Why is earth the only planet with life on it? We have aquatic life forms, terrestrial life forms, and aerial life forms too. How is earth the only planet to have ‘An Ecosystem’ on it? But, what is ecosystem and why is it important to learn about it? What would happen if one of the ecosystems disappears? Let us study more about it below.
What is Ecosystem?
A complex relationship between all the living and nonliving things (plants, animals, organisms, sun, water, climate etc)interact with each other is known as ‘An Ecosystem’. Ecosystems are the foundation of ‘Biosphere’ and maintain the natural balance of the earth.
For example, let’s take the relationship between sheep and lion in the ecosystem; for its survival, the lion eats the sheep. And each relationship like this has an effect on other creatures and plants living in the same area.
Hence, if the lion eats more sheep, it has an effect on the plants too; they begin to flourish; since there aren’t many sheep to eat the plants.
Each organism in the ecosystem plays an important role, so anytime a ‘foreign’ factor is put in the ecosystem, it poses a major threat to the ecosystem. This happens because the foreign factor can deform the natural balance of the ecosystem and harm it potentially.
This foreign factor could be anything ranging from rising temperature to the tsunami. Not just the foreign factor but man-made can also destroy the ecosystem.
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Components of the Ecosystem
The components of an ecosystem are divided into abiotic components, that include all nonliving components such as minerals, climate, soil, water, sunlight and biotic components, that include all the living components. These components together make up for the flow of energy in the ecosystem and the nutrient cycle in the ecosystem.
The gleaming energy from the sun is the basic source of energy in all the ecosystems. The autotrophs (self-sustaining organisms) absorb this energy and produce photosynthesis where they can use this energy to convert CO2 and H2O into simple carbohydrates. The autotrophs store energy in these carbohydrates, which they then use to produce more complex and organic products like lipids, proteins, and starches that help the organism to survive.
These autotrophs are the producers of the ecosystem.
Organic compounds produced by autotrophs help in the survival of the heterotrophic organisms. And heterotrophs are the consumers of the ecosystem since they’re incapable of making their own food. All organisms like bacteria, fungi or animals are heterotrophs.
Types of Ecosystems
An ecosystem consists of three types of ecosystems, another term for which is ‘Biomes’. The three major types are:
a. Aquatic biomes
b. Terrestrial biomes
c. Lentic biomes
a. Aquatic Biomes:
Aquatic biomes are the ones, one finds in water bodies, such as oceans, rivers, seas, lakes, springs, etc. This biome is further divided into smaller ecosystems:
Pond Ecosystems :
Pond ecosystems are comparatively small and mostly include many kinds of amphibians and insects. At times one can also find fishes here but they aren’t capable of moving as easily as the amphibians.
This ecosystem consists of fishes along with plants, amphibians, and insects. One may also find birds that hunt in and around the water for its food (small fishes).
Shallow water Ecosystem:
Here one can only find tiny fishes and corals that live in shallow waters close to land.
These are kind of ecosystem where one can find gigantic sea creatures that live at the deep bottom of the sea. Creatures that wouldn’t be visible to the normal human eye.
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b. Terrestrial Biomes:
Terrestrial ecosystems are ecosystems that are found on land that include forests, deserts, grasslands, tundras, and coastal regions. There can be more than one terrestrial biome depending on its climate. This ecosystem further divides into:
Rainforests are the kind of ecosystems that are extremely dense because of a variety of organisms living in a tiny area.
Tundra is the kind of ecosystem that is a relatively simple ecosystem since only a few life forms can survive this ecosystem; especially because of its harsh conditions.
They are opposite of tundras, yet the have extreme conditions. Animals prefer to live in extreme heat than extreme cold.
One can find more forests than any other ecosystem in the world such as deciduous and coniferous forests. Forests can support many life forms and complex ecosystems.
c. Lentic Biomes:
These are the kinds of ecosystems that support both aquatic and terrestrial life forms such as swamps. The only requirement is that this kind of ecosystem is the exposure for the photosynthesis process to happen; since organisms here survive on the carbohydrates made by photosynthesis.
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Trophic Levels, Food Chain and Food Web
The nutritive levels in a food chain are known as Trophic Levels. The organisms in the trophic levels of the food chain are categorized based on their feeding patterns.
- Producers (green plants) make for the lowest level of the chain.
- Consumption of the by-products of these producers by the herbivores or the primary consumers makes for the second-level.
- Next, the consumption of these herbivores by carnivore or the tertiary consumers makes for the third-level. Additionally, omnivores ( organisms that consume plants and animals both) as well come at the third level.
- Quaternary consumers consist of organisms that eat these carnivores.
- Lastly, decomposers make up for a completely different level of the food chain alongside the given levels. These decomposers help in breaking waste materials and convert them into nutrients which is useful for the producers.
Organisms that lie at the very top of the food chain are known as ‘Apex Consumers’.
All of the above points together make up for what is known as ‘Food Chain’.
The interlinking of feeding relationships of various communities of organisms is known as the ‘Food web’.
Solved Example for You
Q. Which of the following organisms eat organic matter and return the nutrients to the soil?
d. None of the above
Sol: b. Decomposer
Some animals eat dead animals. They are called scavengers. They help break down or reduce organic material into smaller pieces. Decomposers then eat these smaller pieces. Decomposers eat dead materials and break them down into chemical parts. Animals and plants, then use nitrogen, carbon and other nutrients. Decomposers help the world in cleaning up the dead plants and animals.