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Ecosystem

Unit 1

What is Ecosystem?

Definition:- Ecosystem is defined as a structural and functional


unit of biosphere consisting of community of living beings and
the physical environment both interacting and exchanging
materials between them.
The term 'ecosystem' was coined by A.G. Tansley
Ecosystem is the basic functional unit in ecology.
Ecology is the study of the relationship of plants and animals
to their physical and biological environment.
The physical environment includes light and heat or solar
radiation, moisture, wind, oxygen, carbon dioxide, nutrients in
soil, water, and atmosphere.
The biological environment includes organisms of the same
kind as well as other plants and animals.

Type of ecosystem
Temporary
Permanent
Natural
Man

made
Small
Large

Homeostatis: Ecosystem

maintain a functional balance or


relatively stable state of equilibrium among
its various component
Maintained through different number of
controls
- Carrying capacity
- self regulation
- Capacity to recycle - feed back
Growth of predator
population

+ve

-ve

Growth of prey
population

Structure of Ecosystem:

Each ecosystem has two main components:

1. Abiotic components

The nonliving factors or the physical environment prevailing in


an ecosystem form the abiotic components. They are mainly of
two types:

(a) Climatic factors: Rain, temperature, light, wind, humidity.etc

(b) Edaphic factors: Soil, pH, Minerals, Topography.

2. Biotic components:

The living organisms including plants, animals, and micro-organisms


(Bacteria and fungi) that are present in an ecosystem.
On the basis of their role in ecosystem they are classified into two main
groups:

AUTOTROPS

HETEROTROPS

1) producer- Any organism that can

2) Consumer - An organism that cannot make its


own energy but must acquire it by eating green

photosynthesize

plants or other consumers.

3)

Decomposer - An organism that helps to


breakdown and decay dead organisms and
animal waste products, thereby returning
nutrients into the soil

Producers

The producers are plants and some bacteria capable of producing


their own food photo-synthetically or by chemical synthesis.

Autotrophs : (autotrophic = self-nourishing)

Green plants fix radiant energy in the presence of the green pigment,
chlorophyll, and with the help of minerals (C, H, O, N, P, Ca, Mg, Zn,
Fe etc.) taken from their soil and aerial environment ,they build up
complex organic matter (carbohydrates, fats, amino acids, proteins,
nucleic acids etc).

So green plants are also called as converters (or) transducers

Therefore, autotrophs are called producers.

Heterotrophs

The consumers are animals that obtain their energy and protein
directly by grazing , feeding on other animals, or both.

Heterotrophs: (heterotrophic = other - nourishing)

The radiant energy is transferred to various other trophic levels like


consumers.

Heterotrophic organisms, chiefly animals, which ingest other


organisms (or) particulate organic matter are included in this category,

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Function of ecosystem

Macroconsumers: They are of three types :


1- primary consumers eg: herbivores,
2- secondary consumers eg: carnivores
3- tertiary consumers eg: Carnivores and Omnivores
(Phagotrophs).

Microconsumers
It includes parasites, detritivores and decomposers.

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Microconsumers:1. Parasites: They obtain food directly


from other organism of all trophic
levels. Parasites cause disease
and depend on the host for food.
2. Detrivores and Scavengers:
Detrivores (e.g., termites, earth
worms, wood lice, millipede etc)
feed on organic fragments whereas,
scavengers (e.g., vulture, carrion
beetle) feed on dead bodies.
Scavengers and detrivores seem to
be essential for quick breakdown of
dead bodies of organisms.

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3. Decomposers: They are mostly


parasitic and saprophytic bacteria,
actinomycetes and fungi

Macroconsumers:

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Herbivores :Some animals do not eat other animals. They survive on


plants (producers) are known as herbivores.
Carnivores:-Some animals eat only other animals. These animals are
called carnivores.
Omnivores:- Some animals eat both plants and animals. These
animals are called omnivores

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Trophic Levels i8n An Ecosystem


Producers
T1

herbivores

carnivores

T2

T3

Decomposers
T6

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2 nd carnivores
T4

Function of Ecosystem:
i) Flow of Energy:
The rate of biological energy flow community varies.
(ii) Nutrient Cycling: Rate of materials (or) nutrient
cycles
(iii) Biological (or) Ecological regulation which
includes regulation of organisms by environment (eg:
Photoperiodism) and regulation of environment by
organisms (nitrogen fixation by organisms).
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Energy Flow in an Ecosystem

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Energy flow is the movement of energy through an ecosystem


from the external environment through a series of organism
and back to the external environment.

