Types of Ecosystems

There are many types of ecosystems on the planet. All ecosystems can be divided into one of two major categories: terrestrial or aquatic. What both of these categories have in common is the biotic and abiotic components working together to create a healthy ecosystem. Biotic components in an ecosystem include all living organisms. Abiotic components are the components in which organisms interact with, such as light, water, air, and mineral soil.

Terrestrial Biomes

Terrestrial biomes are by far the most diverse on the planet. They can be classified further into different types of ecosystems. Terrestrial biomes are ecosystems that are located on land.

Forest Ecosystems

The forest ecosystems are booming in plant life, also known as flora. Because there is an abundance of plant life there is also an abundance of animal life, known as fauna. There are two basic types of forest ecosystems: deciduous and coniferous. Both of these types of forests can be found in temperate and tropical regions. Coniferous forest can be further classified into a third biome called taiga.

Deciduous Forest – This type of forest is filled with broad-leaf trees, shrubs, herbs that experience changes for all four seasons. It is teaming with animal life as well. Temperate deciduous forests make up most of the eastern United States, parts of Canada, Europe, China, and Japan. Tropical deciduous forests typically are located closer to the equator, such as rain forests. Here there are months of rainfall followed by a dry season.

Coniferous Forest – Although some broad-leaf trees grow here, it is predominantly filled with conifer trees, such as firs, pine, cedar, and spruce just to name a few. These trees have needles instead of leaves and cones instead of flower blooms. Animals and other plant species thrive here with warm summers and cool winters. These forests can be found all over the Northern Hemisphere.

Taiga – Another type of coniferous forest is located just south of the arctic, the taiga ecosystem is also call the boreal forest. This forest is filled with evergreen conifers but the soil quality is low. Animal life is limited due to the harsh conditions. Winters are covered with snow and ice but the summer brings rain and the taiga comes alive with insects and migratory birds.

Desert Ecosystem

Desert ecosystems make up 1/5 of the Earth’s land surface. Plant and animal life can be sparse in the desert, but most of the life that can be found in a desert ecosystem are unique to only desert life and have amazing adaptation skills. Deserts can be classified in one on four major classifications.

Hot and Dry Deserts – Daytime temperatures can reach over 120 degrees Fahrenheit. At night temperatures can go below well below freezing in some deserts. Plant life is few and far between, but the plant life that does grow in this type of desert is able to store water for long periods of time and packed full of nutrients. Animals here are typically nocturnal. This type of desert is typically found in the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer regions.

Semiarid – The temperatures of semiarid deserts are more tolerable with daytime temperatures staying under 100 degrees and night time temperatures rarely go below 50 degrees. Semiarid deserts are located in the Nearctic realm, which includes North America, Greenland, and Newfoundland, and the Palearctic realm, which includes Russia, parts of Europe, Asia, and parts of Africa.

Coastal – Coastal deserts are located along the coast of Nearctic and the Neotropical realm with moderately warm cool temperatures. Warm temperatures rarely rise above 95 degrees Fahrenheit and cool temperatures average no lower than 28 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cold Deserts – Cold desert are found around the arctic region and plant life is scattered. Animals that thrive in cold deserts typically burrow underground to keep warm similar to animals who burrow to keep cool in hot and dry deserts. As its classification name suggests, it stays cold most of the time. The winters see heavy snowfall and it only warms just enough to allow plant growth in the spring and summer.

Grassland Ecosystems

In the grasslands, animals are primarily herbivore grazers or insectivores and those that feed on them. There two types of grasslands, one found in tropical regions and those found in more temperate regions.

Savanna – Located primarily in tropic regions, these grasslands have a few trees and brush. Some areas with the trees and brush are considered woodlands, which differs from a forest.This type of grassland has both a rainy season and a dry season. During the dry season, field fires are common but play a vital role in the diversity of the savanna. The soil here is porous, which provides nutrient-rich plants for many of the animals to survive on.

Temperate grasslands – There are two types of temperate grasslands: prairies and steppes. Prairies have tall grasses and steppes have short grass. Both temperate grasslands are void of trees and brush. Temperatures can reach a hot 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer. Winters are quite frigid, with some snowfall in certain areas.

Tundra Ecosystems

Tree growth is hindered in the tundra ecosystems due to low temperatures. In fact, it is the coldest ecosystem on the planet. The word tundra comes for a Russian language dialect meaning “treeless mountain tract”. Due to the lack of trees, the tundra can be quite windy. Tundra ecosystems can be further classified into three categories.

Arctic –North of the taiga belt is the arctic tundra. Conditions here can be harsh with the fact that it tends to stay frozen throughout most of the year. During the summer, temperature rise slightly enabling some of the snow and ice to melt, leaving the land wet and soggy. These warm months give way to lakes, marshes, bogs, and streams.

Antarctic – Located around the South Pole, most of this tundra is solid ice. However, certain areas such as the Antarctic Peninsula have rocky soil that even sustains some plant life. Most of the animal life here contains seals, penguins, and other sea birds.

Alpine – Alpine tundra regions are known for being in higher altitudes. The temperature is cold here but it is mostly because of the low pressure due to the high altitude. Because of these higher altitudes and colder climates, the alpine tundra does not support tree life. Most plant life here is shrubs that grow close to the ground. Most mountain ranges all over the world have some areas of alpine tundra.

Aquatic Biomes

Just like the ecosystems found on land, ecosystems in water areas can be teaming with flora and fauna diversity. There are two major ecosystems in the aquatic biome. These include marine ecosystems, which contain saltwater and freshwater ecosystems. Both of these can be further divide into smaller ecosystems to make it easier for scientists to study.

Marine Ecosystems

Marine ecosystems have salt and minerals that are dissolved in large amounts. Covering over 70 percent of the Earth’s surface, the marine ecosystem is the largest ecosystem on the planet. Within the marine ecosystem, scientists further divide them into smaller ecosystems. Some of these include the oceans, coral reefs, coastal areas, estuaries and salt marshes.

Freshwater Ecosystems

Covering only 0.8 percent of the world’s water, freshwater ecosystems are abundant with reptile species, amphibian species, and even 41 percent of the world’s fish species. Freshwater ecosystems are also vital to life on land as well. The three types of freshwater ecosystems are lentic, loric, and wetlands.

Lentic – These are slow moving to being completely still. Ponds and lakes are prime examples of lentic freshwater ecosystems. Other examples of a lentic ecosystem include ditches, basin marshes, and other areas of standing water.

Lotic – These are fast moving water systems, such as brooks, channels, rivers, and streams. Within this system there are two main zones called rapids and pools. Water moves fast enough in rapids that the water keeps the bottom clear of materials. Pools are where the water is deeper and the current isn’t as fast, allowing silt to build up on the bottom.

Wetlands – Wetlands is an area of land that is saturated by standing water. Sometimes this is seasonal and sometimes it is permanent. Some examples of freshwater wetlands include freshwater marshes, bogs, swamps, and fens.

Any change, even the smallest change, can upset the balance of these ecosystems. Many of the ecosystems are threatened by human interactions such as pollution, deforestation, over hunting, and over fishing. Although many people don’t realize it, the balance of these ecosystems are vital to human survival whether it is direct or indirect.