Ecosystem





Ecosystem 2816
Photo by: Vlad61

An ecosystem (or ecological system) is a collection of communities of organisms and the environment in which they live. Ecosystems can vary greatly in size. Some examples of small ecosystems are tidal pools, a home garden, or the stomach of an individual cow. Larger ecosystems might encompass lakes, agricultural fields, or stands of forests. Landscape-scale ecosystems encompass larger regions, and may include different terrestrial (land) and aquatic (water) communities. Ultimately, all of Earth's life and its physical environment could be considered to represent an entire ecosystem, known as the biosphere.

Ecologists often invent boundaries for ecosystems, depending on the particular needs of their work. (Ecologists are scientists who study the relationships of organisms with their living and nonliving environments.) For example, depending on the specific interests of an ecologist, an ecosystem might be defined as the shoreline vegetation around a lake, or the entire lake itself, or the lake plus all the land around it. Because all of these units consist of organisms and their environment, they can properly be considered to be ecosystems.

The raw materials of an ecosystem

All ecosystems have a few basic characteristics in common. They use energy (usually provided by sunlight) to build complex chemical compounds out of simple materials. At the level of plants, for example, carbon dioxide and water vapor are combined with the energy of sunlight to produce complex carbohydrates, such as starches (this process is known as photosynthesis). As plants (producers) are consumed by other organisms, more complex substances are manufactured in their bodies, and energy is passed upward through the food web.

The flow of energy in an ecosystem occurs in only one direction: it is always consumed by higher levels of organisms in a food web. As a result, each level of a food web contains less energy than the levels below it. By contrast, nutrients can flow in any direction in an ecosystem. When plants and animals die, the compounds of which they are formed are decomposed by microorganisms (decomposers), returned to the environment, and are recycled for use again by other organisms.

One of the greatest challenges facing humans and their civilization is to develop an understanding of the fundamentals of ecosystem organization, how they function and how they are structured. This knowledge

A freshwater ecosystem. (Reproduced by permission of The Gale Group.)
A freshwater ecosystem. (Reproduced by permission of
The Gale Group
.)

is absolutely necessary if humans are to design systems that allow for the continued use of the products and services of ecosystems. Humans are sustained by ecosystems, and no alternative to this relationship exists.

[ See also Biosphere ; Gaia hypothesis ]



User Contributions:

