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Ecosystem: Its Characteristics, Types and Differences

Updated on October 24, 2017
Conifer Ecosystem
Conifer Ecosystem | Source

Ecosystem is a biotic community living in a particular environment such as a forest, coral reef and other physical parts with nonliving environment. Ecosystem was coined in 1935 by British Ecologist Sir Arthur George Tansley who described natural system in “constant interchange” with living and nonliving parts.

We all know that an environment determines what type of organism can live, where and how many of them can thrive. A habitat is the type of environment in which an organism lives like for example an earthworm lives in soil, fish’s lives in coral reefs and birds lives mostly in trees. Their habitat is where they really suite, just like earthworms which has a very thin moist skin; they will dry up and die if exposed in too much heat coming from the sun above the ground.

Soil, rice field, farm and house are some of the examples of land habitats or terrestrial habitats. Ponds, seas, ocean, lakes and rivers are water habitats or aquatic habitats. To be specific seas and oceans are marine or salt habitat while ponds and rivers are freshwater habitats.

Frog | Source

But what will be the chances of mice if there are cats living on the same house? Would the mice have the same chances of survival? These are the factors that we must consider too. And to be able for them to survive they must do the following:

  1. It must be able to tolerate the environmental condition of the place
  2. It must be able to compete and protect itself from other organism which can also tolerate the same environmental condition.

In other words, the organism has characteristics which adapt it to both the biotic and abiotic components of its environment.

Fox | Source

Each habitat has its own environmental factors which makes them unique and different from other types of habitat. Below are some of the factors:

  • Amount of moisture
  • Temperature
  • Amount of sunlight
  • Salt content
  • Type of soil

Living things are affected by Abiotic factors and these nonliving things are the environmental factors that determine what plant and animals can live and exist. Survival of an organism is affected by these factors, though they can thrive if they can tolerate the condition of a particular environment.

Like for example if a mice find their way to a barn or a house similar to those in field they have a good chance to survive as far as temperature, humidity and other physical factors of the environment are concerned.

Natural Ecosystem

Some of the natural ecosystems are grassland, forest and coastal zone ecosystem.

1. Forest – is a plant community mostly of tress and other woody vegetation that occupy an extensive area of land. In a natural state it remains in relative fixed and self-regulated over a long period of time. Trees are determined by the characteristic of:

  • Climate
  • Soil
  • Topography of the region

Original forest which are untouched or virgin are also called “Primary Forest” while when trees in the forest are cut down by deforestation and people plant trees again by reforestation the forest is then called “Second-Growth Forest or Secondary Forest”.

For example, in Philippines the primary forest in the lowland includes dipterocarp forest, mangrove forest and molave forest. In the highlands, they are pine forest such as those found in Baguio City and in the mountains of Central Cordillera, Zambales and in Mindoro which has “Mossy Forest”.

Dipterocarp forest is the richest type of tropical rainforest for it has the biggest plant and animal species. Thick canopy is the richest habitat for birds. Thick layer of decaying leaves on the forest is the richest habitat for millipedes, leeches, centipedes and land snails. And the untouched dipterocarp forest abounds in mammals, birds, reptiles and insects that thrive on trees, grounds and in soil.

2. Grassland – is an ecosystem where grasses, sedges and forage plants are dominant vegetation. Grasslands are also natural, semi-natural and cultivated. It also refers to the land with natural grass cover without trees or very few widely scattered trees. These grasslands are the result of destruction of forest caused by man.

In the Philippines, the dominant vegetation in plenty types of grassland is cogon along the hillsides and talahib in the lowlands where there is more water. Talahib is a grass species which needs abundant sunlight. Some of the animals that lives on grasslands includes:

  • Lizards
  • Rats
  • Birds
  • Insects

Coastal | Source

3. Coastal Zone – refers to the strip of land at the edge of the sea or lake that includes both the exposed and submerged portions. It is a flat, low-lying geographical region near the sea. One good example of this is Philippines, since the country is archipelagic in nature, its beaches, tidal flats and coral reefs; among themselves coastal zone ecosystems vary tremendously both in the biotic and abiotic components.

Coastal zones like mangrove forest and coral reefs are among the richest habitats like a man and insect and in water below, a great variety of fishes, crabs, shrimps and mollusks.

If you will be given the chance to be a producer, consumer, decomposer what will you choose to be?

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Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta, United States
Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta, United States | Source

Man-Made Ecosystem

These are ecosystem that is built and maintained by people. It is unique in a way that people deliberately play a major role in functioning and maintaining the ecosystem. Some of these man-made ecosystem are:

  • Aquarium
  • Rice fields
  • Farm
  • Ponds
  • Urban Ecosystem

Rice fields and farm are agricultural ecosystem. These are lands that is covered or planted with crops such as corns, sugar cane, tobacco, cottons, coconut and abaca.