Ecosystem is maintained by the flow of energy.

With the exception of chemosynthetic bacteria all other


autotrophs obtain energy from the sun. They trap the light
energy and convert it into chemical energy of organic
compounds during the process of photosynthesis.

The amount of energy trapped varies from ecosystem to


ecosystem.

Flow of Energy Flow of Energy

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>The energy is used for their growth and maintenance. There is always
loss of energy at each step of its transfer.
>Some energy is degraded into heat and dissipated (wasted)
>The flow of energy in the ecosystem is always unidirectional.
>The flow of energy follows the two laws of Thermodynamics:
>1st law of Thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created
nor be destroyed but it can be transformed from one form to another.

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FOOD CHAIN

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It is sequence of populations or organisms of an


ecosystem through which the food and its contained
energy passes with each member becoming the food
of a later member of the sequence.
All organisms, living or dead, are potential food for
some other organism and thus, there is essentially
no waste in the functioning of a natural ecosystem.
Some common examples of simple food chains are:

Examples :-

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Grass > grasshopper > Frog > Snake >


Hawk (Grassland ecosystem)

Phytoplanktons > water fleas > small fish >


Tuna (Pond ecosystem)

Each organism in the ecosystem is assigned a


feeding level or trophic level depending on its
nutritional status.

Types of food chains


1. Grazing food chain: It starts with green plants (primary producers) and culminates
in carnivores. Example :

Grass > Rabbit > Fox

Phytoplankton > Zooplantkton > Fish > Man

Grass > Grasshopper >frog > snake > Hawk


Ecosystems of such type of food chains are directly dependent on an influx of
solar energy.

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2. Detritus food chain: It starts with dead organic matter which the detritivores
and decomposers consume.
Partially decomposed dead organic matter and even the decomposers are
consumed by detrivores and their predators.
Example - Mangrove and estuarine areas.
Dead organic matter > Detrivores >predators.
Fallen leaves and dead plants >soil mites > Insects > Fish.

Food web

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Food web is a network of food chains where different


types of organisms are connected at different trophic
levels, so that there are a number of options of
eating and being eaten at each trophic level.

In ecosystems, some consumers feed on a single


species, but most consumers have multiple food
sources.

In this way, linear individual food chains interconnect


to form a food web.

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ECOLOGICAL PYRAMIDS
Graphic

representation of trophic structure


and function of an ecosystem, starting with
producers at the base and successive trophic
levels forming the apex is knows as an
ecological pyramid.

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Types of ecological pyramids


Ecological pyramids are of three types:
Pyramid

of Numbers:
Pyramid of Biomass:
Pyramid of Energy:

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Pyramid of Numbers:
It

represents the number of individual


organisms at each trophic level. It may be
upright or inverted pyramid of numbers,
depending upon the type of ecosystem and
food chain
A
grassland ecosystem and a pond
ecosystem show an upright pyramid of
numbers
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Pyramid of biomass

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It is based upon the total biomass (dry matter) at each


trophic level in a food chain.
The pyramid of biomass can also be upright or inverted.
The pyramid of biomass in a forest is upright. The pond
ecosystem shows an inverted pyramid of biomass.
a) Grassland ecosystem
b) pond ecosystem

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Ecological pyramids at a glance

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Pyramid of Energy

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The amount of energy present at each trophic level is


considered for this type of pyramid. Pyramid of energy is
always upright.

At every successive trophic level, there is a huge loss of energy


(about 90%) in the form of heat, respiration etc.

Thus, at each next higher level only 10% of the energy passes
on. Hence, there is a sharp decline in energy level of each
successive trophic level as we move from Producers to top
carnivores

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Biogeochemical cycles

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Biological and geologic processes move


nutrients between organic and inorganic
compartments

Biogeochemical cycles are the circulation pathways


of elements (e.g., carbon, oxygen, hydrogen,
nitrogen or mineral elements) through the biotic and
abiotic components of an ecosystem.

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Biogeochemical cycle

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A reservoir is that portion of the earth that acts as a


storehouse for the element.

An exchange pool is the portion of the environment from


which producers take chemicals, such as the atmosphere
or soil.

The biotic community is the pathway (i.e., food chains)


through which chemicals move.

Some cycles are primarily gaseous cycles (carbon and


nitrogen); others are sedimentary cycles, (phosphorus).

