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Concept of an Ecosystem, Structure and Function of an Ecosystem

As a group of living organisms living in a specific environment and interacting, an ecosystem can be defined as a community or group of organisms.

Concept of An Ecosystem

As a group of living organisms living in a specific environment and interacting, an ecosystem can be defined as a community or group of organisms. The tropical forest, for instance, is an ecosystem consisting of trees, plants, animals, insects and microorganisms that are in constant contact with one another and that are affected by other physical and chemical components (such as sunshine and temperature).

Ecology is the study of nature from the perspective of an ecosystem. An ecosystem is defined here as a defined physical environment, consisting of two inseparable components:
  • The biotope (abiotic) - a particular habitat with special physical features such as temperature, humidity, nutrient concentration, pH, climate, etc.
  • The biocenosis (biotic) - An organism or a set of organisms that continuously interact with and are interdependent. Examples include animals, plants, and microorganisms.

Marine Ecosystem

As well as freshwater ecosystems, a marine ecosystem belongs to aquatic ecosystems as well. In addition to covering approximately 70% of the Earth's surface, marine ecosystems contain a significant amount of salt. For example, offshore marine ecosystems could consist of the surface of the ocean, the deep ocean, or the pelagic ocean. Coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass meadows are also part of nearshore ecosystems. In the same way that abiotic and biotic aspects of marine ecosystems can be determined, so can ecosystems in the ocean. Organisms and their species are biotic components of the system while predators, parasites, and competitors are abiotic components. Rather, its abiotic components are nutrient concentration, temperatures, sunlight, wind, salinity, and density.

Natural ecosystems: how do they work?

Ecosystems are characterized by "balanced" systems. A certain amount of stability can therefore be attributed to the interactions of the different organisms in the ecosystem. Herbivores, for example, consume grass in grassland ecosystems, but their droppings are also beneficial for the soil and serve to maintain a balance. But this does not mean ecosystems, even healthy ones, are static. Dynamic processes that constantly change underlie ecosystems, which are in fact constantly evolving. A biocenosis, for example, is a living organism that interacts with its environment and constantly restructures it. But how? Plants and bacteria contribute to the microscopic world by creating humidity or helping regulate temperature and animals compact the soil, whereas animals create humidity and help regulate the temperature. In addition to this, an eco-system also evolves in response to external forces. Natural phenomena or climatic changes often cause environmental changes. By adapting to these new constraints, biocenosis allows the ecosystem's living creatures to survive and grow.

The ecosystem seeks stability constantly, but it never quite achieves it. All of the imbalances within the ecosystem tend to counterbalance each other permanently. Certain ecologies are very slow to evolve while other ecosystems are very dynamic. Extreme cases may even result in the disappearance of ecosystems.

Structure and function of ecosystem

Both biotic and abiotic components make up the structure of an ecosystem. Our environment is composed primarily of abiotic components. The climatic conditions of that environment also play a crucial role. Two main components of an ecosystem are:
  • Biotic components
  • Abiotic components
Abiotic and biotic components make up an ecosystem. There are no fixed boundaries in this system, and energy and components can move freely within or between these boundaries.

Biotic components

In an ecosystem, all the life is referred to as biological components. Based on their nutritional requirements, biotic components can be classified as homotrophs, heterotrophs, or saprotrophs (decomposers).
  • Producers - Due to their autotrophic nature, plants are considered producers. As a result of photosynthesis, they produce food as a dominant mode of food production. Due to this, all organisms higher up the food chain are dependent upon producers.
  • Consumers - Consumers or heterotrophs are organisms that eat other organisms. In addition to primary and secondary consumers, tertiary consumers are also classified.
  • Primary consumers - Food is always provided by producers to primary consumers, who are herbivores.
  • Secondary consumers - Energy is provided by primary consumers to secondary consumers. There are carnivorous and omnivorous species.
  • Tertiary consumers - A tertiary consumer is an organism that relies on a secondary consumer for nutrition. An omnivore can also be a tertiary consumer.
  • Quaternary consumers - A few food chains cater to Quaternary consumers. Tertiary consumers are preyed upon by these organisms. Additionally, they have no natural predators, which places them at the top of the food chain.
  • Decomposers - Fungi and bacteria are saprophytes, which decompose organic matter. Their primary food is decomposing organic matter. During decomposition, nutrients are recycled for use by plants in the ecosystem.

Abiotic components

An ecosystem's non-living components are its abiotic components. In addition to air, soil, minerals, sunlight, temperature, water, winds, altitude, nutrients, turbidity, etc., it also factors in sunlight.

Functions

Ecosystems perform the following functions:
  • The biotic and abiotic cycle of nutrients is responsible for the essential ecological processes, supporting life and providing stability.
  • Abiotic and biotic components are also involved in the cycling of nutrients in an ecosystem. It maintains a balance between trophic levels.
  • It helps keep the ecosystem's trophic levels in balance.
  • In the biosphere, minerals are recycled.
  • Energy is exchanged between abiotic and organic components in order to synthesize organic components.
In an ecosystem, the functional units or functional components include:
  • Productivity - This is an indicator of how much biomass is produced.
  • Energy flow - A sequential transfer of energy from one trophic level to another occurs through this process. From producers to consumers, consumers to decomposers, and then the environment to the sun again.
  • Decomposition - the act of breaking down organic matter that is dead. Decomposition takes place mostly in the topsoil.
  • Nutrient cycling - An ecosystem recycles nutrients to be utilized by different organisms through consumption and recycling.
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Ankur Choudhary is India's first professional pharmaceutical blogger, author and founder of Pharmaceutical Guidelines, a widely-read pharmaceutical blog since 2008. Sign-up for the free email updates for your daily dose of pharmaceutical tips.
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