Components of the Ecosystem
The world around us is teeming with life. From the deepest depths of the oceans to the highest inhospitable peaks, life is always present. Analysing from a scientific perspective, the world is divided into broad areas called ecosystems. An ecosystem broadly consists of two components or factors – biotic and abiotic. We shall explore the purpose of these two components and their implications.
The Living Components
The living component, biotic component or biotic factors are terms which are used to describe the living part of the ecosystem which affects organisms and has the potential to shape up the environment. Biotic factors include all living organisms, including disease-causing pathogens. Based on the roles organisms play, biotic components can be categorized into three categories – namely, producers, consumers and decomposers.
Producers, as the name suggests, are the organisms that form the basis of the food chain. They are able to sustain themselves through the process of photosynthesis. Consumers, on the other hand, are almost always heterotrophs, which means they depend on producers and other consumers for food. Decomposers are organisms that break down the biological and chemical remains from producers and consumers.
Biotic components have the potential to make or break a food chain. For instance, if a population of prey in a food chain is not given enough time to repopulate, it could become extinct, which could also lead to the extinction of the predator. Since the dawn of time, habitats have been changing and organisms have been adapting. This is one of the reasons why we do not see prehistoric animals such as the mammoth roaming the earth now. Apex prehistoric predators such as the Smilodon became extinct as the prey it hunted also became extinct. Even outbreaks of diseases can wreak havoc in a population and the ecosystem.
The Nonliving Components
As the name states, non-living components, or abiotic factors are the non-living physical and chemical parts of the ecosystem. These abiotic factors are integral for life as they affect various factors of living organisms such as growth, reproduction and maintenance. For example, factors such as light, wind, warmth, humidity are considered abiotic as they do not have a biological origin. Regardless, these factors are quite important when it comes to life. Plants cannot photosynthesize without food nor survive without water. Plants and animals need the atmosphere to shield themselves from the deadly UV radiation which the sun produces. Fish and other aquatic organisms are dependent upon the level of dissolved oxygen in the water body. Similarly, humans need oxygen, an abiotic component.
Over time, the environment changes and the abiotic factors change accordingly. Sometimes, this can lead to drastic repercussions for the living organisms. For example, research has shown that specific regions in the oceans can have their acidity increase by as much as 30% ever since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. For animals such as marine snails, this increased acidity can lead to their shells being dissolved. In other words, humans have the potential to change the abiotic factors in an ecosystem, thereby causing harm to the environment.
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