Basic concepts of ecosystem

Eco-System-An ecosystem is defined as a structural and functional unit of biosphere consisting of community of living beings and the physical environment, both interacting and exchanging materials between them. It includes plants, trees, animals, fish, birds, micro-organisms, water, soil, and  people.

When an ecosystem is healthy (i.e. sustainable) it means that all the elements live in balance and are  capable of reproducing themselves


Components of Ecosystem

The components of the ecosystem is categorised into abiotic of non-living and biotic of living components. Both the components of ecosystem and environment are same.


  1. Abiotic Components

the inorganic and non-living parts of the world.  consists of soil, water, air, and light energy etc.  involves a ,large number of chemicals like oxygen, nitrogen-, etc. and physical processes including volcanoes, earthquakes, floods, forest fires, climates, and weather conditions.

Abiotic factors are the most important determinants of where and how well an organism exists in its environment. Although these factors interact with each other, one single factor can-limit the range of an organism.


  1. a) Energy

Energy from the sun is essential for maintenance of life. Energy determines the distribution of organisms in  the environment.

  1. b) Rainfall
  2. c) Temperature :-Temperature is a critical factor of the environment which greatly influences survival of organisms. Organisms can tolerate only a certain range of temperature and humidity.
  3. d) Atmosphere :It is made up of 21% oxygen, 78% nitrogen , 0.038% carbon dioxide and other inert gases  (0.93% Argon, Neon etc).
  4. e) Substratum :Land is covered by soil and a wide variety of microbes, protozoa, fungi and small animals (invertebrates) thrive in it
  5. f) Materials:

(i) Organic compound

Such as proteins, carbohydrates,  lipids,  humic  substances are formed from inorganic compound on decomposition.

(ii) Inorganic compound

Such as carbon,   carbon dioxide, water, sulphur, nitrates, phosphates, and ions of various metals are essential for organisms to survive.

  1. g) Latitude and altitude

Latitude has a strong influence on an area’s temperature, resulting in change of climates such as polar, tropical, and temperate. These climates determine different natural biomes. From sea level to highest peaks, wild life is influenced by altitude. As the altitude increases, the air becomes colder and drier, affecting wild life accordingly.( wild life decrease as altitude increase)


  1. Biotic Components :Biotic components include living organisms comprising plants, animals and microbes and are classified according to their functional attributes into producers and consumers.

Primary producers – Autotrophs (self-nourishing) Primary producers are basically green plants (and certain bacteria and algae). They synthesise carbohydrate from simple inorganic raw materials like carbon dioxide and water in the presence of sunlight by the process of photosynthesis for themselves, and supply indirectly to other non- producers.

In terrestrial ecosystem, producers are basically herbaceous and woody plants, while in aquatic ecosystem producers are various species of microscopic algae.


  1. b) Consumers — Heterotrophs or phagotrophs (other nourishing)


Consumers are incapable of producing their own food (photosynthesis).

They depend on organic food derived from plants, animals or both.

Consumers can be divided into two broad  groups


(i) Macro consumers- They feed on plants or animals or both and are categorised on the basis of their food sources.

Herbivores are primary consumers which feed mainly on plants e.g. cow, rabbit.

Secondary consumers feed on primary consumers e.g. wolves.

Carnivores which feed on secondary consumers are called tertiary consumers e.g. lions which can eat wolves.

Omnivores are organisms which consume both plants and animals e.g. man.


(ii) Micro consumers – Saprotrophs (decomposers or osmotrophs)


They are bacteria and fungi which obtain energy and nutrients by decomposing dead organic substances (detritus) of plant and animal origin.

The products of decomposition such as inorganic nutrients which are released in the ecosystem are reused by producers and thus recycled.

Earthworm and certain soil organisms (such as nematodes, and arthropods) are detritus feeders and help in the decomposition of organic matter and are called detrivores.

Classification of Eco-system


  1. Natural Ecosystem-

Terrestrial- Forests, Grasslands, Deserts

Aquatic- Fresh Waters, Saline Waters, Marine Waters

Ecotone :- a zone of junction between two or more diverse ecosystems. For e.g. the mangrove forests represent an ecotone between marine and terrestrial ecosystem.

Characteristics of Ecotone

It may be very narrow or quite wide. It has the conditions intermediate to the adjacent ecosystems. Hence it is a zone of tension.

It is linear as it shows progressive increase in species composition of one in coming community and a simultaneous decrease in species of the other out going adjoining community.

A well developed ecotones contain some organisms which are entirely different from that of the adjoining communities.

Sometimes the number of species and the population density of some of the species is much greater in this zone than either community. This is called edge effect For example the density of birds is greater in the mixed habitat of the ecotone between the forest and the desert.

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