How Nature Works: Ecosystems
WHAT SHAPES AN ECOSYSTEM?
An ecosystem is a community or group of living organisms that live in and interact with each other in a specific environment.
Two essential natural factors shape ecosystems:
Biotic factors are living organisms that include plants, animals, viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
Abiotic factors are the physical and chemical components that create the environment.
Abiotic factors include:
- Inorganic nutrients
- Water salinity
Together, the biotic and abiotic factors make up an ecosystem. The biotic and abiotic elements depend upon and support each other through a variety of interactions. The constant cycling of nutrients and energy through the ecosystem is what creates a healthy and sustainable habitat that supports life.
Like humans, all living things have a tolerance to the conditions in their environment. This is why communities of living organisms can vary in different locations across the planet. In the Arctic, for example, animals have thicker fur. Do you think that a polar bear could live in a tropical climate?
Species evolve and develop physical and behavioral characteristics that are adapted to the abiotic conditions of the environment in which they live. At the same time, they are also adapted to nourish and support their habitat. Interdependence is the key to the survival of animals and the ecosystems in which they live.
So, environmental factors influence where certain species can live, creating a community of different species suited to that particular environment. The species that inhabit a region consume, move, and recycle nutrients and energy to provide a constant source of nutrients and energy that are available for other species within the same ecosystem.
CAN YOU FIND ALL OF THE ABIOTIC FACTORS OF AN ECOSYSTEM IN THIS WORD SEARCH GAME?
Go to Energy—The Source of All Things to see how these factors nurture all life on Earth.