The term "ecosystem" is familiar to each of us from school, and if we look deeper into the memory bins, we can still say that the ecosystem is a functional unity of living organisms and their habitat (i.e., the inanimate nature surrounding these organisms). And that's an excellent answer… if you’re a sixth grader.
Since the first Homo sapiens landed in Hawaii, 71 species of birds had disappeared there
In fact, the essence and role of environmental systems is much more complex than it may seem at first glance. Being the main functional units of ecology and structural components of the biosphere, ecosystems are amazing not only in species diversity, but also in a wide range of functions that they perform.
The most important value that ecological systems have for mankind is a chance to get acquainted with them and learn something new about them - something that can be a discovery for you.
How did the concept of the ecosystem emerge
The existence of a close relationship between all living organisms in nature was no secret even in the ancient times. People could not help noticing the patterns that unite different natural processes, but the term denoting the totality of living organisms on a certain habitat did not exist at that time.
At the end of the XIX century German scientist K. Möbius took another step towards defining the concept of the ecosystem, for the first time calling the community of organisms in an oyster jar "biocenosis". And in 1887, thanks to his American colleague S. Forbes, the term "microcosm" appears, which he uses to define the lake in conjunction with all the organisms living in it.
The emergence of the term of ecosystem
The term "ecological system", in the sense in which it is familiar to us today, was introduced relatively recently — in 1935 — by an English biologist Arthur Tensley.
The scientist defines an ecosystem as a set of objects of living and inanimate nature. Simply put - it’s organisms and their habitat.
Lake Mogilnoye in the Murmansk region is a unique set of four ecosystems at the same time. Due to the fact that the water in the lake has four layers with different levels of salinity, the inhabitants of each of the layers are born and die, never having visited the "foreign" territory
Along with this term similar concepts appear in related sciences. For example, in geology, the concept of "geosystem" is widespread, and F. Clements in 1930 introduces the term "Holocene". The term "bioinert body" belongs to V.I.Vernadsky, entered into use in 1944. Judging objectively, the concept of ecosystems is basic for all areas of environmental science.
Moscow's Chistye Prudy got its present name only in the early 18th century after putting them in order by the efforts of Prince Menshikov, whose property they became at that time. Previously, the ponds were called Filthy, fulfilling the role of a giant gutter
The main features of any environmental system are its openness and ability to self-regulation, self-organization and self-development. Thus, not every biological system can be called an ecosystem, because not every one of them has a certain self-sufficiency and cannot exist for a long time without regulation from the outside. A bright example of biological systems that are not ecosystems is an aquarium or a pool with fish.
Such a community is only part of a more complex system and is called "microcosm" or "facies" (in geo-ecology).
Ecosystem and biogeocenosis
Ecosystem and biogeocenosis are almost synonymous. The difference between these concepts is the breadth of their meanings. If an ecosystem is any territory (including the entire biosphere of the planet), the biogeocenosis is characterized by binding to a particular land plot. Thus, biogeocenosis can be considered an ecosystem in a simplified form.
Natural ecosystems that have not been touched by the destructive activities of humans only make up 3-4% of land in Europe. Most of these sites are protected areas
Facts about ecosystems: The whim of a member of the New York biological society Eugeniy Sevelin triggered an ecological disaster. Over the last 100 years, starlings that were brought to the Central Park in New York City by him, have been seriously disrupting the functioning of all ecosystems in the United States, with the exception of a few states where those immigrants have not yet had time to reach. The intentions of the scientist were exclusively good ― to allow residents to admire all kinds of birds that Shakespeare mentioned in his works.
Ecosystems in the service of humanity
The capacity of ecosystems for self-restoration and self-regulation is their most valuable quality, both for the entire planet and for human beings in particular. Thanks to the so-called services provided by ecosystems, the world's population is provided not only with food and drinking water, but also with air.
These services are difficult to overestimate, but scientists have still made an attempt to calculate and announce the price of the assistance provided to mankind by ecosystems in 2014. The sum was more than impressive - 125 trillion US dollars.
What are the services so kindly provided to us by nature?
This includes all goods that man was always accustomed to receive from land gratuitously: food products (both plant and animal origin), water for drinking and household purposes, industrial raw materials and construction materials, components for production of medicines, dietary supplements and cosmetic products (plant and animal).
As a habitat for many living organisms that are eaten not only by humans but also by other inhabitants, ecosystems play an important supporting role. They essentially provide table and shelter for millions of living beings, as well as their species diversity. This fact is extremely important for the nature of the Earth, as the number of species of animals and plants grown by man is much inferior compared to the "wild" diversity granted by environmental systems.
Ensuring the proper quality of soil, water and air, pollination of cultivated plants — all this refers to the regulatory function of environmental systems. Absolutely all ecosystems participate in its provision. For example, organisms living in wetlands, destroy pathogenic flora, which is formed in the wastewater and provides it with filtration and decomposition of wastes.
Predators, living in the forest, are able to reduce the number of sick and weakened animals and birds. It is not only about large forest hunters, but also... mushrooms. Today science knows more than 200 species of carnivorous fungi that regularly perform a role of hospital attendants of the forest, leading the hunt for nematodes. Parasites get in the ring formed by the mycelium of these predators, and are thus in a deadly trap.
Another function performed by ecosystems that is difficult to overestimate is the release of oxygen into the atmosphere by plants. Forests and other green spaces contribute to the decomposition of carbon dioxide into oxygen and carbon, giving other living beings the opportunity to breathe freely.
This category of values we receive from ecosystems belongs to our aesthetic pleasure from communicating with nature, our love for our native lands and countless pleasures of tourist recreation. After all, if we analyze the list of cultural benefits that we are granted with when we travel (contemplation of architecture and scenic landscapes, familiarity with the original culture of different peoples), it turns out that most of them are closely related to natural characteristics of the territory (climate soil, landscape, flora and fauna); in other words — to the features of ecosystems existing in this territory.
The whim of a member of the New York biological society Eugeniy Sevelin triggered an ecological disaster. Over the last 100 years, starlings that were brought to the Central Park in New York City by him, have been seriously disrupting the functioning of all ecosystems in the United States, with the exception of a few states where those immigrants have not yet had time to reach. The intentions of the scientist were exclusively good ― to allow residents to admire all kinds of birds that Shakespeare mentioned in his works
A special role in the provision of services in this category is played by the objects of cultural heritage of UNESCO.
To save the ecosystem is to preserve life
On the basis of the facts provided above, we can draw the conclusion: the importance given to ecological systems by scientists is not exaggerated in any way and the preservation of their integrity today is a number one task for all mankind. So, how should we cope with it? - there is not a more difficult and simultaneously simpler question than this is.
Do not try to solve the problem globally, feeling responsible for the entire population of the planet. It is enough to simply reconsider your habits, which may directly or indirectly affect the ecosystems surrounding you personally. The scope of activities in this area is literally limitless. As a minimum, you can start sorting the garbage that is thrown into the container in the yard, and take the batteries to a special point of reception. And max... well, everyone defines for himself — depending on desires and possibilities.
Components of ecosystem
Biocenosis is a set of living organisms that became part of the ecosystem; it is divided into zoocenosis and phytocenosis, including, respectively, animals and plants.
Ecotope is a part of the territory on which a certain ecosystem is located, including all the diversity of its soils, climate, etc.
The biotope is a part of ecotope modified by the biota, which is characterized by the uniformity of living conditions for specific organisms.
Klimatope is the features of air and water environments of the ecosystem.
Edaphotope is a part of the soil transformed by organisms inhabiting the ecosystem.