The words ecosystem and environment are often confused. Most people and reference materials use them interchangeably. Scientifically, an environment and an ecosystem are distinct but interrelated concepts. By definition, an environment refers to the habitat of living things but does not include the coexistence between the surrounding and living things. An ecosystem refers to the entire community; it encompasses the relationship between both living and nonliving things, and the environment.
An environment is the immediate natural, social, or manmade surroundings of living and nonliving things. It impacts and shapes an individual’s intellect and behavior. The environment can be broadly classified into geographic and manmade.
The geographic environment consists of natural features that affect but do not depend on humans. It includes natural features and phenomena such as mountains, land, water, storms, deserts, cyclones, ocean, volcanoes, and climatic factors. Advancements in technology and science have helped humans alter their geographic environment by the construction of homes, cities, and associated amenities such as communication and channels.
The manmade environment is created by man to monitor and regulate his living conditions. It can be divided into outer and inner environments. The inner environment is made up of the social features that exist as long as societies exist. It features traditions, regulations, institutions, and organizations. The social environment helps humans thrive and flourish by integrating and coexisting with others. The primary objective of the outer environment is to create urbanization and civilization.
An ecosystem refers to the community of living and nonliving things in a natural setting. It features animals, plants, microorganisms, water, soil, and insects. Ecosystems are divided into aquatic and terrestrial. The major ecosystems of the world are forests, deserts, grasslands, tundra, marine, and freshwater.
Forests are classified as either temperate, boreal, or tropical. Tropical rainforest ecosystems contain the most diverse fauna and flora as the tropical region receives consistent rainfall throughout the year. The trees are tall with a dense canopy. The temperate zone is characterized by deciduous and coniferous forests that shade trees during fall though some remain evergreen. Boreal forests are found in the far north close to the Arctic.
Grassland ecosystems are found in steppes, savannas, and prairies in temperate and tropical regions though they can exist in colder areas as well. They share some common characteristics of the semi-arid ecosystem.
The notable feature of a desert is the low precipitation that is below 10 inches annually. Not all deserts are hot, some such as the Arctic and Antarctic are cold, but regardless of latitude, all deserts experience windy conditions. Rocks cover some deserts while others feature dunes. Vegetation is either sparse or nonexistent while animals are adapted for dry conditions
These ecosystems are characterized by a harsh environment. The Tundra region remains snow-covered, with limited or non-existence trees. For a brief period in spring and summer, the snow melts producing ponds that attract waterfowl.
These ecosystems are found in freshwater environments such as rivers, lakes, bogs, springs, streams, and swamps. They are a habitat for fish, plankton, insects, reptiles, and amphibians. Freshwater ecosystems are some of the most important to humans because they provide water for domestic and agricultural use.
Marine ecosystems are the most abundant in the world. They not only cover the oceans but extend to tidal zones, salt marshes, estuaries, mangroves, and saltwater swamps. They provide a habitat for fish and marine mammals, as well as contribute significantly to the global weather pattern.