Debra has taught at elementary levels and has an M.ed with certification in elementary education and special education
What Are Ecosystems?
Can you think of some important things that you need in order to survive? There are five things that all living things need, and they include sunlight, water, air, food, and a habitat with the right temperature. Sorry, video games are not on the list.
An ecosystem is a specific area that can be either in water (aquatic) or on land (terrestrial). Ecosystems can be small; like under a rock or inside a tree trunk; medium, like a pond, lake, or forest; or large, like the ocean or our entire planet.
The living organisms within an ecosystem, such as plants, animals, trees, and insects, interact with non-living things, such as weather, soil, sun, and climate, and depend on each other for survival. For example, in a swamp ecosystem, living organisms such as plants, insects, and trees interact with non-living things such as water, sun, and soil.
Levels of Organization
There are different levels of organization within an ecosystem:
- Individual : a single living organism, such as a plant or animal.
- Population: a group of individuals from the same species living in the same area and interacting with each other. There's a fish population when many fish live in the same area.
- Community: many different populations of species living in the same area and interacting with each other. There is a community when populations of fish, eels, and sharks are all living in the same area and interacting.
- Ecosystem: communities that live and interact with each other as well as with non-living things. It is here in the ecosystem that the communities depend on things like water, sun, and temperature.
In an ecosystem, all living things need food in order to get energy. Green plants are called the producers in a food chain. With the help of the sun, they can produce their own food. They're the very first level of the food chain.
Primary consumers, such as insects, caterpillars, cows, and sheep, consume (eat) the plants. The secondary consumers, such as lions, snakes, and cats, eat the primary consumers. And so on, with each higher level eating the animals below them on the food chain.
Decomposers, such as bacteria and fungi, are nature's recyclers. They eat dead plants and animals, breaking them into small bits of nutrients that go right back into the soil for plant use.
As you can see, an ecosystem is a delicate balance between many organisms and the environment that surrounds it. Changes or threats to one ecosystem will not only affect that ecosystem, but they can also affect the many ecosystems nearby. Most of the major threats to ecosystems are caused, in one way or another, by humans and include:
- Pollution, like dumping trash and toxic chemicals, can cause ecosystem organisms to die
- Loss of habitat, like the cutting down of forests, takes away the ecosystems' home
- Climate change, like changes in temperature or rainfall, can affect ecosystems that have adapted to a specific environment
Okay, let's take a second to review the important information that we've learned. In this lesson, we looked at ecosystems, which are specific areas that can be either in water (aquatic) or on land (terrestrial). We also learned that an ecosystem is made up of living organisms and non-living things that depend on each other for survival. We also learned about food chains, which include:
- Producers: as in the green plants that produce their own food with sunlight and rain
- Primary consumers : eat the producers
- Secondary consumers: eat the primary consumers
- Decomposers: nature's recyclers
Changes, whether small or large, to one ecosystem can also have a negative affect to the many ecosystems surrounding it, so it's important that we keep all of this information in mind when thinking and talking about the natural environments around us.
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