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Components of an Ecosystem

(Organisation or Structural aspect of an ecosystem)

An ecosystem comprises of two basic components
i) Abiotic components and
ii) Biotic components
The relationship between the biotic components and abiotic components of an ecosystem is
called 'holocoenosis'.
Sub Topics

1. Abiotic Components
2. Biotic Components

Abiotic Components
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These include the non-living, physico - chemical factors such as air, water, soil and the basic
elements and compounds of the environment.
Abiotic factors are broadly classified under three categories.
Climatic factors which include the climatic regime and physical factors of the environment like
light, humidity, atmospheric temperature, wind, etc.
Edaphic factors which are related to the structure and composition of soil including its physical
and chemical properties, like soil and its types, soil profile, minerals, organic matter, soil water,
soil organisms.
Inorganic substances like water, carbon, sulphur, nitrogen, phosphorus and so on. Organic
substances like proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, humic substances etc.
Biotic Components
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It comprises the living part of the environment, which includes the association of a number of
interrelated populations belonging to different species in a common environment.
The populations are that of animal community, plant community and microbial community.
Biotic community is distinguished into autotrophs, heterotrophs and saprotrophs.

Autotrophs (Gr: auto - self, trophos - feeder) are also called producers, convertors or
These are photosynthetic plants, generally chlorophyll bearing, which synthesize high-energy
complex organic compounds (food) from inorganic raw materials with the help of sunlight, and
the process is referred as photosynthesis.
Autortophs form the basis of any biotic system.
In terrestrial ecosystems, the autotrophs are mainly the rooted plants.
In aquatic ecosystems, floating plants called phytoplankton and shallow water rooted plants
called macrophytes are the dominant producers.
Heterotrophs (Gr: heteros - other; trophs - feeder) are called consumers, which are generally
animals feeding on other organisms.
Consumer's also referred as phagotrophs (phago - to ingest or swallow) or macroconsumers are
mainly herbivores and carnivores.
Herbivores are referred as First order consumers or primary consumers, as they feed directly on
For e.g., Terrestrial ecosystem consumers like cattle, deer, rabbit, grass hopper, etc.
Aquatic ecosystem consumers like protozoans, crustaceans, etc.
Carnivores are animals, which feed or prey upon other animals.
Primary carnivores or Second order consumers include the animals which feed on the
herbivorous animals.
For e.g., fox, frog, predatory birds, smaller fishes, snakes, etc.
Secondary carnivores or Third order consumers include the animals, which feed on the primary
For e.g., wolf, peacock, owl, etc.
Secondary carnivores are preyed upon by some larger carnivores.
Tertiary carnivores or Quaternary consumers include the animals, which feed on the secondary
For e.g., lion, tiger, etc.
These are not eaten by any other animals.
The larger carnivores, which cannot be preyed upon further are called top carnivores.

