An ecosystem is a biological environment and all the living and nonliving components of that environment. The living components are referred to as the biotic components, while the nonliving components are referred to as abiotic. The biotic and abiotic factors of an ecosystem are intertwined, as the interaction between the two factors determines the composition of the ecosystem.
Types of Ecosystems
There are two types of ecosystems: terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Terrestrial ecosystems are land-based ecosystems; they are further divided into taiga, grassland, tundra, and temperate deciduous forest. Aquatic ecosystems are water-based; they are broadly subdivided into marine ecosystems and freshwater ecosystems. Marine ecosystems include the seas, oceans and other salt-containing bodies of water, like estuaries. Freshwater ecosystems are aquatic ecosystems that contain little to no salt, like lakes, ponds, streams and rivers.
Aquatic Biotic and Abiotic Components
The components of aquatic ecosystems are generally similar to those of terrestrial ecosystems. The organisms are divided into producers and consumers. The producers, or autotrophs, are the first step in a chain that culminates with the decomposers. The producers in an aquatic ecosystem are the algae that convert sunlight into organic compounds through photosynthesis. Other animals, like fish, feed on the algae; when those animals die, they are consumed either by other animals or by decomposers like fungi and bacteria that break down the chemicals from the producers and consumers. Some abiotic factors in an aquatic ecosystem are lacking in a biotic ecosystem; these include water pressure, salinity and waves.
Terrestrial Biotic and Abiotic Components
The biotic factors in a terrestrial ecosystem are the producers, consumers and decomposers. The producers are the plants that convert sunlight into energy; secondary producers like herbivores depend on the producers for this energy. Consumers like omnivores and carnivores depend on both the primary and secondary producers for their energy, while the decomposers and scavengers consume the waste from the producers and consumers. A biotic chain in a terrestrial ecosystem might look like this: grass produces food, cow eats the grass, tiger eats the cow, beetles eat the droppings of tiger and cow, and when cow dies, scavengers like vultures eat the remains and microbes finish up the job. Abiotic factors in a terrestrial ecosystem include rain, sunlight, snow, sand, temperature and humidity.
Transfer of Energy
From the above it is clear to see that energy is cycled in an ecosystem because the energy enters the ecosystem through the sun, which is the foundation of life. The plants convert the sunlight into usable energy, which passes through the different organisms until the energy is released back into the ecosystem by microbes as they break down the organisms during the process of decomposition.
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