There are two ecological processes


-energy flow
- mineral cycling
involving interaction between the physico -chemical environment and the
biotic communities
This is considered as the 'heart' of ecosystem.
Energy flow is always in non-cyclic manner (unidirectional) from sun to the
decomposers via producers and macro consumers.
But minerals keep on moving in a cyclic manner

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Hydrological Cycle
(water cycle)

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1. Reservoir oceans, air (as water vapor),


groundwater, lakes and glaciers; evaporation,
wind and precipitation (rain) move water from
oceans to land
2. Assimilation plants absorb water from the
ground, animals drink water or eat other
organisms which are composed mostly of water
3. Release plants transpire, animals breathe and
expel liquid wastes

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The carbon cycle

The

carbon cycle involves the movement of


carbon from the air, into plants, animals,
people, the earth, and back into the air. It
also includes the mining and release of
carbon that was trapped in the bodies of
ancient plants and animals.

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Carbon Cycle

(carbon is required for building organic compounds

1. Reservoir atmosphere (as CO2), fossil fuels


(oil, coal), durable organic materials (for
example: cellulose).
2. Assimilation plants use CO2 in
photosynthesis; animals consume plants.
3. Release plants and animals release CO2
through respiration and decomposition; CO 2 is
released as wood and fossil fuels are burned
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The carbon cycle fits the generalized scheme of


biogeochemical cycles better than water.

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OXYGEN CYCLE

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Nitrogen cycle

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The majority of Earth's atmosphere (78%) is nitrogen, making it the


largest pool of nitrogen. However, atmospheric nitrogen has limited
availability for biological use, leading to a scarcity of usable nitrogen in
many types of ecosystems.
Nitrogen is necessary for all known forms of life on Earth. It is a
component in all amino acids, as incorporated into proteins, and is
present in the bases that make up nucleic acids such as RNA and
DNA. In plants, much of the nitrogen is used in chlorophyll molecules,
which are essential for photosynthesis and further growth.
Nitrogen is present in the environment in a wide variety of chemical
forms including organic nitrogen, ammonium (NH4+), nitrite (NO2-),
nitrate (NO3-), nitrous oxide (N2O), nitric oxide (NO) or inorganic
nitrogen gas (N2)

Nitrogen cycle

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1. Reservoir atmosphere (as


N2); soil (as NH4+ or
ammonium, NH3 or
ammonia, N02- or nitrite, N03or nitrate
2. Assimilation plants
absorb nitrogen as either
NH4+ or as N03-, animals
obtain nitrogen by eating
plants and other animals.
3. Release Denitrifying
bacteria convert N03- back to
N2; detrivorous bacteria
convert organic compounds
back to NH4+ ; animals
excrete NH4+, urea, or uric
acid.

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Apatite, the chief source of phosphate


for living systems via the phosphorous
cycle.

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Humans mine phosphate ores for


use in fertilizer,
as an animal feed supplement,
and for detergents.
Organisms use phosphate in
phospholipids,
ATP
teeth
bones and shells
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PHOSPHORUS CYCLE

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1. Reservoir erosion transfers phosphorus to water


and soil; sediments and rocks that accumulate on
ocean floors return to the surface as a result of
uplifting by geological processes
2. Assimilation plants absorb inorganic PO43(phosphate) from soils; animals obtain organic
phosphorus when they eat plants and other animals
3. Release plants and animals release phosphorus
when they decompose; animals excrete phosphorus
in their waste products

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Ecological niche
Ecological

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niche has been defined as "the range


of ecological variables (e.g., temperature,
moisture, etc.) in which a species can exist and
reproduce."
Niche can also be thought of as all the biotic and
abiotic factors to which members of a population
are adapted.
Identifying the different niches in an ecosystem
helps us to understand the interactions between
populations.

Understand
ecological niche
The

Fundamental Niche is the total niche


volume determined solely by Abiotic factors

The

Realized Niche is a subset of the F.


Niche that an organism actually occupies
the difference being the influence of Biotic
factors:
e.g., predators, competitors, food
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Fundamental Niche
Ideal niche that would
exist in the absence
of competition from
other species is
called a species'
fundamental niche
determined solely by
Abiotic factors

Realized Niche
The actual niche that
a species fills in the
face of interspecific
competition is called
its realized niche.
It is under influence of
Biotic factors:

The eastern wolf now resides primarily in Canada, though its territory
once extended into the northeastern United States.

The coyote now inhabits places formerly inhabited by the eastern wolf.

competitive exclusion principle:


Two species cannot coexist in the same habitat if
they have the same niche.

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The niche concept was investigated in some classic experiments in


the 1930s by Gause..
He used flasks of different species of the protozoan Paramecium,
which eats bacteria

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Conclusion:

Experiment 1)

>These two species of Paramecium share the same niche, so they


compete.
>P. aurelia is faster-growing, so it out-competes P. caudatum.

