Species Composition: Definition & Explanation

Instructor: Adrienne Brundage
Species composition is the identity of all the different organisms that make up a community. This is important when trying to discover how an ecosystem works, and how important different organisms are to an environment.

A Good Day for a Walk

You decide to go out for a walk at your neighborhood park. You've got to take advantage of this wonderful weather, right? As you're walking, you notice the wild flowers are in bloom, and they are just covered in bees and butterflies. Birds are singing in the trees, which come in all shapes and sizes. You spy a rabbit running across the trail, and think you identify some wild cat footprints in the mud. Sounds like a wonderful afternoon! But it was much more than that--you spent your afternoon engaging in one of the most fundamental aspects of ecological study: the observation of species composition.

What is Species Composition?

Species composition refers to all of the living things with in a specific ecosystem, or area. Species composition is important when trying to understand the community structure of a particular area. Think about it...if you wanted to have a beautiful vegetable garden this summer, you'd need to know what bugs are in your yard that might eat your tomatoes. You'd also want to know if you had nightly visitors of deer or gophers to eat your lettuce, and if those cute rabbits you see sometimes will decimate your carrots. And what about the weeds? Should you expect to be pulling dandelions and crabgrass all summer? Will there be enough bees to pollinate your strawberries? Wow, that simple backyard garden just became a complex study in species composition.

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