ECOSYSTEM AND BALANCE IN NATURE
A group of individual organisms, for example, squirrels. oak trees of the same kind (species) are called population. In nature, we discover number of various life forms living in a specific zone. The populations of plants and animals living and interacting in a given locality are called community.
Any natural or biological community also has an environment. A community of living things interacting with one another and with their physical environment (solar energy, air, water, soil, heat, and various essential chemicals) is called an ecological system or ecosystem.
An ecosystem basically is a biological environment that consists of all the living (biotic) components in a specific area, as well as all the nonliving and physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact with each other, such as air, soil, water, and sunlight. It is all the life forms in a given territory, alongside the nonliving (abiotic) parts with which they collaborate; an organic network and its physical condition.
An ecosystem can be a planet, a tropical rain forest, a pond, an ocean, a fallen log, or a puddle of water in a rock. There is interdependence within the ecosystem and at the same time organisms compete for the resources. The competition can be between individuals of the same species or the competition may be between individuals of different species.
All of the various ecosystems on the planet, along with their interactions, make up the largest life unit, or planetary ecosystem called the ecosphere or biosphere.
The global ecosystem in which we now live is the product of several billion years to of the evolutionary change in the composition of the skin of the planet. Following a progression of momentous geochemical occasions, around two billion years prior there seemed a type of issue made out of components basic on the world’s surface yet sorted out in a way that set it pointedly separated from its precursor’s life. Then the products of several billion years of slow geochemical process, the first living things, became powerful agents of geochemical change.
To begin with, they depleted the earth’s previously accumulated stores of the organic products of the geochemical process as these products were their food. Earth’s early life forms sufficiently increased the carbon dioxide content of the planet’s atmosphere to raise the average temperature-through the “greenhouse” effect. Later, there appeared the first photosynthetic organisms that reconverted carbon dioxide into the organic substance that are essential to all living metabolism. The rapid proliferation of green.
The Components of Ecosystem
The structure of the ecosystem always has two major parts or components i.e. nonliving and living. The non-living, or abiotic, part includes an outside energy source (usually the sun) various other physical factors such as wind, heat, water. temperature, soil and all the chemicals essential for life.
The living or biotic portion of an ecosystem can be divided by food producers (Plants) and food consumers. Consumers are usually further divided into macro-consumers (animals) and decomposers or micro consumers, (chiefly bacteria and fungi).
In any environment, living things are distinguished by their reproduction, growth, and mobility from one place to another. Every living species tends to multiply and spread to new and suitable surroundings and repeats the process once established.
Growth in population size continues usually until is checked by some external factor. Such a factor, whatever its nature, is called a limiting factor. Limiting factors can be either physical (e.g. climate, presence or absence of water and nutrients, etc) or biological (e.g. competition, predation, parasitism, and disease, etc.)
Function of the Ecosystem
The community cannot live without the cycling of materials and the flow of every component in the ecosystem. Thus in an ecosystem, energy flows, and matter (chemicals) cycles. These two major ecosystem functions connect the various structured parts of an ecosystem so that life is maintained.
Energy Flows in the Ecosystem
The general sequence of who eats or decomposes who is called a “food chain” or “energy chain”. A food chain involves the transfer of food energy from one organism to another when one organism eats or decomposes other.
Two significant standards rise up out of the natural food order idea. First, all life and all form of food begin with sunlight and green plants. Second, the shorter the food chain, the lesser the loss of usable energy. This means that a larger population of humans (or other organisms) can be supported by a shorter plant-based food chain.
As overpopulated country or world will be better off at least in terms of total energy intake, by eating wheat or rice than by feeding such plants to herbivores (with ninety percent energy loss) and then eating the herbivores (with another ninety percent energy loss). But a diet based on one can get some of the proteins essential for good health.
Chemical Cycling in Ecosystem
In chemical terms, life can be summed up in six elements; carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and nitrogen. Although about forty of the ninety-two, naturally occurring chemical elements are essential for life, yet these six elements make up over ninety-five percent of the mass of all living organisms. These six plus a few others required in relatively large quantities are called macronutrients.
Because we have a fixed supply of these six macronutrient elements. they must be continuously cycled from their reservoirs of air, water, and soil through the food webs of the ecosphere and back again to their reservoirs. These cyclical movements of material are called biogeochemical cycles.
The sedimentary cycles move materials from land to sea and back again. They include phosphorus, sulfur, calcium, magnesium, and potassium cycles. In the hydrological cycle evaporation and transpiration occur from oceans, streams, and groundwater, etc. and precipitation from atmospheric water vapor.
Balance in the Ecosystem
Man’s activities have often disrupted the natural balances which have been so finely and painstakingly turned by the natural responses of animals and plants. A natural ecosystem, such as forest, uses energy and recycles its chemicals very efficiently and is, thus, able to support many different plants and animals with no help from us. But in such an ecosystem, the process of growing trees and large plants is very slow.
These provide us with a renewable source of wood. But such systems cannot produce harvestable goods rapidly enough to support a large human population. Families in developing countries are very large, and this is the root of the world’s population. Population growth at present rate continues to have. Constantly increasing population may cause a shortage of food.
As the human population grows, there is a danger that we will convert too many of the world’s natural ecosystems, to young productive but highly vulnerable ecosystems. This immature system depends on the existence of nearby natural ecosystems. For example, simple farmlands on the plains must be balanced by diverse forests on nearby hills and mountains.
These forests hold water and minerals and release them slowly to the plains below. If the forests are cut for short-term economic gain, the water, and the soil will wash down the slopes in a destructive rush instead of a nourishing trickle.
Thus forests must not be valued only for their short term production of timber but also for their vital long term role in maintaining the young productive ecosystems that supply our food. What we must do then is to preserve a balance between young and mature ecosystems.
For all intents and purposes, the entirety of the world’s biological systems has been fundamentally changed through human activities. Probably the most huge changes have been the transformation of woodlands and meadows into cropland, the preoccupation and capacity of freshwater behind dams, and the loss of mangrove and coral reef regions.