What is needed to survive? How do livings things interact? Is there food, water, comfortable temperature, or shelter? All of the answers to these questions are found in the ecosystem. An ecosystem is all living things and non-living things and how they interact with each other. Ecology is the study of how all these things interact with each other in order to survive.
An ecosystem may be very small like a backyard or a pond. Or it can be large like a prairie, a desert, or a rain forest. There are freshwater ecosystems that cover less space than saltwater ecosystems. Regardless of where they are located or how small or large they may be; all ecosystems are made up of the same parts. These parts are either living or non-living parts and are equally important to the ecosystem.
The non-living parts of the ecosystem are called abiotic factors. All living things need non-living things in order to survive. Some of these abiotic factors include water, minerals, sunlight, air, climate, and soil.
All living things need water to survive. Living organisms are made up of between 50 and 95 percent water. The processes that keep living things alive like photosynthesis and respiration can only take place in the presence of water. Living things also need minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, and nitrogen. Some living things need sunlight to make food. Animals need oxygen to produce energy for their bodies. The environment must also have the right temperature for organisms to survive. Without these non-living things, life would cease to exist. Abiotic factors are essential to the ecosystem.
Just like abiotic factors make it possible for organisms in an ecosystem to survive; biotic factors are equally important for survival in the ecosystem. Biotic factors or living parts of the ecosystem include animals, plants, fungi, protists, and bacteria.
Plants and algae are called producers. They produce oxygen and food that animals need. Animals are called consumers. They consume or eat the plants and other animals. Animals also give off carbon dioxide that plants need to make food. Thus the ecosystem is a continuous cycle of living and non-living things interacting with each other to survive.
What do fungi and bacteria contribute to the ecosystem? They are very important because they are called decomposers. They decompose, or break down, dead plants and animals and turn them into useful things like minerals that enrich the soil. Plants need this to grow. Each of these kinds of organisms helps the other to survive in the ecosystem.
Each kind of organism whether it is an animal, plant, fungus, or bacteria is a member of a different species. All the organisms of a species living in the same area make up a population. And all populations living in a certain areas make up a community.
Scientists study the interactions of different populations in an ecosystem's community. This helps them to determine how an ecosystem stays healthy and continues to grow. It further describes how living and non-living organisms work together to provide survival for each other. Whether large or small, whether abiotic or biotic, the ecosystem depends on the interaction of each in order to remain healthy.