source: flickr photo by  cuellar

Definition:  An ecosystem (stands for ecological system) represents both the abiotic factors combined with the biotic factors.  The key to understanding ecosystems is that it is a system -- all of the parts are interacting and interconnected and function as a whole.  These interactions are dynamic, if the ecosystem falls out of balance, it can fail (change in structure and shape).


There are different levels of organization within different environments (begins very limited and progresses inclusively).

1) Individual (one organism from one species)

2) Population (all the organisms from the same species within a certain area)

3) Community (all the populations together within a certain area)

4) Ecosystem (all the communities plus the physical surroundings, biotic plus abiotic factors together)

5) Biome (multiple ecosystem with similar environmental conditions)

6) Biosphere (the parts of planet earth that support life)


all of the physical, non-living environmental conditions that influence and shape a particular ecosystem
-- climate
-- weather
-- temperature
-- precipitation
-- humidity
-- wind
-- nutrients
-- soil type
-- sunlight

all of the living organisms and their roles/relationships that influence and shape a particular ecosystem
-- primary & secondary producers
-- decomposers
-- keystone species
-- symbiosis

Some GREAT Resources for Further Info...

Literacy Council  (lots of great info!)
National Geographic (info on Sonoran Desert)
Windows to the Universe (great site for all things geologic and biologic)
Marietta College (general info on ecosystems)

Ecosystem in a Rain Drop

source: flickr photo by ecstaticist

Aquatic Ecosystem

source: flickr photo by marrngtn (Manuel)

Documentation of Sources

General Ecosystem Information -->
1) Franklin Institute (museum)
2) Washington University, St. Louis (university)