Table of Contents
- What is a Terrestrial Ecosystem?
- Terrestrial Organisms
- Terrestrial Ecosystem Types
- Terrestrial Ecosystem Examples
- Lesson Summary
An ecosystem in biology is defined as a system that consists of biotic or living things that interact with each other as well as with abiotic or non-living things (the physical environment.) The terrestial ecosystem definition can therefore be said to describe land ecosystems or those ecosystems that are land-based. In contrast, marine ecosystems, which are the second category of ecosystems, describe those ecosystems that are based in water bodies, like the ocean. Terrestrial ecosystems can be found on all seven continents. They are important habitats for many species of living things. Human society also depends heavily on these terrestrial ecosystems for services like food, fuel, fiber, and even their role in weather and nutrient cycles.
Terrestrial ecology is the study of terrestrial ecosystems and the biotic and abiotic things that occupy them. Biotic things found in terrestrial ecosystems refer to living organisms. These living organisms are often referred to as terrestrial organisms because they are land-based. Terrestrial ecosystems are described and categorized based on the organisms found in them, as well as the way these organisms interact with each other and with abiotic factors found in their environment. Different terrestrial organisms that belong to different terrestrial ecosystems bear specific physical and genetic traits that are based on the climate, abiotic factors, and biotic factors. These traits are called adaptations, as they help the organism survive in its ecosystem. These adaptations also help determine the niche of the organism, which is the role the organism plays in its ecosystem.
Terrestrial ecosystems on our planet can be further divided into six major types, namely taigas, tundra, deciduous forests, grasslands, desert, and tropical rainforest ecosystems. These classifications of distinct ecosystems are based on common features, such as their geographical characteristics (e.g., temperature, precipitation, soil, etc.) and the type of vegetation and other living organisms found in them.
The Taiga ecosystem can be found directly below the arctic circle, in the northern regions of North America, Europe, and Asian continents, primarily in the countries of Canada and Russia. This ecosystem covers over 17% of the total land on Earth and is characterized by the presence of coniferous, evergreen trees. Other distinct features of the taiga terrestrial ecosystem include its long and cold winters and high amount of yearly precipitation. The animal species of the taiga are often either able to change fur color, hibernate or migrate, which are all strategies that can help them survive the harsh winter season. Some examples of well-known taiga animals include lynx (Lynx canadensis) and moose (Alces alces). The dominant plant species of this ecosystem are the tall, coniferous trees (e.g., pine, aspen, and spruce), and the forest floor is often covered with species of fungi, such as lichens and mosses.
The Tundra ecosystem is primarily found in the arctic circles around the north and south poles of the earth. However, it can also occur at very high altitudes, such as on top of tall mountains. Tundra ecosystems are described as being cold and windy and are largely blanketed in a permanent layer of snow, except during summer months. They are primarily found in the state of Alaska (USA) and the countries of Greenland, Russia, Canada, and Scandinavian countries. Tundras are characteristically devoid of trees and are often considered deserts because of their low rainfall rates. Instead, vegetation found in tundra includes mostly moss, lichens, and small plants. Tundra soils are frozen for a major part of the year and permafrost - the phenomenon of permanently frozen soil - is common in these regions. Animal life found in tundra ecosystems includes polar bears (Ursus maritimus), Arctic hare (Lepus arcticus), reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), and ptarmigan (Lagopus genus)
Deciduous forest ecosystems, or temperate deciduous forest ecosystems, are described as forest ecosystems consisting of primarily deciduous tree species or tree species that shed all their leaves once a year. Deciduous forests are characteristic of regions with year-round rainfall (30-60mm) and cold winters (below freezing) and are generally found in the mid-latitude regions, between the polar and tropical regions of Earth. They are especially common in countries like Canada, the USA, Japan, China, and Russia as well as many European countries. Vegetation found in deciduous forests includes broadleaf, deciduous tree species like oak (Quercus genus) and maple (Acer Genus), as well as small plants, moss, and lichen. Animals found in this ecosystem include white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), Bison (Bison genus), and the Asian black bear (Ursus thibetanus.)