In Philippines, most of the fish ponds are artificially built many mangrove forests. Some freshwater lakes are also utilized as fish pens by constructing fish pens close to the shore such as in Laguna Lake and Sampaloc Lake in Laguna Province.

Urban Ecosystem or urban lands which were developed for residence of people as well as their support activities. Examples of there are: subdivisions, parks and cemeteries.

Aquarium | Source

Special Microecosystem

These are small units of habitat in land and in water where organisms interact with both living and nonliving components. Such interaction is a small scale characterizes a Microecosystem. Thus, the hay infusion in the laboratory in a Microecosystem, a fallen log on the forest floor and the rotting fruits in market stalls are all examples of Microecosystem.

  1. The Soil Ecosystem – the basic components of soil are the inorganic particles of sand, silt and clay. These materials come from the breakdown or weathering of rocks on the earth’s surface. Rainwater dissolves gases in the air and brings them down to join the products of weathering. Thus, soil is actually a mixture of materials that come from the land of materials that come from the land, air and water.

Another important component of the soil is the decomposed organic matter from dead plants and animals known as humus. It provides the materials needed by the organism in the soil. Therefore, the greater the amount of humus present in the soil, the more fertile the soil is. In addition, humus increases the water-retaining capacity of the soil.

The bulk of the biotic components of the soil community consist of microconsumers, the decomposers. These microorganism which includes bacteria, fungi and algae break down the complex organic substances in the dead bodies of plants and animals. However, many of them use certain materials only; the remaining decaying substances are eaten by other organisms.

A special type of food chain develops among the soil microorganisms. The products of the activities of one species become the food of another species and so on, until only the inorganic substances from the decaying materials are left in the soil.

Another relationship is as follows; the threadlike hyphae of certain fungi pierce or penetrate the roots of higher plants and form a mutual association called mycorrhizae. In this symbiotic relationship, the fungus absorbs food from the roots while the roots absorb dissolved nutrients from the fungus partner. Another interesting activity in the soil is the role played by nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the nitrogen cycle.

References ; Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia , Science and Technology by Lilia M. Rabago Ph. D , Crescensia C. Joaquin Ph.D, Catherine B. Lagunzad , PH. D, Encarta


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    • profile image

      jaye 18 months ago

      yea i need some help please. can anyone help me please. / god bless u all

    • KenDeanAgudo profile image

      Kenneth C Agudo 4 years ago from Tiwi, Philippines

      Hello SidKemp ;

      Oh I am a Computer Engineering Student (3rd yr.) I had also dreamed to be a teacher maybe someday if i will be given a chance to. Thank you for the appreciation ;-)

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Thank you. I think you'll be a great expert and teacher 30 years from now yourself - and the world needs that. That's why I started this dialog in the first place. Keep growing and learning as you write!

    • KenDeanAgudo profile image

      Kenneth C Agudo 4 years ago from Tiwi, Philippines

      Your Welcome SidKemp -- so i was arguing and talking to an expert! it's a pleasure, looks like your a great teacher if i was not mistaken. Oh yes you are right there are lots of micro-ecosystem created. For example a decaying branch, fungus, worms and other elements stay and started to live there. Such a nice and informational thought, I will gonna look at it .;-)

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Thanks Ken. Well, I've been studying ecosystems from a General Systems Theory perspective for 30 years! Two things I find fascinating: One is the effect of living organisms on non-living ecosystem elements, such as the microbes that cause rainfall. (Watergeek wrote a hub about that). The other is how a living organism creates a micro-environment and then lives in it and adapts . This is everything from a bird's nest to a city. You might enjoy my series of hubs that have "Go Green" in the title. I look at how humans have changed ecosystems over millenia, and are now doing it in less than a century.

    • KenDeanAgudo profile image

      Kenneth C Agudo 4 years ago from Tiwi, Philippines

      Thank you SidKemp for the read.You have the points and views. but a habitat is the best place that a type of a specie or organism can live. The ecosystem may change and they may evolve into more complex creatures. It is changeable and not permanent. In some sense you have a broader perspective and idea.

      Great !

    • SidKemp profile image

      Sid Kemp 4 years ago from Boca Raton, Florida (near Miami and Palm Beach)

      Thanks for this great introduction to ecosystems. I would suggest that a habitat does not determine which organisms can live. Rather, it provides a set of parameters that limit what can live. But, through evolution and migration, many different possible combinations of organisms live in, and change, the ecosystem.

      Another key element to ecosystems is toxins. For example, fresh-water fish find salt (ocean) water toxic. So the issue of toxicity is part of toleration, whether we are talking about natural environments or those polluted by human activity.

    • KenDeanAgudo profile image

      Kenneth C Agudo 4 years ago from Tiwi, Philippines

      Thanks raks;

      my favorite subject is science ;-)

    • RaksTheBlogger profile image

      Rakshith MG 4 years ago from Greetings From India!

      Good one,ken!Man you really are Intrested in science,aren't you?Great hub,keep going!