Research Paper on Environmental Science

Topics: Biodiversity, Ecology, Wind power Pages: 44 (14218 words) Published: February 25, 2012
ECOSYSTEM: What are they?
Definition of Ecosystem
According to Enger and Smith (2009), Ecosystems are functional units that involve interactions between organisms and their physical environment. The climate is an important part of the physical environment that influences the organisms of the tundra.

According to Erle Ellis in his internet article (, an ecosystem is a community of organisms interacting with each other and with their environment such that energy is exchanged and system-level processes, such as the cycling of elements, emerge.

The ecosystem is a core concept in Biology and Ecology, serving as the level of biological organization in which organisms interact simultaneously with each other and with their environment. As such, ecosystems are a level above that of the ecological community (organisms of different species interacting with each other) but are at a level below, or equal to, biomes and the biosphere. Essentially, biomes are regional ecosystems, and the biosphere is the largest of all possible ecosystems.

Ecosystems include living organisms, the dead organic matter produced by them, the abiotic environment within which the organisms live and exchange elements (soils, water, atmosphere), and the interactions between these components. Ecosystems embody the concept that living organisms continually interact with each other and with the environment to produce complex systems with emergent properties, such that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" and "everything is connected".

The spatial boundaries, component organisms and the matter and energy content and flux within ecosystems may be defined and measured. However, unlike organisms or energy, ecosystems are inherently conceptual, in that different observers may legitimately define their boundaries and components differently. For example, a single patch of trees together with the soil, organisms and atmosphere interacting with them may define a forest ecosystem, yet the entirety of all organisms, their environment, and their interactions across an entire forested region in the Amazon might also be defined as a single forest ecosystem. Some have even called the interacting system of organisms that live within the guts of most animals as an ecosystem, despite their residence within a single organism, which violates the levels of organization definition of ecosystems. Moreover, interactions between ecosystem components are as much a part of the definition of ecosystems as their constituent organisms, matter and energy. Despite the apparent contradictions that result from the flexibility of the ecosystem concept, it is just this flexibility that has made it such a useful and enduring concept. Stucture of Ecosystem

Ecosystems may be observed in many possible ways, so there is no one set of components that make up ecosystems. However, all ecosystems must include both biotic and abiotic components, their interactions, and some source of energy. The simplest (and least representative) of ecosystems might therefore contain just a single living plant (biotic component) within a small terrarium exposed to light to which a water solution containing essential nutrients for plant growth has been added (abiotic environment). The other extreme would be the biosphere, which comprises the totality of Earth's organisms and their interactions with each other and the earth systems (abiotic environment). And of course, most ecosystems fall somewhere in between these extremes of complexity.

At a basic functional level, ecosystems generally contain primary producers capable of harvesting energy from the sun by photosynthesis and of using this energy to convert carbon dioxide and other inorganic chemicals into the organic building blocks of life. Consumers feed on this captured energy, and decomposers not only feed on this energy, but also break organic matter back into its inorganic constituents, which can be used...
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