Many of us are unaware that the study of ecology and ecosystem sciences might offer us the tools to find a solution to the global disaster we are heading towards. While some ecosystems might be as tiny as a pond behind the house, it is important to know that ecosystems interact with one another, and keeping them balanced is key to preserving our entire planet.

Ecosystems

Ecosystems are composed of nonliving elements such as soil, air and water, and of living organisms. There are many different categories of living things that have particular roles in the ecosystem, interacting with each other and working together to maintain a healthy and balanced system.

Categories of living organisms

Within an ecosystem, there are three main categories of living organisms that have different roles. These three categories are producers, consumers and decomposers.

The producers are the green plants, which create organic matter by processing elements from the soil by using the sun’s light as an energy source. They are the only ones capable of producing organic matter out of inorganic components.

The consumers are the living things that get their energy directly from the producers. They consume plants and their products in order to get everything necessary to survive. Out of the three types of consumers, herbivores are animals that only eat plants to survive, carnivores are animals that consume the herbivores that feed on plants, and omnivores which eat both plants and animals.

The decomposers are the plants and animals which feed on dead plant and animal matter, breaking them down into organic and inorganic compounds that return to the soil, from which plants take their resources and start producing more living matter, and so the cycle continues.

Our role

We are at the top of the food chain, dominating every other living and non-living thing that surrounds us. Unfortunately, our impact is the most discussed topic, and not our place and role as the only species that is capable of understanding what is happening and of finding a solution.

We take a lot more than we give back, and we should stop using everything just to reach our own ends. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have an environment to support us, so the time has come to start reversing the damage we have caused, stop the destructive path we have taken and to take measure to preserve our planet.

Climate change is one of the main causes of concern for many scientists and ordinary people. We are all told about greenhouse gas emissions and how they damage our environment. Yet, there is little understanding of ecology and ecosystem values among ordinary people, and while some advocate saving our planet, they have no idea that the small ecosystem next to their house is in danger.

What is an ecosystem?

An ecosystem is a community formed by its substrate, living organisms and other non-living elements. All components work together in a dynamic system that evolves and adapts. Contrary to popular belief, ecosystems are not necessarily large, as even something as small as a tree or a pond can be an ecosystem. Even a terrarium can be considered as an artificial ecosystem. Along with light, air, soil, plants and animals work together to keep a healthy and balanced system that supports them in return.

What is needed for a healthy ecosystem?

A well-balanced ecosystem needs to have good soil, as it is one of the most important elements, providing nutrients and ensuring a good recirculation of important elements such as water or minerals. Good species diversity is also important, since every species has its own niche within the ecosystem, keeping it healthy and maintaining balance. An ecosystem with wide diversity is also less prone to be impacted and damaged by human interaction or by natural disasters.

The importance of studying ecology and ecosystems

Studying ecology and learning how non-living elements interact with living organism is critical to understanding how ecosystems work and how to minimize our impact upon them. We are responsible for our planet, and should take any necessary actions to preserve it as it is. In order to do so, it is also very important to study living organisms, as it will allow us to maintain biodiversity and to keep a healthy planet.

Finding the right solution

At a global level, the main concern is regarding greenhouse gas emissions and the alarmingly increasing levels of CO2. While it’s true that not stopping this will lead to global disaster, it is also important to note that finding localized solutions is more efficient in many cases, and can make a difference between destroying and maintaining an ecosystem. It also provides us with a starting point, as CO2 levels aren’t impacting many ecosystems as much as deforestation or resource extraction that are so damaging to the environment.

Human activities in the recent decades have been taking their toll on the planet and its ecosystems. It is very important to learn how we impact our planet, and what we can do to make it better, which is the reason why a deep understanding of ecology and ecosystem is critical.

What are ecosystems and how do they work?

Ecosystems are dynamic entities that are composed of both living and non-living things. In a way, all the elements of the natural world are connected. Ecosystems are communities that are working together, systems and subsystems that are interacting with each other. Ecosystems vary in size, as there are ones that are as big as a forest or a desert, while others are as small as a tree trunk or a puddle.

In an ecosystem, each of the components is important in maintaining a balance. The water, temperature and the soil help the plants grow. Some animals eat the plants, and other predators eat them in turn. The predators, herbivores and plants die at some point, decomposing and enriching the soil with valuable nutrients and minerals that will help other plants grow, and so on.

Why are our activities so damaging?

A healthy and balanced ecosystem needs all of its components to work together. Just taking one component out of the ecosystem results in imbalance and can lead to potential disaster. Deforestation is nothing new, and many of us don’t know how severe it impacts ecosystems. Many ecosystems depend on forests. By cutting them down, we deprive animals from shelter, many other plants and animals that live and breed there will disappear, and the ecosystem will collapse.

We wonder why so often we see wild animals in our backyard, and we see them as intruders. We trap and kill squirrels, raccoons, possums and other animals, as they destroy our property, steal our food and spread disease. The fact is that they don’t want to be here anymore than we do, but they have no other option. We have taken their home, and they are trying to adapt.

Deforestation, industrial development and resource extraction, along with the spread of cities and roads all contribute to a disaster waiting to happen. We should stop now and find a solution to this problem if we are to save our surrounding ecosystems and our entire planet from total collapse.

We live in a consumerist world where everything is within our reach. We have things we don’t really want or need, but we take them for granted anyway. Few of us wonder at what cost all these commodities come with.

Unfortunately, every product being manufactured releases more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, affecting the planet’s ecosystems. We must first gain an understanding on ecology and ecosystems and realize what impact our actions have in order to stop our destructive ways and to preserve what’s left.

Ecosystems

Ecosystems are communities formed by both living and non-living things. They are composed of living organisms and the nonliving components of the environment, such as water, soil or air. They all interact as a system, and throughout evolution, ecosystems have balanced themselves and have adapted to different conditions.

Ecology

Ecology is the science that allows us to study ecosystems, and that tells us how the numerous components interact with one another. Ecologists study living organisms, their diversity, distribution, population and how they interact with both the environment and with other ecosystems. Ecosystems are dynamic entities, forever changing, adapting and interacting.

Our place in all this

We have evolved into the species we are today about 60000 years ago. While our impact to the environment has been limited for most of these years, we have managed to cause a lot of destruction to the planet in the last several centuries.

With the onset of the industrial evolution, the widespread of cities, roads and industrial complexes, we have managed to contribute to the shrinking and rapid deterioration of ecosystems, leading to the extinction of many species of plants and animals. We are even shaping the landscape, deforesting huge areas for agriculture, cutting mountains in order to extract minerals, and so on.

Why ecology is important

In the past our impact was less damaging than it is today. The numerous ecologists and other scientists have gone for decades, trying to warn us of the consequences of going on the destructive path we have undertaken. We may be already heading towards a limit, where the effects we have will be irreversible.

It is critical to understand how ecosystems work and how we affect them in order to minimize our impact and to reverse the damage we have caused so far. Only by doing so will we be able to save our planet and ensure a healthy world for the future generations.