ANTOINETTE MARIE GOMEZ
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Apr 19, 2007 @ 6:18 pm
i like this picture b/c im in sixth grade and i have science and this is somethin thats can help me in the class that is sorta not my best interest
animal lover
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Apr 24, 2007 @ 11:11 am
i am in 5th grade we are now learning about ecosystems and i think this might help us. we are now at the very begginnig and we have to draw a picture of an ecosystem. HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO DO THAT!?!
sonia
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Apr 3, 2008 @ 7:19 pm
umm grade 7 love it soo easy and soo cool! handy in big projects
alex
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May 19, 2008 @ 6:18 pm
ha, im in 9th grade and im using this illustration to represent my fresh water ecosystem in my honors bio class project. good job
Gabriella
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Jun 4, 2008 @ 8:20 pm
I'm in fith garde and we are learining about ecosystems and the is helps me becuse it comes in handy!
rhea
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Jul 9, 2008 @ 5:05 am
hi! i really appreciate ur illustration and i want to learn a lot! ^_^
ceegee franco
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Sep 18, 2008 @ 7:07 am
ITS NICE! i learned something from the picture I'm in 6th grade and i love science! this is really helpful.
=) T.Y
india
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Dec 17, 2008 @ 6:18 pm
ha im in the 8th grade and we have to draw and ecosystem and im using this picture.
jena
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Feb 23, 2009 @ 2:14 pm
im in 7th grade and this comes in handy for my homework
soleil
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May 18, 2009 @ 7:19 pm
hi!im in 6th grade and we are supposed to do a ecosystem project and this answered all of my questions!!!THANKS!
nechaila natasha dabasol
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Jul 23, 2009 @ 1:01 am
im now in grade 6th graduating next year..im here in philippines.....ecosystem here in this column has a great explanation!!keep it up!!
agbi albert
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Aug 26, 2009 @ 3:15 pm
AM IN THE UNIVERSITY AND WE HAVE BEEN ASKED TO WRITE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ECOLOGY AND ECOSYSTEM.PLEASE HELP ME
Amariah
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Sep 22, 2009 @ 4:16 pm
i forgot my science book at school and i'm trying to find some information but thanks anyway!
reyanna nunley
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Oct 6, 2009 @ 7:19 pm
i'm in 5th grade and i'm learning about ecosystems.this helps me learn alot more about it.it's so COOL!
mysteriousperson
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Oct 7, 2009 @ 7:19 pm
hey im in 7th grade and its really hand thanks alot.
Cristal
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Nov 4, 2009 @ 4:16 pm
I'm in the 7th grade & Science is easy!! But what is the food chain in the picture above?? Please help me!! My homework is due tomorrow! ) :
katie
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Dec 17, 2009 @ 2:14 pm
wow its perfect for my ecosystem project its really hard though!
darcy
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Feb 1, 2010 @ 4:16 pm
i love cause i am in the 6th grade and we have to write a definishon and photo
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Feb 4, 2010 @ 9:21 pm
what is the common term of economy system for water ecosystem.
Synester gates
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Oct 1, 2010 @ 10:10 am
ha i'm in 10th grade and this a good example for the fresh water ecosystem and this help to find my 25 producers and 25 consumers now i'm almost done my h/w
Amy
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Jan 4, 2011 @ 2:14 pm
I love this! This helped me with my ecosysytem project and I got an A!>
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Jan 6, 2011 @ 5:17 pm
I love this! This helped me with my Science project and I got an A!. Next time that I have a Science project I am going here again.! YOU ROCK!
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Jan 19, 2011 @ 8:20 pm
Does anyone know where I can find an example of a project over levels of classification?
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Mar 3, 2011 @ 12:00 am
Hi my teacher has asked to get a riddle on ecosystems. Please could you help me on this?
Your help will be highly appreciated Thanks
Lizbeth
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May 8, 2011 @ 2:14 pm
thats cool im doing a science packet you have to do an example picture and many definitions
ODESSA
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Jun 16, 2011 @ 7:19 pm
HA ,IM 10TH GRADE USING AND COLLECTING ANY OF THAT ecosystem in my honor science class>
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Aug 6, 2011 @ 11:11 am
Please my teacher had asked me a question on this topic, so you will help me and make an example and some definition for me. Thanks I'm cool and say bye.
Sairin
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Sep 25, 2011 @ 7:07 am
well. it is astonishing. I'm sure the pupils will like this topic.
pradee nataraj
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Oct 20, 2011 @ 8:08 am
i am sure every science student will like this topic
johnny
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Dec 9, 2011 @ 9:21 pm
hello i'm in 6th grade. my teacher ask me about this so i study the ecosystem... this is intermediate
Rizxa Andarza
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Feb 3, 2012 @ 6:06 am
Wow it is so nice. I really like it. Keep your good ideas.
marianicamirafuentes
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Feb 6, 2012 @ 11:23 pm
it helps our projects,activities,outputs,and research in science 1
Breuna Jennings
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Dec 17, 2012 @ 5:17 pm
Hey!!!I'm so lucky i came to this website cause this paper was due tomorrow in my 4a class so thank you so much!!!
sara
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Mar 23, 2014 @ 10:10 am
hi im in 7th grade what grade is this for cause I see some grade 5 and grade 6 and some grade 7!
kenzie Tanubrata
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Jun 12, 2014 @ 8:08 am
include the content on biotic and a biotic factors in an ecosystem and how they influence the distribution of organisms
Suzaan
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Jul 31, 2014 @ 5:05 am
I am in 7th grade. I really like this site! Thank you so much! :)

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