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What is Ecosystem?

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  • Last Updated : 08 Feb, 2023
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The term, the ecosystem was first used in a publication by an ecologist Arthur Tansley in 1935. In the environment, the existence of living things is very dependent on the living and non-living factors around them. All living things, including plants, animals, and microorganisms, depend on non-living substances to survive and maintain the equilibrium of the natural environment. This relationship between the living and nonliving elements is handled by the ecosystem. As a result, we might conclude that the ecosystem is the fundamental unit of nature.

What is Ecosystem?

An ecosystem is a region where a circle of life is created by plants, animals, and other organisms interacting with the weather, environment, and other factors. In the word “ecosystem”, “eco” means environment, and “system,” which refers to connected processes or elements. Ecosystems are made up of both biotic (or alive) and abiotic (or nonliving) components.

Structure of Ecosystem

The structure of an ecosystem is made of 2 components known as biotic and abiotic. The organism interacts with both components. The energy is distributed in the environment. The ecosystem includes 2 main components for a working ecosystem are:

  • Biotic Component
  • Abiotic Component

Also, Read Ecosystem and Its Component

Biotic Components

Plants, animals, microorganisms, aquatic plants, and all other living creatures are the biotic components of the ecosystem. These biotic components can be classified into

  • Producers: All plants that have the ability to produce their own food using sources like sun, water, and carbon dioxide belong to this category.
  • Consumers: All heterotrophs, primarily animals, that are dependent on the producers are called consumers. These consumers are subdivided into the following groups:
    • Primary consumers: All herbivores that directly depend on plants, such as cows, goats, rabbits, and sheep, are considered primary consumers.
    • Secondary consumers: All that depend on primary consumers for food are considered secondary consumers. The secondary consumer can be omnivores or carnivores
    • Tertiary consumers: All animals which depend on the secondary level organism for their food is known as tertiary consumers. 
    • Quaternary consumer: Those animals that depend on the tertiary level organism for their food and are known as the quaternary consumer. This level is present in some food chains only.
  • Decomposers: All microorganisms, such as bacteria and fungi, that depend on decaying and dead matter for food fall under this category. It contributes to environmental cleanup and ecosystem nutrient recycling. These nutrients support plant development and subsequently ecosystem maintenance.

Abiotic Components

It involves all the non-living things present in the environment. Some of the abiotic components are sun, soil, water, minerals, climate, rocks, temperature, and humidity. These components’ functioning together enables the ecosystem’s energy and nutrition cycles. The sun’s rays are the primary energy source. An ecosystem’s temperature changes have an impact on the types of plants that may flourish there.

Types of Ecosystem

An ecosystem can be small or large. An ecosystem can be classified into 2 types:

  • Terrestrial Ecosystem
  • Aquatic Ecosystem

Aquatic Ecosystem

Aquatic Ecosystem


Oceans, rivers, seas, lakes, springs, and other water bodies are aquatic biomes. The bulk of the earth’s surface is covered by the aquatic domain. Two-thirds of the earth’s surface is made up of oceans, seas, the intertidal zone, reefs, the seabed, and rock pools. This ecosystem includes plants, fishes, amphibians, coral reefs, huge sea creatures, and insects. An aquatic ecosystem is divided into 2 types:

  • Freshwater Ecosystem
  • Aquatic Ecosystem

Freshwater Ecosystems

A freshwater ecosystem has low salinity levels, providing a good environment for a variety of plants and animals. The sizes of freshwater resources range from small ponds to very large rivers. Freshwater resources vary from one another in terms of how they travel. While some freshwater bodies are constantly moving, like rivers, others remain still, like ponds.

Freshwater Ecosystem Types: Based on the region, the three main categories of the freshwater environment are the lotic, lentic, and wetland freshwater ecosystems.

  • Lotic: In a lotic freshwater ecosystem, the water bodies travel in one direction. Numerous rivers and streams start at their sources and meet rivers or oceans at their mouths as they travel toward their destinations. 
  • Lentic: All non-flowing (still) waterways, such as ponds, swamps, bogs, lagoons, and lakes are lentic ecosystems. Due to the saturation of the underlying land, water will temporarily remain on the earth’s surface. They are closed structures that keep the water still. Because every lentic system has multiple areas with different biological environments, animals, and plants in that system behave and adapt in different ways. 
  • Wetlands: Wetlands contain water and are home to vascular plants. Wetland environments are more often known as marshes, swamps, and bogs. Because soil and water are so close together, wetlands are highly productive. The plant species found in wetlands are referred to as hydrophytes since they have adapted to the area’s moist and humid climate. Wetland ecosystems contain hydrophyte plants such as cattails, pond lilies, and sedges. Various amphibians, reptiles, birds, shrimp, shellfish, and other animal species find refuge in wetlands.

Living creatures that live in Freshwater Ecosystems: Fishes, amphibians, reptiles, mosquitoes, dragonflies, bees, wasps, water spiders, ducks, geese, etc.

