine ecosystems, containing significant levels of salt. Another prominent feature that sets them apart from freshwater systems is the abundance of biodiversity found in them.
Structure of the Ecosystem
The construction of an environment or ecosystem is described by the association of its biotic and abiotic parts. The circulation of energy and climatic conditions prevailing in that particular part, are also included in the ecosystem’s structure.
Structure of Ecosystem – Highlighting the biotic and abiotic factors
Biotic components comprise living beings. They can be classified as autotrophs, heterotrophs, and saprotrophs (or decomposers) with regards to nourishment.
Producers incorporate all autotrophs like plants. They are called autotrophs since they make their own food through photosynthesis. Thus, any remaining organic entities higher up on the natural food chain depend on producers for food.
Heterotrophs are organic entities that rely upon different creatures for food. They are further arranged into primary, secondary, and tertiary consumers.
Primary consumers are generally herbivores that depend on producers like plants for food. Secondary consumers rely on primary consumers for energy. They can be either carnivores or omnivores.
Tertiary consumers are creatures that rely upon secondary consumers for food, and can be omnivores.
Moreover, some food chains also consist of quaternary consumers. These life forms depend on tertiary organisms for energy. They are generally at the highest point of a food chain as they have no predators.
Decomposers incorporate saprophytes like parasites and microscopic organisms. They flourish within the dead and decomposed matter, and are fundamental for the environment as they help recycle nutrients to be reused by plants.
All living organisms are known as abiotic components of an ecosystem. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the minerals that we intake, along with all the necessary components needed by living organisms are abiotic in nature.
Functions of the Ecosystem
The functions of the ecosystem are as follows:
It controls the biological cycle, upholding all life frameworks.
It circulates supplements among biotic and abiotic beings.
It maintains a balance between the various trophic levels in the environment.
It circulates minerals in the biosphere.
The abiotic parts bring together natural elements , including energy trading.
The important functional units of an ecosystem are:
Usefulness – It means the rate at which biomass is created.
An energy stream is the process through which energy flows from one trophic level onto the next. The light and heat energy emitted by the sun flows from producers to consumers, and is passed on to decomposers, thereby completing a necessary life cycle in the ecosystem.
Decomposition refers to the breakdown of dead and natural material. The topsoil is a significant site for the disintegration of such material.
The cycle of nutrients in an ecosystem, refers to their consumption and reuse by various living beings.