How to Build an Ecosystem

••• Andres Arango/Demand Media

An ecosystem is a community of plants, animals and smaller organisms that interact in the same environment. It can be very large or quite small. When building your own ecosystem, you can choose between a dry land or a marine aquatic version. Naturally occurring microorganisms play a vital role in the recycling of materials within any ecosystem. Let's look at how to build a dry land ecosystem, which is also known as a vivarium.

    ••• Andres Arango/Demand Media

    Put in the gravel, at least 1/2 inch covering the bottom of your transparent jar. Gravel will allow drainage and help to preserve life.

    ••• Andres Arango/Demand Media

    Add 3/4 inch of garden soil and make sure that it’s not overly moist dirt. Avoid getting dirt down the sides of your jar by using a funnel to pour soil through it. Next add rocks and things like natural wood from the garden.

    ••• Andres Arango/Demand Media

    Plant small growing species and avoid using compost. Leave the lid off of the jar for a few days before sealing it to allow for a well balanced humidity level. Don’t over-water your dry land ecosystem and keep your ecosphere cool and out of direct sunlight. With too much water and sunlight, humidity will condense on the sides and cause less photosynthesis to occur.

    ••• Andres Arango/Demand Media

    Add some worms, ants or flies. Use any live animals you find in outside in the soil. Measure the height of your plants, and record if they’re being consumed by the insects. Try to achieve the right balance of soil, plants and animals.

    ••• Andres Arango/Demand Media

    Measure the temperature with a thermometer. Measure the temperature at the same time every day and keep a "weather" journal. Count the bugs that survive, measure plant growth and humidity levels. Remember ambient light levels affect plant growth. Make a hypothesis as to why things are happening and come up with ideas as how to better protect biodiversity.

    Things You'll Need

    • Gravel
    • Garden soil and rocks
    • Large transparent jar
    • Non-flowering plants
    • Insects
    • Thermometer

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