An ecosystem refers to a strategic geographic area where living species’ climate and landscape coordinate and exist together. The ecosystem consists of both biotic (living) and abiotic (nonliving) elements. Biotic elements include humans, flora, fauna and other living organisms. Abiotic elements include rocks, and climatic factors. Let us learn all about the ecosystem.
Each element of an ecosystem relies on one another for existence, whether directly or indirectly. For example, a change in the temperature (if it is too high) will have an adverse effect on living species and plants. The ecosystem can either be large or small. The Earth is a surface of interconnected ecosystems, connected with biomes like land, sea, or atmosphere.
Types of Ecosystems
Forest ecosystems are covered with lush forests and jungles. They are further classified on the basis of climate, like tropical, temperate or boreal. A tropical ecosystem consists of diverse species of flora and fauna with rich foliage and greenery. A temperate ecosystem consists of deciduous forests, coniferous forests or a mixture of both. The boreal ecosystem consists of purely coniferous forests (also called taiga).
The grassland ecosystems are covered with varied types of grassland. They are further classified as prairies, savannas and steppes. The grasslands have lesser forests but have plenty of flowers and varied types of grasses. The grasslands are favorable for grazing animals.
Desert Ecosystems have low precipitation and are specifically windy. Deserts can range from hot to cold, and from sandy to rocky. Vegetation is less in deserts and only a limited species of fauna exist there.
Tundra is a harsh ecosystem similar to deserts with a snow-covered environment without any trees or vegetation. The tundra soil may remain frozen throughout the year, a condition called permafrost. During summers, one may witness tiny flowers when the snow melts and shallow ponds form.
The freshwater ecosystems exist in rushing streams, rivers, clear springs, ponds, lakes, and freshwater swamps. This ecosystem further classifies into one type where the water is stagnant or stationary like ponds and the other where the water flows, as in the case of rivers.
Marine ecosystems are huge water bodies like oceans and seas that house huge species like different types of fish, amphibians and marine animals. This type of ecosystem contains primarily saltwater and is termed as the richest type of ecosystem existing in the world.
Threats to Ecosystems
Anything that fluctuates the balance of an ecosystem is a threat to the ecosystem. For several years, human beings have interacted with different ecosystems and, over time, many cultures and races have been established around ecosystems. However, as the population count grew, the ecosystems started to perish. There are several threats to the ecosystem. Though some are not worrisome and can be resolved, there are grave situations too that tend to destroy ecosystems and also the living species that inhabit them. Some of these threats to the ecosystem include the following.
Activities like construction and mining involve clearing out huge spaces of vegetative cover and landscapes. This is a form of threat to the ecosystem, hampering its existence and destroying life in it. Often, a fluctuation in one ecosystem creates a ripple effort and harms several elements associated with it. For example, cutting down forests exposes the soil to the harsh rays of the sun, making it dry and prone to erosion. Additionally, it also destroys the habitat of several animals and insects that used to thrive in the forest.
Pollution of any kind- water, land or air pollution- destroys an ecosystem completely. Pollution can either be natural or man-made, but regardless of this, pollution emits destructive agents into the environment which in turn harms the ecosystem and its living beings.
Eutrophication is enriching the water bodies with concentrates of nitrogen, phosphorus and plant biomass. This process, though, enriches the water body with nutrients and minerals; it boosts the overgrowth of plant and algae growth, ultimately becoming harmful to water life, flora and fauna diversity.
Intrusion of any biological foreign species (either natural or man-made) into an ecosystem also harms its existence. If the foreign element is prone to destroying the species depending on the ecosystem, the entire ecology of that region will be wiped out and slowly the entire ecosystem will perish.
Disposal of Wastes
Disposing of waste is a crucial and a burning issue on the planet today. Every day, tons of waste are disposed of the oceans and water bodies, harming the marine inhabitants and leading to their choking and death. Also, the increasing landfills are eating up the land ecosystems and living species as a whole. The majority of the waste is contributed by many industries and households. In addition to this, industries also spew out chemicals, metal elements and nuclear waste into the rivers and ponds. This results in several harmful diseases like diarrhea and typhoid when humans come in contact with contaminated water. Industrial waste is a health hazard both to the environment and life on planet Earth.
Overharvesting of fish is a major issue prevalent today. Humans are terribly dependent on fish for their food and associated products. This demand leads to overharvesting of fish and marine species, damaging the ecology and the marine inhabitants as a whole. The process of overharvesting leads to a loss of populations, communities and distribution. Also, over harvesting of fish has led to a situation where several species of fishes are either endangered or almost extinct.
It means degradation of land. Desertification is the destruction of land which leads to a hazardous drought-like situation. Regions affected by desertification force residents to migrate to another land or place.
Greenhouse gases are pollutant gasses like methane, and CFCs released into the atmosphere. When these gases emit and get mixed with the environment, it increases the temperature of the region. This situation is also called global warming.
The sun is both a source of nourishment and harm. While vitamin D is essential for growth and development, the harsh rays of the sun that contain the UV rays destroy living species. The harmful UV rays are of three wavelengths- UVA, UVB and UVC, with different properties. The UVA type has the longest wavelength and reaches the surface of the Earth at all times. It is the source of vitamin D that nourishes us. The UVB and UVC rays are harmful ones and can cause DNA and cell damage to both plants and animals. Ozone depletion on the Earth’s atmosphere is a way of exposing the inhabitants of the earth to the harmful UVB and UVC rays.