Grassland ecosystems, as the name suggests, are terrestrial ecosystems where the predominant vegetation is grass and herbs (non-woody plants). Grasslands occur in regions where the growth of woody plants is restricted (for various possible reasons, such as the grazing of large animals). The prairies of North America and the savannas of Africa are examples of grassland ecosystems. Animals that live in grassland ecosystems include wildebeest, bison, and zebras
Tropical Rainforest ecosystems are unique for having the greatest diversity of plants and animal species found in them. As the name suggests, tropical rainforests are found located between the tropic of Cancer and the tropic of Capricorn and are characterized by having abundant rainfall throughout the year. Vegetation in rainforests forms distinct layers such as the canopy which is occupied by tall trees, and the understory, which contains small shrubs, herbs, and young trees. The animal life found in tropical rainforests is extremely diverse, but a few examples include tigers (Panthera tigris), orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus), and sloths (Choloepus hoffmani.)
Desert ecosystems are characterized as being the driest of all ecosystems on Earth with a very low annual precipitation. Deserts can be found between latitudes 15 and 35 (in both the northern and southern hemispheres) of the Earth, and generally fluctuate between extreme hot temperatures during the day and extremely cold temperatures during the night. This extreme climate makes this ecosystem a harsh environment for living organisms, and the plant and animal species found here are highly adapted in order to survive. For example, desert plant species (such as cacti) are generally adapted to store and conserve water and remain dormant during dry periods. The majority of animal species found in deserts are reptiles, arachnids, or birds. However, mammal species (such as camels and ground squirrels) can also be found here. Desert animals generally have adaptations to evade drought conditions (e.g., through aestivation) or resist drought conditions (e.g., being nocturnal hunters and minimizing water loss through sweat/urination).
Three examples of terrestrial ecosystems are:
An Ecosystem is defined as a system consisting of interacting, biotic (living), and abiotic (non-living) things. Terrestrial ecosystems are defined as those ecosystems that are land-based. The living organisms found in land-based ecosystems are called terrestrial organisms. There are six key types of terrestrial ecosystems that are identified based on their general climatic and geographic features, vegetation, and the types of terrestrial organisms found in them. They are as follows:
Some examples of terrestrial ecosystems are the Serengetti, a grassland ecosystem found in Africa; The Amazon rainforest, a tropical rainforest ecosystem in South America; and the Sahara desert, a desert ecosystem in northern Africa.
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This activity will have students researching different types of ecosystems and creating a model of their own in a plastic bottle. To carry out this activity you will need:
Before students get started, have them research what ecosystem they want to create a model of. Typically, succulent plants from the desert or chaparral do well, or small tropical plants from the deciduous forest or tropical rainforest.
Now that you are familiar with the type of terrestrial ecosystems, it's time to try your hand at making a model of one. In this activity, you will choose one type of terrestrial ecosystem and create a model of it in a terrarium. Most terrariums have a layer of gravel, activated charcoal, and soil with plants on top. The exact choice of soil type will depend on which type of terrestrial ecosystem you plan to model and the plants that live in it. The most common types to see in a terrarium are desert, chaparral, and deciduous forest.
Students should see plant growth over time if the greenhouses are constructed properly. A few things to look out for are over or under watering. It is important that students match the amount of water to what plants would experience in their natural habitat. Students should also consider the amount of sunlight that plants need. Some plants need partial sun, while others might need full sun to thrive.
There six key types of terrestrial ecosystems. They are:
Terrestrial ecosystem is a term for those ecosystems that are land-based. They are different from the second type of ecosystem, marine ecosystems.
Terrestrial ecosystems are important because they house a large number of the worlds living organisms. They also provide valuable products to humans such as food, fuel and fibres.
Terrestrial ecosystems provide habitat to all the world terrestrial or land-based organisms. This includes plant and animal species that are adapted to their specific ecosystem.
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