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Ecosystem Facts & Characteristics

Ecosystems can be a difficult topic to wrap your head around, since they are found all across the world, with each one being a little bit different than another.

However, all ecosystems share common traits that you should know and understand so that you can examine each type more closely.

Which, lucky for you, is exactly what we’ll do here. Ready? Alright then, here we go!

ecosystem facts

What is an Ecosystem?

An ecosystem is all of the living things, which includes plants and animals that are living within a certain area.

It also includes how these plants and animals interact with each other and the world around them (environment).

A healthy ecosystem is an indicator of a healthy area.


In an ecosystem, every plant or animal has their own role to play, and each organism’s role affects all of the others.

It is a delicate balance, which can be thrown off very easily by any sort of external factor or change.

If a new organism is introduced, or something is removed from the ecosystem, it can cause drastic changes to that ecosystem.


Different Traits

All different ecosystems share similar traits. This can be broken down into two categories living things and the environment around them.

These two categories are dependent upon the others, and any change to either category will have some sort of consequence for the other.

Living ThingsThe term “living things” is broad in its scope. It involves everything living within an ecosystem, from the smallest bacteria, up the top predatory animal.

How these animals and organisms live and thrive off of each other is commonly referred to as the food chain.

lion roaring

EnvironmentEnvironmental factors that play a part in the ecosystem include the temperature, weather events (snow, wind, rain, sleet…etc.), and the amount of light the area receives.

Ecosystem Scale

Ecosystems come in all kinds of sizes. It can either be gigantic, or itty bitty teen tiny. These sizes can be broken down into three basic categories.

leopard in a tree

MicroThese are the smallest kinds of ecosystems. An example of micro ecosystem would be a tree trunk or under a rotten log.

MessoThis is the middle size for ecosystems, such as a forest or pond.

BiomeThis is the largest type of ecosystem. This would be something like a whole Rainforest.

Different Types

Ecosystems don’t have solid boundaries like states or townships. They are not marked by any rigid lines.

Often, different ecosystems begin and end due to some sort to geographic barrier, such as lakes, mountains, rivers, or deserts. Ecosystems can be broken down into two different categories.

ocean coastline

Aquatic EcosystemIf an ecosystem occurs in any type of water, whether it be a puddle or the ocean, then it is an aquatic ecosystem.

Terrestrial EcosystemsAny ecosystem that exists outside of water are called terrestrial ecosystems.

These include deserts, mountains, forests, and the tundra.

great smoky mountains national park

Ecosystem Organization

An ecosystem can be separated into various levels, with each level consisting of more organisms and environmental factors.

IndividualAn individual is any living organism within an ecosystem.

PopulationA group of individuals of the same species that all live within the ecosystem make up the population.


CommunityA community is all of the various populations of different organisms living with an area.

Ecosystem As described above, an ecosystem describes how all of the living things in a given area interact with each other and their environment.

BiomeThis is a collection of ecosystems that are similar in their basic makeup and characteristics.

BiosphereA biosphere is all of the different ecosystems and biomes on the entire planet.


Biomes are, again, a collection of ecosystems that have similar characteristics.

DesertsDeserts can be hot and dry, sem-arid, or cold.


AquaticAquatic biomes can be separated into either freshwater (lakes, streams, rivers and ponds) or saltwater (oceans, seas, or coral reefs) biomes.

ForestThis type can be broken down into Tropical Rainforests, Boreal, and Temporal Forests.

GrasslandThere are two distinct types of grasslands, which include Savanna Grasslands and Temperate Grasslands.

Tundra Tundra is the coldest type of biome. It can be broken down into two categories, which include the Arctic Tundra and the Alpine Tundra.


Ecosystems – How Living Things Interact with their Environment

Ecosystems are, in their simplest form, a complex system that describes how animals, plants, and organisms interact with their environment.

Even the slightest change to any of these different factors can greatly change the ecosystem.

Earth Science

layers of the earth cartoon