Marine Ecosystems

Aquatic environments with high levels of dissolved salt are marine ecosystems. These comprise the deep ocean, the open ocean, and the coastal marine ecosystems. Each of which has unique biological and physical properties. The ecosystem’s exposure to the sun, the amount of oxygen and nutrients that are dissolved in the water, the distance from land, the depth, and the temperature are all significant abiotic factors. Marine ecosystems have unique biotic and abiotic characteristics. 

Terrestrial Ecosystem

A terrestrial ecosystem refers to an ecosystem of diverse land surfaces. Forests, deserts, grasslands, tundra, and coastal regions are all examples of terrestrial ecosystems. These terrestrial ecosystems are climate dependent. 

  1. Forests: A forest ecosystem is a term used to describe a region that is covered in trees, creating several canopy layers. A variety of animal species live in dense tree covers and tropical rainforests. Forests are home to about 300 million different plant and animal species. A forest is a type of ecosystem that includes tropical rainforests, plantation forests, and temperate deciduous forests.
  2. Grasslands: It has a dry environment that permits relatively little vegetation. Primarily, different species of grasses, are what define the grassland ecosystem. In this environment, grass and herbs predominate. The ecosystem of grasslands is significant to the animal kingdom. 
  3. Tundra: Tundra has extreme environmental conditions like that of the polar region. The location is typically windy, blanketed in snow, and devoid of trees. Its environment is constantly covered in absolutely frozen dirt. Small ponds are formed when the snow melts. Some lichens can flourish in such ponds. 
  4. Deserts: Deserts are unproductive land surfaces with extreme temperature swings and inadequately maintained species. One of the driest land regions on the globe. A desert receives an extremely little amount of rainfall. Because of this, there is less vegetation. The desert ecosystem’s plants and animals have learned the skill of surviving extreme environments.

Functions of Ecosystem

The ecosystem’s function is to maintain its various parts working together. It is a natural process of a transfer of energy in different biotic and abiotic elements of the world. Ecosystems maintain all the important ecological processes, including nutrient cycling. Ecosystems have different functional units those are:

  • Production: Any ecosystem must have a consistent supply of solar energy to survive and function. Primary production is influenced by the types of plants that live there. Green leaves act as food preparators, while roots draw nutrients from the soil. Herbivores consume the plants, which then provide food for carnivores. 
  • Decomposition: Decomposition is the breakdown of complex organic matter by decomposers into inorganic components such as carbon dioxide, water, and nutrients. The decomposers break down garbage and dead organic material. The primary decomposers in many ecosystems are fungi and bacteria.
  • Energy flow: Radiant energy from the sun is the primary source of energy in all ecosystems. The ecosystem’s autotrophic, or self-sustaining, creatures utilize the energy of the sun. Plants use the sun’s energy to change carbon dioxide and water into simple, energizing carbohydrates. The more complex chemical substances, like proteins, lipids, and starches are produced by autotrophs. 
    Energy goes unidirectionally from the sun to producers, herbivores, and carnivores. Decomposers convert the dead autotrophs and heterotrophs into nutrients, which are energy sources for plants.
  • Nutrient cycling: Chemical substances known as nutrients are substances that organisms need for growth and the maintenance of life. A vast range of chemical compounds is created when bio-elements interact. The organisms catch them, concentrate and combine them in different ways in their cells, and release them during metabolism and death.

Important Ecological Concepts

These are the important concept under the ecosystem. Those are:

Food Chain and Food Webs

Food Chain


The cycle of energy starts with solar energy. The chain of energy transfer from one level to the topmost level is known as the food chain. Plants absorb solar energy and synthesis their own food. Later on, herbivores feed on the plants for energy. Similarly, carnivores and omnivores feed on them for energy. 

Food Web


The interconnected food chain is known as the food web. In nature mostly food webs are common instead of the food chain.

Ecological Pyramids

Energy Pyramid


These are the graphical representation of the number, energy, and biomass of the trophic level of an ecosystem. Charles Elton postulates the ecological pyramid in 1927.

The base of the pyramid denotes the producers of that particular ecosystem. Then it is followed by the consumers and the top decomposers. 

FAQs on Ecosystem

Question 1: What is the Ecosystem?


It is an area where both biotic and abiotic interaction takes place, such an area is known as Ecosystem.

Question 2: What are the Functional Components of an Ecosystem?


Functional components of an ecosystem are:

  • Productivity
  • Decomposition
  • Energy
  • Biogeochemical Cycle

Question 3: In which Ecosystem do we live?


Humans live in the Terrestrial Ecosystem. An ecosystem where the biotic and abiotic interaction takes place on the land such ecosystem is known as a terrestrial ecosystem.

Question 4: What is the Largest Ecosystem in the world?


An aquatic ecosystem is the largest ecosystem on earth. It is further classified into the:

  • Freshwater ecosystem
  • Marine Ecosystem

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