Experiment 2)

>These two species (P. caudatum & P. bursaria) of Paramecium


have slightly different niches, so they don't compete and can
coexist.
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Types of ecological niche


Specialists

- Species with narrow niches are


called specialists.
Example - warblers in a coniferous forest
Generalists

- Species with broad niches are


called generalists.
Example migrating birds
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Ecological Succession

Ecosystems

are not fixed, but constantly change


with time. This change is called succession.
A stable community is called the climax
community
The climax community is usually a forest, though
this varies depending on the climate and the
underlying rock.
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kinds of succession:

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Primary succession starts with bare rock or sand, such


as behind a retreating glacier, after a volcanic
eruption, following the silting of a lake or seashore, on a
new sand dune, or on rock from erosion
and weathering of a mountain.

Eg- a lithosere, a hydrosere,


Secondary succession starts with soil, but no (or only a
few) species, such as in a forest clearing, following a
forest fire, or when soil is deposited by a meandering
river.

Classification Of Ecosystem

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FORESTS

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40% earth surface

Has abiotic and biotic factors

There are three major types of forests:


Tropical
Temperate
Artic.

Each of these major forest types have other groups of forests that are
named because of the weather and seasons they have.

Tropical forests cluster near the equator. It includes evergreen rain


forest and deciduous forest.

Temperate forests include coniferous, Mediterranean and rain forests.

Forest Ecosystem

A forest ecosystem is a natural woodland unit consisting of all plants, animals and
micro-organisms (Biotic components) in that area functioning together with all of the
non-living physical (abiotic) factors of the environment

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Components of Forest Ecosystem


Producers :

The trees are of different kinds depending upon the kind of the forest formatio
developing in that climate.

They have several climbers, shrubs and a ground vegetation.

In tropical moist deciduous forest the producers, are Tectona grandis, Bute
frondosa, Shorea robusta and Anogeissus latifolia and Adina cordifolia.

temperate deciduous forests the dominant trees are Quercus, Acer, Betula

temperate coniferous forests have Abies, Picea, Pinus, Cedrus, Juniperus and wid
range of flowering plants.

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Consumers
(a) Primary consumers: ants, flies, beetles, leafhoppers, bugs and spiders, elephants,
nilgai, deer, moles, squirrels, shrews, flying foxes, fruit bats, mangooses etc.,
(b) Secondary consumers. These are the top carnivores like snakes, birds, lizards, fox
etc..
(c) Tertiary consumers. These are the top carnivores like lion, tiger, etc.,

Decomposers

fungi (Aspergillus,
Trichoderma etc.)

bacteria (Bacillus, Clostridium, Pseudomonas, Angiococcus etc.,)

actinomycetes

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Coprinus,

Polyporus,

Ganoderma,

Fusarium,

Alternariq,

Grassland Ecosystem
19% earth surface

Type of terrestrial ecosystem

Has abiotic and biotic factors


Abiotic factors:

Nutrient in soil and aerial environment


C, H, N, O, P, S Chief elements

Biotic factors:
1.
Producers:

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Grass species (Dichanthium, Cynodon, Digitaria, Setaria, Sporobolus)


Some shrubs and forbs

Consumers:
(a) Primary consumers: Animals (cow, buffalo, deer, sheep, rabbit, mouse)
and Insects (leptocorisa, dysdercus, cicincella, grashooper )
(b) Secondary consumers: snakes, birds, frogs, lizards, fox etc..
(c) Tertiary consumers: hawk, jackal

Decomposers:

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fungi (Aspergillus, Penicillium, Cladosporium, Rhizopus)


bacteria
actinomycetes

Desert Ecosystem

17% earth surface


Terrestrial ecosystem
Rainfall less than 25 cm/ year
Extremely high temperature and water scarcity

Producers:

Shrubs, bushes, grasses and trees


Lichens and moss
Roots penetrate deeply into soil

Consumers:

Reptiles and insects


Nocturnal rodents and birds
camel

Decomposers:

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Thermophilic bacteria and fungi

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Aquatic Ecosystem

Aquatic ecosystems dealing with water bodies and the biotic


communities present in them.

Freshwater ecosystems are further another type

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Lentic: slow moving water, including pools, ponds, and lakes.


Lotic: faster moving water, for example streams and rivers.
Wetlands: areas where the soil is saturated or inundated for at
least part of the time

Freshwater ecosystems are varied because they are influenced


not only by local climate, soil, but also by the surrounding
terrestrial ecosystems.

