An ecosystem consists of both living and non-living elements of that environment. Therefore, an ecosystem is composed of plants, animals, soil, rocks, minerals, atmosphere, water masses, and microorganisms.
There is no specific size of an ecosystem. It can be large enough that it cuts across countries or as small as a single animal (an animal is a home to several micro-organisms).
We can classify ecosystems into either:
- Natural ecosystem
- Unnatural ecosystem
A natural ecosystem is an ecosystem which is self-sufficient, with balanced ecological units and a high fraction of native biodiversity. It also has negligible human disruption.
On the other hand, an unnatural ecosystem is one that is inclusive of urban and agricultural areas. These zones are highly modified and upheld by a range of human activities.
A natural ecosystem is extensive and can be further classified into an either aquatic or terrestrial ecosystem. Our article will focus on the natural ecosystem, and we will discuss five types of natural ecosystems.
Its main characteristic is it is inclusive of non-woody vegetation cover. Grass-like plants dominate this ecosystem. Grassland ecosystem is common in dry areas where the soil water is only sufficient to support herbaceous plants.
Grasslands are common in plains, and rolling topography and grazing animals inhabit the ecosystem. Grassland ecosystems are further divided into three, depending on the location.
Savanna grasslands are in the tropics. Prairies are in the temperate region while Steppes can be found either in the temperate or tropical zone.
Temperate Forest Ecosystems
The ecosystem is common in regions that experience warm summers and cold winters. It comprises of deciduous trees that shed leaves during autumn; as well as coniferous trees which remain green throughout the year.
Human activities have significantly affected the initial temperate forest ecosystem. The Great Smoky Mountains is the only temperate forest ecosystem that has not been tampered with. It is labeled as a World Biosphere Reserve. Of the remaining temperate forests, 25% are in Canada- British Columbia coast.
Tropical Rainforest System
This type of ecosystem is common in the tropical region and has a better diversity of fauna and flora than all other ecosystems. Being a rainforest implies they are among the wettest ecosystems across the globe. Thus, they receive high rainfall annually.
Due to the high rainfall, these ecosystems have dense and leafy vegetation. The trees here are tall as they contest for sunlight. A common myth of this ecosystem is that the soil is fertile. It is not.
After receiving heavy rainfall, the water washes away the soil’s nutrients and material. Thus, the soil remains nutrient poor. Note that this ecosystem has high levels of humidity approximately 88%.
They are significantly characterized by sparse vegetation. The insect and animal population in this ecosystem is significantly limited. While deserts are known to be extremely hot, we can categorize deserts into two; tropical or hot, and temperate or cold deserts.
While the hot and cold deserts have distinct features, they share some similarities. The similarities include:
- Both ecosystems have dry air.
- Neither receives more than 10 inches of rain every year.
- Plants in both desert ecosystems have an adaptation that enables them to thrive despite insufficient water.
- Animals living in both ecosystems have adapted to the hard conditions concerning energy and food consumption.
Desert ecosystems consist of various abiotic factors such as insufficient moisture and high temperature. There are also a few biotic factors which include animals and plants.
Unlike the desert ecosystem, coral reefs are packed with life. Nearly 25% of the marine species are dependent on the coral reef ecosystem for shelter and food.
Coral reefs are home to several animals such as corals, sea urchins, bright-colored fish, sea anemones, sponges and clams.