Components of Ecosystem – UPSC Environment Notes

A sophisticated network of living species, their interconnections, and the physical environment is referred to as an Ecosystem. This interdependence of Biotic and Abiotic Components of the Ecosystem on Earth has led to the creation and of an. This article will elucidate the Components of Ecosystem which will be beneficial in preparing the Environment syllabus for the UPSC Civil Service exam.

Components of an Ecosystem

The components of an ecosystem delineate the ecosystem’s structure, biological relationships, distribution, and environmental properties. The concept strives to characterize the environment’s non-living from the living organisms. An ecosystem comprises biotic components like living organisms and abiotic components such as temperature, rainfall, wind, soil, and minerals.

Biotic Components

The biotic components of an ecosystem are the living components (or Organic Components). The ecosystem’s biotic components live on and interact with the abiotic components. Plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria are examples of biotic factors. Based on the energy needs source, the biotic components can be further categorized into three broad types.

Producers (Autotrophs)

They serve as the food producers for the ecosystem’s other creatures. Producers in a terrestrial ecosystem are primarily green plants, but in an aquatic ecosystem, producers are microscopic algae. Gross Primary Production (GPP) refers to the entire rate at which radiant energy is stored in green plants through the photosynthesis process. Plants use a portion of the gross primary productivity for their own metabolism. The remainder is stored as Net Primary Production (NPP) by the plant and made available to consumers.

Consumers (Heterotrophs)

They are unable to produce food on their own. They rely on producers for food, either directly or indirectly. Herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores are the three types of consumers. Herbivores are living organisms that consume plants as food. Carnivores consume other living things. Animals that can eat both plant and animal tissue are known as omnivores.

Decomposers (Saprotrophs/Micro Consumers)

Decomposers are the living organisms that break down waste and dead species in the ecosystem. Earthworms, dung beetles, and a variety of fungi and bacteria are examples of decomposers. They eat organic matter that is decomposing and convert it to nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Saprophytes are important in recycling nutrients so that producers, such as plants, can use them again.

Abiotic Components

  • Abiotic components (or inorganic components):
    • Physical/chemical factors impacting living creatures.
    • Also known as ecological factors.
  • Abiotic components of an ecosystem:
    • Air
    • Light
    • Soil
    • Nutrients
    • Temperature
    • Rainfall
  • Abiotic factors variation:
    • Differs across environments.
  • Abiotic components in aquatic ecosystems:
    • Water pH
    • Sunshine
    • Turbidity
    • Water depth
    • Salinity
    • Accessible nutrients
    • Dissolved oxygen
  • Abiotic components in terrestrial ecosystems:
    • Soil
    • Soil types
    • Temperature
    • Rain
    • Altitude
    • Wind
    • Nutrients
    • Sunlight
    • And more.

Functions of Components of Ecosystem

  • Energy Flow:
    • Plants, through photosynthesis, capture solar energy entering the biosphere.
    • Energy progresses through trophic levels, with only 10% transmitted to the next level.
    • The remaining energy is utilized in metabolic processes or lost in the environment.
    • Lowest trophic level creatures retain the most energy.
    • Energy flow is unidirectional.
  • Nutrient Cycling:
    • Nutrients are continually circulated throughout the environment by various components.
  • Homeostasis:
    • Interdependent and regulated ecosystem components maintain a balance, ensuring stability.

Potential Threat to Ecosystems

  • Environmental Pollution:
    • Pollution of air, land, water, and soil directly impacts critical ecosystems.
    • Pollution can release toxic compounds and damaging chemicals, endangering living creatures and degrading non-living objects.
    • Consequences include disruptions to the biological equilibrium, leading to issues like fish death due to oxygen depletion.
    • Pollution interferes with natural ecosystem cycles (e.g., oxygen cycle, nitrogen cycle, water cycle, and food chain), resulting in ecosystem destruction.
  • Over-exploitation of Natural Resources:
    • Overhunting, overfishing, overmining, and overlogging harm the environment, diminishing community structures, population distributions, and species breeding.
    • Excessive fishing has led to the extinction of over a third of all fish species, with some now endangered.
  • Invasive Species:
    • Foreign species (Invasive Species) entering an environment can cause substantial harm to resident species.
    • Invasive species compete with native species for food and can alter the habitat, leading to ecosystem depletion and species eradication.
    • Example: Introduction of alien Nile Tilapia into Lake Victoria resulted in the loss of more than half of the local cichlid fish family.
  • Eutrophication:
    • Overabundance of chemical nutrients in water bodies encourages dense plant growth and algal blooms.
    • Consequences include oxygen depletion, substantial water quality deterioration, seafood poisoning, and loss of recreational opportunities.
    • Impact on the survival of fish and other aquatic life forms.
    • Toxic algal blooms harm aquatic life and reduce the availability of clean water, posing a hazard to ecosystems.
  • Climate Change and Global Warming:
    • Direct impact on abiotic factors essential for biotic elements’ survival.
    • Global warming damages and modifies essential ecological resources like coral reefs, mountain regions, and water cycles.
    • Different species require specific abiotic elements to thrive.
    • If global warming continues, 10% of all species on the planet could go extinct by 2050, posing a threat to biodiversity and global food production.

Conclusion

Survival of an ecosystem hinges on essential components, with additional elements introduced afterward. Energy, minerals, nutrition, water, oxygen, and living beings are among these vital constituents. The primary source of energy in an ecosystem is the Sun. An ecosystem is characterized by the interdependence and interaction of natural environment elements within a specific geographic area.

FAQs on Components of Ecosystem

1. Question: What is the concept of an ecosystem?

Answer: An ecosystem is a complex system comprising living organisms (biotic components) and their physical environment (abiotic components). It involves the interaction and interdependence of various species, forming a dynamic and balanced ecological unit.

2. Question: What are the biotic components of the ecosystem?

Answer: Biotic components of an ecosystem are the living organisms within it. These encompass a wide range of species, including plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms. The interactions among these biotic components play a crucial role in maintaining the ecosystem’s health and balance.

3. Question: What are the three biotic components?

Answer: The three main biotic components of an ecosystem are producers, consumers, and decomposers. Producers (autotrophs) generate energy through processes like photosynthesis, consumers (heterotrophs) consume organic matter, and decomposers break down dead organisms, contributing to nutrient cycling in the ecosystem.

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