What Is An Ecosystem?

An ecosystem comprises all of the living and nonliving things in an area.

  • Biotic Factors: These are the living components of an ecosystem, including plants, animals, insects, fungi, and microorganisms. 
    • Biotic factors interact with each other and with abiotic factors to create complex food webs and relationships within the ecosystem.
  • Abiotic Factors: These are the nonliving components of an ecosystem, including temperature, sunlight, soil, water, and air. 
    • Abiotic factors affect where and how many living things can be in an ecosystem.


Connections In An Ecosystem

Animals and plants in an ecosystem help each other in different ways to stay alive and reproduce:

  • Pollination: Plants need help from animals like bees, butterflies, and birds to spread their pollen and make new seeds. In exchange, these animals get yummy nectar or pollen to eat.
  • Seed Dispersal: The seeds from fruits eaten by animals are deposited in new locations as they pass through their digestive systems, helping the plant to spread and grow in new areas.
  • Symbiosis: Some animals and plants benefit from each other by living close together. For example, the clownfish lives safely among the sea anemone’s tentacles, keeping the sea anemone clean and bringing it food.


Maintaining Balance In An Ecosystem

Balance in an ecosystem is like a big puzzle where every piece has an important role and has to fit just right. 

  • Everyone has a job: Each plant and animal in the ecosystem has a particular job, like making food or eating other animals. If one piece of the puzzle is missing or there are too many, it disrupts the balance.
  • Nature’s cleanup crew: When plants and animals die, special bugs and germs clean up the mess. They turn dead plants and animals into soil, which helps new plants grow.
  • Competition: When different animals and plants in an area compete for things like food, water, and places to live, it helps make sure that no one type of plant or animal takes over everything.
  • Natural Disturbances: Natural disturbances such as wildfires, floods, and storms also help maintain balance in an ecosystem and can create opportunities for new growth.


Fun Facts

Here are some interesting facts about ecosystems:

  • The tiny dung beetle helps maintain the balance of grassland ecosystems by feeding on animal waste and recycling nutrients back into the soil.
  • In the ocean, sea otters are known as “keystone species” because they help maintain the health of kelp forests by preying on sea urchins, which eat the kelp.
  • Bats are important pollinators in many ecosystems. They help pollinate plants like bananas, mangoes, and guavas, which are important human food sources.
  • The prairie dog is vital in maintaining grassland ecosystems. It digs burrows that shelter other animals and aerate the soil.


Let’s quickly recap what we learned about ecosystems:

  • What are the two factors that make up an ecosystem?” Biotic & Abiotic 
  • What are two ways in which animals help plants to reproduce? Pollination & Seed Dispersal
  • What is the relationship in which two species live closely together and help each other? Symbiosis
  • What does nature’s clean-up crew turn dead plants and animals into? Soil
  • What helps ensure no one type of plant or animal takes over resources like food, water, and places to live in? Competition
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