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From Biology-Online Dictionary | Biology-Online Dictionary
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noun, plural: ecosystems

A system that includes all living organisms (biotic factors) in an area as well as its physical environment (abiotic factors) functioning together as a unit


An ecosystem is made up of plants, animals, microorganisms, soil, rocks, minerals, water sources and the local atmosphere interacting with one another. The biotic factors and abiotic factors interact as a system and are linked to one another via nutrient cycles and energy flows. For instance, the energy from the sun is captured by plants through photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is a biological process through which plants manufacture their own food with the aid of light from the sun and from inorganic sources (e.g. carbon dioxide and water). The plants, in turn, serve as a food source for organisms incapable of producing their own food. By feeding on these plants, the energy and the nutrients flow through from one consumer to the next. Dead organic matter is then broken down by decomposers, eventually releasing materials for nutrient cycling, or for use by other living organisms.

Word origin: coined in 1930 by Roy Clapham, to denote the physical and biological components of an environment considered in relation to each other as a unit

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