Pond Ecosystem
Biotic

component:
1. Producers :
(a) Macrophytes :
large rooted plants
partly or completely submerged or floating
The common plant species are Trapa, Typha,
Sagittaria, Nymphara,
Potamogeton, Chara, Hydrilla, Vallisheria, Utricularia, Marselia, Eicchornia,
Spirodella, Lemna etc also occur in the pond.
(b) Phytoplankton:
filamentous algae such as Ulothrix, Spirogyra, Cladophora and
Oedogonium

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Consumers:

a. Primary consumers:

Benthic populations include fish, insect larvae, beetles, mites, mollusc


crustaceans etc.
mammals as cows, buffaloes, birds
Zooplankton: Brachionus, Asplancha Lecane
Protozoan: Euglena, Coleps, Dileptus

b. Secondary consumers:

insects and fishes which feed on zooplankton.

c. Tertiary consumers:

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large fishes, ducks, spoon bills

Decomposers:
Aspergillus,

Cephalosporium,
Rhizopus, Penicillium
Help in nutrient recycling

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Pythium,

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River Ecosystem

It is a type of fresh water ecosystem


It is lotic ecosystem
Biotic components:
Producers:

Green algae (cladophora), diatoms and moss

Consumers:

Fresh water sponges, caddis fly larvae, snails, flatworms, fishes,


stonefly.

Decomposers:

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bacteria and fungi

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Marine Ecosystem
Biotic components:
Producers:

Brown and red algae


Phytoplanktons (diatoms, micro algae and moss)
Sea weeds

Consumers:
a. Primary consumers: molluscs and fishes
b. Secondary consumers: herring, shad, mackerel
c. Tertiary consumers: cod, haddock

Decomposers:

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bacteria and fungi

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Estuaries Ecosystem

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An estuary is a part at the mouth of a river where fresh water and sea water
meet.
Organisms present in estuaries show a wide range of tolerance to temperature
and salinity.
Biotic components:
Producers:
Micro algae, Phytoplankton Marsh grass, mangrooves and sea grass
Consumers:
a. Primary consumers: molluscs, zooplanktons, oysters, clams, mussels
and fishes
b. Secondary consumers: worms, amphipods and fishes
c. Tertiary consumers: eel, salmon, heron, sea horse, sea trout, striped
bass and sea gulls
Decomposers:
bacteria and fungi

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Wetland Ecosystem

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A wetland is a land area that is saturated with water,


either permanently or seasonally, such that it takes on the
characteristics of a distinct ecosystem
water found in wetlands can be freshwater, brackish, or
saltwater
The main wetland types include swamps, marshes, bogs,
and fens

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Ecosystem value and services


Products

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Food
Fuel wood
Non-timber forest products
Fisheries products
Marine products
Wetlands products
Medicinal and biomedical products
Forage and agricultural products
Water
Reeds
Building material

Functions/Services
Hydrological services

Purification of water

Capture, storage and release of surface


and groundwater

Mitigation of floods and droughts


Biodiversity

Maintenance of biodiversity (plants and


animals)
Climate

Partial stabilization of climate through


carbon sequestration

Moderation of temperature extremes and


the force of winds and waves

Direct values
Outputs that can be consumed or processed
directly, such as timber, fodder, fuel, non-timber
forest products, meat, medicines, wild foods, etc.

USE
VALUES

Indirect values
Ecological services, such as flood control,
regulation of water flows and supplies, nutrient
retention, climate regulation, etc.

Option values
Premium placed on maintaining resources and
landscapes for future possible direct and indirect
uses, some of which may not be known now.

NON-USE
VALUES
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Existence values
Intrinsic value of resources and landscapes,
irrespective of its use such as cultural, aesthetic,
bequest significance, etc.

Why value?

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Understand how much an ecosystem contributes to


economic activity or society. For example, on average
forests benefits in the Med region amount to about
1% of GDP. Indirect use value such as watershed
protection contributes about 35% of total estimated
value.

Understand what are the benefits and costs of an


intervention that alters the ecosystem (conservation
investment, development project, regulation or
incentive) and make ecosystem goods and services
comparable with other investments

Carrying capacity of an ecosystem


Carrying

capacity is the maximum number of


organisms that can be supported in a given
habitat.
The carrying capacity of a biological
species in an environment is the maximum
population size of the species that the
environment can sustain indefinitely, given
the food, habitat, water and other necessities
available in the environment.
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Ecosystem value

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