Ecology And Environment

What Makes an Ecosystem



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"What Makes an Ecosystem"
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The whole universe is ecosystems within ecosystems. However, on earth, there are many geographic regions, and each region has its own ecosystem. Generally, when an ecosystem is referenced, it is referring to a specific geographical area. An ecosystem is everything that makes up a regions environment. Yellowstone, for example, has its own ecosystem. From the microscopic organisms, to the soil, plants, water, animals, weather, and the people who visit, make up Yellowstone's ecosystem. Each component depends on the others to keep the balance of an ecosystem, and each one is important to that balance.

For instance, when grey wolves were eliminated from Yellowstone in the 1920's, drastic changes occurred during the wolves' seventy-year absence. The lack of a natural predator caused the slow and painful deaths of many young, old, and weak elk. The stronger elk thrived, and vegetation life was being depleted by the large quantity of elk in two different ways. The elk, having free, unhindered access to the water supply, drank so much of the water that is was affecting the sustainability of the trees and growth in the park. The seedlings that did sprout were promptly eaten, allowing the vegetation life no chance to replenish. Without proper vegetation, it was creating a habitat loss to a wide variety of birds, beavers, and other species. In addition, the coyote became widespread with no wolves to compete with for space, and that affected some smaller animals, such as the fox.

In 1995, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began a wolf restoration process. Since the return of the wolves, there is year round elk carcass for bears, eagles, wolverines, and other meat-eating animals. Trees, which have not grown in the forest for years, are growing again, birds have returned, and the beaver population has grown. Foxes, weasels and other small creatures, prey for the coyotes, are also abundant.

Although there are many contributors to an ecosystem, this is one example of how a singular component of an ecosystem affects the entire region, and the mechanics of how a region's ecosystem works together. The weather, climate, physical properties, animals, and chemical makeup, all make up a regions ecosystem.

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