An ecosystem is the sum of both the living (biotic) and nonliving (abiotic) components of a natural community. The process of energy flows and nutrient cycles make it possible for both the biotic and abiotic elements to work together. In short, an ecosystem is an interaction and sometimes a symbiosis that permits organisms to exist in limited spaces. Energy, air, water, soil, soil minerals, and nitrogen are all important components of an ecosystem. External factors also matter in how an ecosystem exists and prospers. Climate, topography, time, biota, and the parent material all affect the ecosystem in some way.
The Three Types of Ecosystems
Ecosystems come in three types. These are:
- Freshwater ecosystems: a freshwater ecosystem can be defined as a small area equal to just about 1.8% of the earth's surface. This ecosystem has variety of life such as flora and fauna. Freshwater plankton is also available.
- Terrestrial ecosystems: the terrestrial ecosystem encompasses seven major ecosystems such as the tropical rainforests, savannas, deserts, temperate grasslands, deciduous forests, coniferous forest, and tundra. Location of a place and climate patterns affect terrestrial ecosystems in a major way.
- Ocean ecosystems: Ocean ecosystem covers about 75% of the planet. About 40% of all photosynthesis happens in oceans.
Living and Non-living Components
Living and non-living elements of an ecosystem have a complex inter-relationship that enables all the participants within its bounds to flourish. As the biotic organisms and abiotic elements come together, they play their distinct roles to produce a viable environment for an ecosystem to exist. Biotic organisms are defined as the living elements such as micro-organisms, animals, and plants. Abiotic factors are the rocks, soil, air, and water that allow these biotic elements to flourish.
An ecosystem has three important living divisions: producers, consumers, and decomposers. These three components are always present in any ecosystem on earth. They work with the abiotic factors that provide them the environment to grow and flourish. Although abiotic factors are the main partners of biotic elements in an ecosystem, some abiotic elements may produce environmental stress that could undermine that ecosystem. The shoreline of the ocean has an intertidal zone that is under environmental stress most of the time. This stress is generated when the zone is exposed to air during low tides and vice versa. Marine animals living in these areas must adapt to these conditions to survive. On the other hand, a jungle or forest without human intervention has a very stable environment that allows animals to thrive despite the food web factor.
Human Threats and Conservation Efforts
Human Threats to the environment are being addressed by conservation organizations all over the world today. However, almost always, conservationists are a step behind in their efforts when faced with big corporate businesses who are behind the threats to the environment. Urban development, dams, dredging, draining of lands and logging all contribute to the ever-worsening destruction of nature's various ecosystems. Although many business corporations have been made aware of their destructive business practices, not many have addressed these conservation concerns. Experts say that the present-day ecological footprint on Earth is equivalent to 1.5 Earth. The impact of this is unsustainable as the need for renewable resources increases along with the human population growth.