Ecosystems are communities of organisms and non-living matter that interact together. Each part of the ecosystem is important because ecosystems are interdependent. Damaged or imbalanced ecosystems can cause many problems.
Ecosystems are made up of soil, sunlight and heat, water, and living organisms which include:
Living organisms within an ecosystem interact in many ways including predation, cooperation, competition and symbiosis. Each species has a niche, or special role, such as eating small insects, decomposing matter or converting sunlight to energy through photosynthesis.
Ecosystems vary widely in size--they can be a puddle, a lake or a desert. Terrariums are artificial ecosystems.
Biomes are composed of several ecosystems that are similar to each other. Tropical rainforests, deserts, tundra and grasslands are all biomes.
A small change in an ecosystem, such as the elimination or introduction of one species, can cause changes throughout the entire ecosystem. Environmental changes or human interference can cause these disturbances.
Pollution, including land pollution, water pollution and air pollution, poses a serious threat to ecosystems. Pollution can threaten or kill organisms that are central to ecosystems, causing the ecosystem to become imbalanced.