Ecosystem In this post we will be discussing ecosystem, importance of ecosystems and ecosystem ecology. Before we can explore ecosystem, we must first understand the meaning of the word in order to avoid confusion. Ecosystem is define as the community of organisms interacting with each other and their environment; resulting in clearly define path of energy flow and system-level processes such as chemical cycling. The study of ecosystems and their components is called ecosystem ecology (Please click). Ecosystems are composed of living organisms, abiotic environment, organic waste produced by organism and the overall interaction of the various components. The interaction of the various ecosystem components results in the formation of a complex interconnected system. Ecosystem Components An ecosystem must have an abiotic and biotic component; there must be interaction between those component and some form of energy source. Ecosystem generally contain a primary producer that harvest energy from the sun by photosynthesis and then the energy obtain is used to convert carbon dioxide and other inorganic chemicals into organic molecules essential for life. There are consumers that feed on the producers and also other consumers that feed on organisms that feed directly on the primary producers. Remember producers (autotroph) can make their own food and consumers (heterotroph) cannot produce their own food, they depend on producers. The feeding relationship between organisms is shown using trophic levels to produce food chains that combine to form food webs. A trophic level is the feeding position of an organism in a food chain. The types of trophic levels are listed below:
- Primary producers (Frist Trophic Level): Make food by photosynthesis. The food made by producers is store as organic molecules that contain components needed by other organisms to survive. It’s important to note that some organism are not totally depended on sunlight to produce organic molecules (food).
- Primary consumers (Second Trophic Level): They feed at the first trophic level on plants. They are commonly called herbivores, because they eat plants only.
- Secondary consumer (Third trophic Level): They feed on herbivores. They are called carnivores (meat eater).
- Tertiary consumers (Fourth Trophic Level): At this level you find carnivores that feed on other carnivores or omnivores; omnivores can feed on both plants and animals.
- Decomposers: Decomposer operate at all trophic levels. There function is to break down waste produce by organisms and also dead organisms. Decomposers help to recycle the chemicals in nature needed by organisms. Because those chemicals are available in finite amount.
Please note that only introductory knowledge relating to ecology will be explore in the ecology series. This will help to prevent confusion. Food chain is compose of different trophic levels. Food chain give you a very basic look at how organisms interact; but food webs give a very clear picture of how organisms interact. Food chain help us to see the energy flow through ecosystems and also how energy is lost from the ecosystem. We will get into more detail about energy flow in ecosystem later on in the series. Pictures from Google Images Importance of Ecosystem Remember ecosystem is an ecological unit, including living and non-living components. Ecosystem comprise of more than just animals and plants; but also soil, organic matter, etc. Ecosystems are very important to humans, but our mistreatment of ecosystems send the opposite message. Ecosystems and their components have provided us with knowledge and materials. Humans cannot put a monetary value on ecosystems; only our lives can be valued against it. Because to destroy our ecosystems by polluting them; is equivalent to committing suicide. Many are trying to put a value on the world ecosystem, but they need to include the knowledge we have gain from the world ecosystem. Take for instance our knowledge in the field of aviation; knowledge that was inspire and reverse-engineer from organisms that can fly. How much is the aviation industry worth now? I will not get started on the field medicine. Below is a short list of reasons why ecosystems are important or the importance of ecosystem: Ecological value
- Sediment trap: Particles from erosion and weathering of rocks are trap by ecosystems such as wetlands. Thus preventing a dust hazard.
- Purification: Rocks and various naturally occurring chemicals foster the filtration and cleansing of certain bacteria from water. Making water fairly safe in some places to drink from rivers, strings and fresh-water lakes.
- Protection: Ecosystems such as wetland and forest prevent flooding by reducing the rate of water run-off. Also some ecosystem provide shoreline protection by reducing the intensity of water waves.
- Nutrient release
- Breeding ground
- Shelter: Ecosystems provide housing for many different organism. E.g. Bats living in caves.
- Food: Plants and animals provide the human population with food.
- Timber cutting: Material harvested from various ecosystem are utilize in the housing industry.
- Essential oils: Oils use in the manufacturing of various products such as perfume. A lot of the essential oils are used to treat ailments.