Saprotrophs (Gr: sapros - rotten; trophos - feeder) are also called decomposers or reducers.
They break down the complex organic compounds of dead matter (of plants and animals).
Decomposers do not ingest their food. Instead they secrete digestive enzymes into the dead
and decaying plant and animal remains to digest the organic material. Enzymes act upon the
complex organic compounds of the dead matter.
Decomposers absorb a part of the decomposition products for their own nourishment. The
remaining substances are added as minerals to the substratum (mineralisation).
Released minerals are reused (utilised) as nutrients by the plants (producers).
Ecosystem Structure and Function
Biogeography reveals that living organisms (plants and animals) are found practically
everywhere on this earth. The living components interact among themselves as well as with
their physical environment like soil, air and water.
Ecosystem - Definition
An ecosystem can be defined as 'a structural and functional unit of biosphere or segment of
nature consisting of community of living beings and the physical environment, both interacting
and exchanging materials between them'.
Components of an Ecosystem
These include the non-living, physico - chemical factors such as air, water, soil and the basic
elements and compounds of the environment.
Ecosystem - Structure and Function
The characteristic structure of an ecosystem is obtained by the systematic physical
organisation of the abiotic and biotic components of that particular ecosystem.
Primary and Secondary Productivity
'The amount of organic matter or biomass produced by an individual organism, population,
community or ecosystem during a given period of time is called productivity'.
Ten Percent Law
Lindemann (1942) put forth ten percent law for the transfer of energy from one trophic level
to the next.
Energy Flow
Energy is the capacity to do work. Solar energy is transformed into chemical energy by the
process of photosynthesis, and is stored in plant tissue and then transformed into mechanical
and heat forms during metabolic activities.
Laws Governing Energy Transformations
The storage and expenditure of energy in an ecosystem is in accordance with the laws of
thermodynamics (basic laws of thermodynamics).
Food Chain and Food Webs
Food chain is a series of groups of organisms called trophic levels, in which, there is
repeated eating and eaten by so as to transfer food energy.
Characteristics of a Food Chain
There is repeated eating in which each group eats the smaller one and is eaten by the larger
one. Thus, it involves a nutritive interaction between the biotic components of an ecosystem.
Types of Food Chains
Grazing food chain is generally seen in ecosystems such as grassland, pond or lake where a
substantial part of the net primary production is grazed on by herbivores (cattle and rodents).
Usually upto 50% of the NPP is grazed on by these animals in their respective ecosystems and
the remaining 50% goes to the decomposer organisms as dead organic matter. Thus, in these
ecosystems, the food chain is herbivore based.
Characteristics of Grazing Food Chain
These are directly dependent upon solar radiations as the primary source of energy and the
producers (green plants) synthesize their plant biomass by the process of photosynthesis.
Producers form the first trophic level.
Characteristics of Detritus Food Chain
Primary source of energy is dead organic matter called 'detritus' which are fallen leaves,
plant parts or dead animal bodies.
Significance of Food Chains
Understanding the feeding relationships and the interaction between organisms in any
Biological Magnification
Certain harmful substances, usually ones not found in nature but introduced by man, may
get into plants and/or animals. These poisonous substances may not be broken down in the
body or excreted easily, efficiently and quickly. Instead, they accumulate in the tissues, and as
the living organism eats more, the concentration of these substances increases and they pass
from one trophic level to the next.
Food Web
In nature, food chain relationships are not isolated. They are very complex, as one organism
may form the food source of many organisms. Thus, instead of a simple linear food chain, there
is a web like structure formed by these interlinked food chains. Such interconnected matrix of
food chains is called 'food web'.
Pyramid of Numbers
Pyramid of numbers is the graphic representation of number of individuals per unit area of
various trophic levels stepwise with producers forming the base and top carnivores the tip.
Pyramid of Biomass
Pyramid of biomass is the graphic representation of biomass present per unit area of
different trophic levels, with producers at the base and top carnivores at the tip.
Pyramid of Energy
Pyramid of energy is a graphic representation of the amount of energy trapped per unit time
and area in different trophic level of a food chain with producers forming the base and the top
carnivores at the tip.
Biogeochemical Cycles
Earth is the source of matter for all living organisms, as they require several (about 40)
elements for their growth and life processes.
Types of Biogeochemical Cycles
In gaseous cycles, the elements have a main reservoir in the gaseous phase, and the
reservoir pool is the atmosphere or water. The biogenetic materials involved in circulation pass
through a gaseous phase before completing the cycle.
Carbon Cycle
Carbon is found as graphite and diamond in nature. It also occurs as carbon dioxide in the
Nitrogen Cycle
Nitrogen is an important structural component of many necessary compounds, particularly
proteins. Atmosphere is the reservoir of free gaseous nitrogen and nitrogen compounds are
found in bodies of organisms and in the soil.
Oxygen Cycle
Oxygen is another essential element for living organisms. It is present in large quantities
(20.95% v/v) in the atmosphere and is also seen in bound state in water and as oxides and
carbonates in rocks.
Water Cycle or Hydrological Cycle
Water is an indispensable commodity of life. Water determines the distribution, structure and
function of organisms in the ecosystem.
Phosphorus Cycle
Phosphorus is an essential nutrient to biological systems. Its requirement is mainly seen in
nucleic acids, cell membrane, bones and teeth.
Sulphur Cycle
Sulphur is an important component of most proteins, few vitamins and enzymes.
Major Ecosystems (Biomes)
Biome is a large, regional or sub continental biosystem characterized by a major vegetation
type or other distinct landscape characters such as tropical deciduous forest, tundra biome, etc.
Terrestrial Biomes
Mainly on the basis of latitude and amount and periodicity of rainfall, terrestrial biomes are
classified into several types - tundra, taiga, deciduous forests, tropical rain forests, chapparal,
savannah, grassland and desert.
The Tundra Biome (Rus:Tundra - Arctic hill)
The word 'tundra' means 'North of the timber line'. Tundra biomes lie north of timberline or
N latitude between the Arctic ocean and the Coniferous forests. It covers about 8 x
6 area (8 million km
) extending across North America, Europe and Asia.
The Taiga Biome
Taiga are the 'northern coniferous forests' which are also referred as 'North Woods', very
common in Siberia.
The Deciduous Forests
Also referred as "Temperate deciduous forests" are found in temperate regions of North
central Europe, Eastern Asia and Eastern United States. In southern hemisphere in Australia
and New Zealand.
The Chaparral Biome
Also referred as 'Mediterranean scrub forest' extends along mediterranean, pacific coast of
North America, South Africa, South and Western Australia and Chile.
The Savannah Biome
Also referred as 'tropical grasslands', primarily located in equatorial and sub - tropical regions
of the globe (especially South America, Central Africa and Australia).
Forest Biomes in India
Major forest biomes found in India are: Tropical evergreen forests / Tropical rain forests.
Tropical Rain Forests
Tropical rain forests grow in regions with plenty of moisture and heat. They are also referred
as 'evergreen forests'.
Tropical Deciduous Forests
In India, tropical deciduous forests occur in the northern and southern parts.
These ecosystems are either barren or with scanty vegetation consisting of mainly thorny
bushes. Deserts are classified as warm (hot) and cold (temperate) deserts.
Altitudinal Biomes
Variations in climatic conditions are observed not only in places on different latitudes but also
with altitude. The various types of biomes can also be noted with varying altitudes as seen in
the slopes of high Himalayan mountains in Asia, Andes in South America and the Rockies in
North America.
The biotic and abiotic components form an interacting system called 'ecosystem'. Producers,
consumers and decomposers are the various trophic levels, which are linked by their food
relationship forming a 'food chain'.
Ecology is derived from Greek word in which "ecos" means "home" and "logy" means "the study
of". Ecology is the study of home. It is an interdisciplinary branch that deals with the study of
biology and earth. The term ecology was coined by a German scientistErnst Haeckel in the
year 1866. It is related to biology, genetics and ethology and an understanding on the effects of
biodiversity on the ecological functioning of an area.

