Ecology And Environment

The different Types of Ecosystems

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"The different Types of Ecosystems"
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The earth is a planet and not an ecosystem but the earth is home to many ecosystems. These ecosystems are where plants and animals interact to create living environments called communities.

The ecosystem you should most care about is you. The human body is a walking breathing ecosystem and you serve as host to millions of tiny bacteria. Your mouth alone has hundreds of species of bacteria living in it.

You can't see the bacteria that are crawling all over you and inside you but that's just as well as most of them are not very attractive.

Each of the bacteria has a specific job to do within your body. One example would be the bacteria in your stomach, which is there to help you digest your food. It lives in balance with other, bad microbes in your gut but if too many antibiotics are taken, it could kill the good bacteria and cause an overgrowth of the dangerous bacteria which causes disease.

Most of these microbes are friendly and keep humans healthy and they couldn't live without them. They help keep humans “regular” and make sure they have the proper vitamins along with protecting the immune system.

Another example of an ecosystem is a Coral reef. This is an underwater system built from stony coral which secret calcium carbonate. Very fragile systems, they are very sensitive to water temperature. Fish, molluscs, worms, sponge and many other creatures call this home.

Coral reefs are usually found in shallow, warm water, although some do exist in deep colder waters. They are under threat from man and his fishing tactics such as blast fishing, cyanide fishing and ocean acidification are causing problems.

Prairies are another type of ecosystem. Located mostly in North America. This includes the United States, Canada and Mexico, and also consist of the area known as the Great Plains and it also includes the wet, hilly land to the east.

The dominant vegetation types in the prairies are grasses, herbs and shrubs rather than trees. Animals graze in the prairies. Bison, white tailed deer, elk and other such animals roamed the Great Prairies with it's plentiful grassland before America was colonized.

Fires have removed trees from the prairies but have had no effect on the prairies themselves because the roots of the grass go up to six feet deep which is below the soil surface and after a fire, the roots grow back. Not subject to erosion, after heavy rain because the root system is so deep, it holds the soil in place, preventing run off. It also seeks water from deep underground if needed because of long drought.

Forest are another type of ecosystem. While composed mostly of trees, a forest also includes small plants, animals, bacteria and fungi. The usual forest has a canopy or an overgrowth of tree limbs at the top and an understory below which could include shrubs, herb and moss layers. Some forest have a lower tree layer.

Forests provide a diverse resource for humans. They help regulate the climate, store carbon, purify water and help mitigate floods. A forest can have many different species of trees growing in it in a small area or have just a few species growing over a wide area. Forest differs from woodlands by the overgrowth of limbs at the top which reach over and touch and even intertwine.

A Savanna is an ecosystem with smaller trees being spaced a sufficient distance apart so as to allow the sun to wash over the grass and plants below. There are many savannas with taller trees spaced more close.

Savannas have water available in season and most of the rainfall is contained in a specific season. Africa has the largest area of savannas.

Savannas are subject to wildfires which are usually confined to the herbaceous layer while doing very little damage to mature trees, they kill the seedlings, preventing new trees from growing and over populating the area. This allows the grass to flourish.

Deserts are ecosystems barren of precipitation or at least it's very low. Many people think trees and grass don't grow in deserts but this is false.

Deserts have a wide variety of life. The animals that live in deserts only come out at night preferring to stay in hiding during the day to control their body temperature or minimize the need for water. Coyotes, jack rabbits, lizards and kangaroo rats are some of the animals that live in the desert.

Some plants that inhabit the desert are Prickly Pears, Desert Holly and the Brittlebush. Some plants have long roots that reach the water table below, some have roots that extend long distances to find water on the ground. Some of the tiniest plants are important to help avoid desert erosion.

The driest place on earth is the Atacama desert, the Andes mountains block it from moisture on one side and the Chilean coast range blocks the other side. Only 1 mm per year of rain falls in the Chilean region of Antofagasta.

Although sections of the Atacama resembles the surface of the moon, life thrives in this most arid ecosystem. It is home to pink flamingos, penguins, South American gray fox, leaf eared mouse, a variety of insects and many species of plant life.

There are many more ecosystems to explore such as the Aquatic ecosystem, the Agroecosystem, Chaparral, Taiga, Tundra and others. A couple of clicks of your mouse and you can visit anyone or all of them on the virtual storehouse of the world wide web.

More about this author: Joseph Sarpy

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