Why Should We Preserve the Ecosystem?
Human beings and all living species are directly dependent on the natural ecosystem for survival. Human beings, especially, get food and water from the natural ecosystem. As such, to live and thrive, it is essential to preserve the ecosystems and the planet as a whole. For example, agriculture gives us food to consume and grow and the practice of agriculture depends on the essential characteristics of a particular ecosystem. The raw materials or products like cereals and vegetables grow under specific regulated conditions of temperature, humidity and soil. If the ecosystem is not preserved, these raw materials and products won’t grow and tomorrow human beings won’t have food to eat.
How to Preserve the Ecosystem?
Reducing consumption is a better way to save the environment. One should always follow the three R’s- reduce, reuse and recycle to preserve the planet. However, the most efficient way to save the planet is to follow another ‘R’- Refuse! Saying ‘no’ is not easy, but a beneficial method. Always say no to freebies, plastic, cheap products at clearance, children’s toys, and the latest tech gadgets. That would definitely be tough! The above-mentioned goods either end up in the trash bin or remain neglected in a closet. So it is better to say ‘no’ beforehand.
Composting is an efficient way of recycling organic matter to create manure and fertilizers. Always compost your food and yard waste in the soil instead of throwing it out to the landfill. The natural rotting process extracts the nutrients in the food and the soil soaks it up, becoming more fertile in the process.
Always Opt for Reusable over Single-use
Reusing is a perfect way of saving the environment. We see several things in our daily life that we can reuse- disposable cups or disposable sippers, disposable straws, disposable grocery bags, disposable plates/boxes and disposable utensils. So much disposable! If you throw out the disposable stuff in the trash, it will definitely end up in soil or in some ocean, choking the marine life and destroying the marine ecosystem there. Instead of throwing these disposable things into the trash can, we can easily opt for their environmentally responsible substitutes. Take up reusable products and use them more and more until you can. This will guarantee a less-filled trash can and a clean environment.
Use the unwanted items in your home and get creative with them. Turn them into creative ensembles and decorative pieces for your home. You can innovate something artsy, jewelry or anything creative. It will not only help you to up-cycle and protect the environment, but will also bring you happiness.
If you cannot do all of the above, recycle responsibly. Learn how to do that- throw the items in the right bin and contribute to faster recycling. If you throw recyclable items in the non-recyclable bin, you add more trash to a landfill. Recycle items like electronic appliances and batteries and discard them at their proper disposal sites.
Do you know that to make a plain cotton t-shirt, the creator needs more than 700 gallons of water to grow enough cotton for it? That’s lot of water waste! Next time when you think of purchasing clothes, opt for a thrift store or a good vintage shop before rushing to the mall. Natural resources are precious and we should do our part to preserve them. Shop secondhand and save resources!
When you purchase online, the packaging, fuel for delivery are all ecological elements that go into getting that product at your doorstep. As such, you can save these elements from depleting by purchasing local food. Always choose your local farmers market for the fresh package-free products, and purchase from local cloth makers and retailers.
Use Fewer Chemicals
Harmful chemicals damage an ecosystem. The harmful effects of chemicals destroy the inhabitants of an ecosystem and the planet as a whole. Always opt for chemical-free chemicals and supplies and save the Earth.
Take the Walk, Bike or Carpool
A regular passenger vehicle emits around 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. This is severely damaging the environment and the planet at large! Opt for walking, taking the bike or carpooling with fellow passengers and saving the harmful emissions to the environment. It will not only save fuel, natural resources and the planet, but will also be exercise for your body if you walk to work.
Water is precious. Conserve water and protect the environment. You can do the following to save water:
- Always turn off the tap while brushing your teeth.
- Immediately fix leaky faucets.
- Opt for rainwater harvesting
- Collect and use the rainwater for watering your plants.
- Take fewer timed showers.
- Use the washing machine only when it’s full
As a consumer, you have the power to choose where and how to spend your money. Spend the money wisely on products and services that leave a smaller carbon footprint. Also, collaborate with businesses that practice sustainable efforts and use renewable energy sources responsibly.
Conserving electricity is the easiest and perhaps the best way to protect the planet. Go for the following to conserve electricity
- Opt for energy-efficient CFLs or LEDs.
- Turn off electrical appliances when not in use.
- Reduce the use of heating or air conditioning systems.
- Always opt for Energy Star-certified products.
- Insulate your home efficiently
- Opt for ceiling fans to circulate the warm air during winters and cold air during summers.
Protecting the ecosystem is an urgent need and an important task for every person on planet Earth. Several global organizations have realized this urgent need and took up specific resolutions and directives to contribute towards making a greener and a safer planet.
- The Montreal Protocol- It is a multilateral prioritizing the environment that regulates the production and consumption of man-made chemicals.
- The Kyoto Protocol- It is an international environmental agreement that adheres to the targets to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases across the planet.
- Paris Agreement- It is an environmental agreement that aims to fight climate change.
- Kyiv Protocol on Pollutant Release and Transfer Registers- It aims to inform and increase the public access to relevant information by forming a systematic pollutant release and transfer register.
- Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer 1985- It is a multilateral agreement to monitor and regularly report on ozone depletion.
The ecosystem is an integral part of the environment and planet Earth. A good and efficiently functioning ecosystem has both the biotic and the abiotic elements in balance co-existing together. It is best to save the ecosystems across the globe to enable the future generations to see a thriving and healthy planet!