What is an Ecosystem?

Hi, I’m Emerald Robinson, and in this “What Is” video, we’re going to investigate earth’s ecosystems.

An ecosystem is a community of living things interacting with the non-living parts of their environment.

There are two primary parts of an ecosystem. The biotic part is made of all of the living things, like plants and animals, fungi, and bacteria and viruses. The abiotic part is made of non-living things, like rocks and minerals, water, and energy.

Ecosystems can be almost any size. While many of us think of communities like a coral reef or a forest, an ecosystem can be a small pond or even the area beneath a large rock.

Ecosystems need energy. In most cases, this energy comes from sunlight. “Producers” like plants take light energy and convert it into usable sugar energy through photosynthesis. As animals consume the energy from plants, they are eaten by other animals, and ultimately decompose back into the soil, the energy moves through the ecosystem via a food web.

Two of the most important concepts in the study of ecosystems, are “niche” and “habitat.” A habitat is a place where an organism lives. Organisms must get nutrition, shelter, water, and the other things they need to survive from their habitat.

Niche is an organism’s special role in the ecosystem. What and how something eats, how it behaves, where it lives – all of these things define an organism’s niche. Two organisms cannot occupy the same niche for very long. Eventually one will out-compete the other for food and other resources, forcing the other to move, or to go extinct.

Many of the earth’s ecosystems are threatened due to climate change, pollution, and the human destruction of habitats. Scientists called ecologists study and monitor the health of ecosystems and continually work to discover new ways to protect these precious organisms and environments.