Components and Functioning of the Ecosystem

An ecological system or ecosystem is a set of interacting interdependent living (organic or biotic) and non-living (inorganic or abiotic) component or subsystem. It conveys the idea of a group of organisms and the place or habitat they occupy, and the way the two are linked together to form a working or functioning unit.

Ecosystem can be of any size – a drop of water to the entire biosphere but is studied at a scale that can be comprehended.

Components of the Ecosystem (Structure)

Abiotic Component

Energy

Radiant energy is received from the Sun in the form of electromagnetic radiation. In accordance with the second law of thermodynamics energy flows one way through an ecosystem. It is degraded to heat and passes into the environment and eventually back into space.

Physical factors

  • Temperature, light, winds, humidity, ocean currents, rainfall that are created when solar energy interacts with the organic and inorganic chemicals in the ecosystem.
  • Chemicals – Inorganic substances (water, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, CO2, essential minerals)
  • Organic substances (Protein, carbohydrate, lipids, vitamins and other complex chemicals)

Biotic Component

Producers (Plants or autotrophs)

These are plants ranging in size from tiny floating phytoplankton (algae, diatoms) to big trees.

Macroconsumers (Animals or heterotrophs)

Include those organisms who do not manufacture their own food. These include Herbivores (plant eaters), Carnivores (meat eaters), Omnivores (generalists), and pigs, rats, humans, decomposers (Micro consumers Saprotrophs).

Tiny organisms: 

bacteria, fungi and some protozoa that break down the bodies and complex compounds in the dead animals and plants into simpler substances. This process releases these chemicals in a simple form for reuse.

Functioning of the Ecosystem

Despite the diversity of their components, all ecosystems function in the same way. They are all open system in that they take in energy in one form or another in order to convert it into organic matter and give off waste products. As a result, there are two basic types of links or flows between the component parts of the ecosystem – energy flow and biogeochemical cycling.

  • In addition, all ecosystems are self-regulating system and have an ability up to a point to modify the condition of their internal energy and materials.
  • The solar energy with the help of chlorophyll in plants under photosynthesis fixes some energy in plants.

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