Jones, Jeremy B., Jr. Department of Biological Science, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada.
Last reviewed:February 2019
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- Autotrophic production
- Heterotrophic production
- Food webs
- Biogeochemical cycles
- Nitrogen cycle
- Phosphorus cycle
- Carbon cycle
- Links to Primary Literature
- Additional Readings
A functional system that includes an ecological community of organisms together with the physical environment, interacting as a unit. Ecosystems involve both biotic (living) components and abiotic (nonliving, physical) components (Fig. 1). Also termed ecological systems, ecosystems are characterized by a flow of energy through food webs, production and degradation of organic matter, and transformation and cycling of nutrient elements. The production of organic molecules serves as the energy base for all biological activity within ecosystems. The consumption of plants by herbivores (organisms that consume living plants or algae) and detritivores (organisms that consume dead organic matter) serves to transfer energy stored in photosynthetically produced organic molecules to other organisms. Overall, the cycling of elements is coupled to the production of organic matter and the flow of energy. See also: Algae; Ecological communities; Ecology; Energy; Environment; Food web; Freshwater ecosystem; Photosynthesis; Plant
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