What Defines an Ecosystem?
Part of the Environmental Science For Dummies Cheat Sheet
The basic unit of study in environmental science is the ecosystem. An ecosystem consists of a biological community and its physical environment. Here are the most important things you need to know about ecosystems:
An ecosystem can be as small as a drop of water or as large as a forest.
Some ecosystems (such as caves) have clear boundaries, while others (such as forests) do not.
An ecosystem provides the organisms that live in it what they need to survive: food (energy), water, and shelter.
All the biological processes in an ecosystem run on energy captured from the sun.
Energy moves around an ecosystem through the food web.
The number of producers (or plants) in an ecosystem determines that ecosystem’s productivity potential.
An ecosystem recycles matter through the process of decomposition.
Ecosystems provide services, such as food production (farmland), water filtering (wetlands), carbon removal, raw material production (timber, rubber), and aesthetic value.
Because many modern human societies get their food, water, and other resources from all over the planet, you can consider the entire globe to be the human ecosystem.