Table of Contents
What is an ecosystem
An ecosystem is a set of living organisms that share the same habitat or biotope.
This definition is relatively modern and has not always been as we know it today. Despite the fact that since the 18th century a definition has been pursued that brings together all the organisms and habitats of the Earth, it was not until 1930 when this term was coined, however in this first definition of ecosystem only the physical components were taken into account and biological of the environment . Five years later, in 1935 the botanist and ecologist Arthur George Tansley gave a more approximate definition to the current one; He accepted that an ecosystem also harbored in its definition the interactions between individuals of a community and its environment.
Starting from the basis that an ecosystem is the set of organisms of a community and its environment , we can define several types of living beings that compose them. Attending to the trophic chain, we would first find the primary producers , those that are capable of producing organic matter from inorganic compounds, that is, they are autotrophic organisms. Following the trophic chain we find in the second step the consumers , heterotrophic organisms (herbivorous, carnivorous or omnivorous) that feed on matter and energy produced by other living beings. In the last link of the trophic chain of organisms that make up an ecosystem we find the decomposers, those that feed on dead organic matter.
Several types of ecosystems are distinguished taking into account their nature and physical properties. Also these types of ecosystems can be divided into subtypes very differentiated from each other also with respect to the organisms that inhabit them. However, many of these can be grouped back into other kinds of ecosystems called biomes. Each biome groups different areas of similar conditions, both climatic and geographically.
Types of ecosystems
Apart from differentiating each of the groups of organisms that live in an ecosystem, we can also elaborate a classification by types. Thus we find that there are different types of ecosystemsaccording to their nature:
Depending on the substrate in which it is found, one type of ecosystem is the terrestrial ecosystem. Its characteristics are given by the land in which all the activity of plant organisms and their fauna takes place.
Within this, we can distinguish several types of terrestrial ecosystems, each one defined by the soil and the climate in which they are found, conditioning all the life that develops in it.
It is characterized for being an extremely inhospitable terrain where there is practically no vegetation or fauna, since only the hardest species are able to survive in this hostile environment.
Depending on the type of soil we can distinguish between sandy and rocky deserts. The former are characterized by the formation of dunes due to the displacement of sand by the wind and the latter being formed, as its name suggests, by rocks. There are both warm deserts and cold deserts, and both have extreme temperatures, with maximum temperatures of almost 60ºC and minimums of around -50ºC. In both types of deserts the thermal amplitude is very high and rainfall is scarce, reaching in some cases to be practically nil.
This type of ecosystem is one that has trees and flora in general, and represents 25% of the Earth’s surface. There are several types of forest ecosystems depending on their temperature, leafiness and humidity and can distinguish generically between:
These present a broadleaf vegetation and are dominated by angiosperm plants. They are very rich in species and fauna, an example of these are the jungles.
They are those that are dominated by gymnosperm plants, that is, they lack fruits. They present acicular perennial leaves and an example of these are the taiga.
In this group we include those where there is a balance between the two types mentioned above.
This type of ecosystem is characterized by high relief and strong topographic variation with steep slopes. The mountainous systems are distributed throughout the entire planet and contain 80% of the freshwater reserves of the entire planet. They play an essential role in the water cycle, since when the cloud masses collide with them, they become precipitations, constantly feeding the fluvial waters.
The landscape is mainly formed by rocks, although there are numerous types of vegetation and species depending on the height and location. As a general rule, in the lower part of the mountain there will be more vegetation and fauna than in the highest part. We can find from wolves to birds of prey, passing by foxes or goats.
Grasslands are areas composed mainly of extensions of land with a small number of shrubs and trees. The grassland ecosystem is divided mainly into two types, the savanna and the meadows .
The savannah is found in tropical climates, so its extensions are subject to dry seasons practically all year round. It is also characterized by having predatory and herbivorous animals such as lions, tigers, gazelles or elephants.
On the other hand, we find the prairies . This ecosystem has a more temperate climate completely empty of shrubs or trees. Meadows can be of three different types, mixed grass, tall grass and short grass . The animals that can be found in these regions are herbivores, insectivores and grazing animals such as sheep.
This type of ecosystem, on the other hand, is distinguished by its development in water bodies. We can distinguish between two types of aquatic ecosystems : those of salt water and those of fresh water.
Salt water ecosystem
These are composed of seas, oceans and marshes and are characterized mainly, as its name suggests, by the salinity of its waters. The degree of salinity will depend on the intensity of the evaporation and the contribution of fresh water from the rivers and, the more salinity present the mass of water, the greater the buoyancy will exist.
In this ecosystem there is a huge variety of species depending on the temperature of its waters and its depth. We know an infinity of animals and plants that inhabit them, but it is estimated that approximately two thirds of the species that actually exist remain to be discovered. This is due to the immensity of the waters and the difficulty and cost for the human being to submerge to extreme depths.
In these, bodies of water are characterized by the absence of salinity. Its main forms are rivers, lakes, lagoons and swamps among others. The flow and regularity of its waters are key aspects to determine the type of vegetation and fauna that will inhabit them.
There are also several types of freshwater ecosystems:
They are those in which their bodies of water are still, such as lagoons.
They are characterized because their waters are in constant movement, for example, the rivers.
From all of the above we conclude that by uncovering all types of ecosystems and their subtypes we can obtain a classification of all habitats or biotopes with their corresponding communities of living organisms or biocenosis. This is why it was so difficult to develop an appropriate ecosystem definition that would fit the reality of each system.