Ecology explains about
life processes,
interaction between organisms with the environment,
the adaptations of these organisms,
the movements of energy and materials through the biotic communities,
the successive developments of ecosystems and
also the abundance and distribution of organisms and biodiversity.

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Ecology is defined as the scientific study of organisms and their interactions with the
These interactions are such in which the organisms have with each other and their biotic
It also includes study of diversity, distribution, biomass population of organisms and also
the competitions within them and among the ecosystems.
Ecology is the study of environmental systems and it is sometimes known as economy
of nature.

Ecosystem is also defined as the structural and functional unit of biosphere or a part of nature
which consists of bitoic and abiotic communities, both interacting and exchanging materials
between them.
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Biodiversity is biological diversity which describes the diversity of life which comprises of every level of
biological organization from genes to ecosystems. Biodiversity deals with the variety of life and the
processes of life. This includes all the living entities, their genetic differences, their habitat
and communities and the ecosystem in which they are present and also the evolutionary processes that
keep the system functioning, changing and adapting.
There are many ways to represent the term biodiversity like index, measure,
characteristics that represent the complex organization of biodiversity.
An important role of biodiversity is in ecosystem services which maintain and improve
quality of human life.
For the same, biodiversity is conserved in many ways.
Preventing extinction of species is one way to preserve biodiversity; it can be done by
using and implementing methods that preserve genetic diversity, habitat of the
organisms and the ability of migration of species.
Conservation of biodiversity, its precedence and governance systems need different
methods and concepts to refer the full ecosystem.
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Habitat of a certain species depicts the environment in which that species is said to
occur and as a result the type of community it forms.
Habitats are defined as a part in the environment of multiple dimensions that represent
both the biotic and abiotic components of the environment or any component that is
related to the use of the location of that organism.
Physical features like soil, temperature, moisture and light availability and living factors
like food and predators make up a habitat.
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Niche is defined as the set of living and non-living factors in which a particular species is
able of live and maintain a stable population.
Ecological niche is a basic concept in the ecology of living organisms, the ecological
niche of these organism are sub-divided as fundamental niche and realized niche.
Fundamental niche is the environmental conditions in which the species can prevail. The
realized niche is a group of environmental and ecological conditions in which the species
can prevail.
Ecological niche is a term with in actual describes a relative position of a species or
population in an ecosystem.
It also includes the response of the population or species to the available resources and
enemies and the effect of these species on those factors.
The non-living, physical factor is also a part of a niche as it influences the effect of the
population and how the effects by resources and its enemies.
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Biomes are defined as areas which are similar climatically and geographically on Earth; they
are communities of plants, animals and soil flora and fauna, which are often referred to as
They are larger units of regions which are categorized according to the structure and
composition of vegetation.
The biotic and abiotic factors are the same in some parts of the earth and are spread
over a large area composing a typical ecosystem in an area. Such ecosystems are
known as biomes.
Many factors like structures of plant, types of leafs, spacing of plants and climate define
a biome. They are not defined by factors like genetic, taxonomic similarities like in

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Biosphere is the sum of all ecosystems. Biosphere is the largest scale of ecological
Biosphere includes the spheres, lithosphere, hydrosphere and the atmosphere.
It includes all living organisms and also the dead organic matter which is produced by
the living organisms.
Biosphere interacts between and the exchange of matter and energy with other
Biosphere from an ecological point of view comprises the total biodiversity on earth and
performs all forms of ecological functions like photosynthesis, respiration, nitrogen
fixation, denitrification and decomposition.

Population Ecology
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Population ecology deals with the dynamics of populations of species and the interaction
of these species with theenvironment.
It also deals with the changes over time and space of the species living together
in groups.
Population consists of the same species that live, interact and migrate through the same
habitat and niche.
Population ecology plays an important role in conservation biology especially in the
development of PVA.
It also helps in predicting long-term probability of species present in a given habitat.
Ecosystem Ecology
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Ecosystem ecology is the study which integrates the concepts of biotic and abiotic components
of ecosystem and their interaction within an ecosystem framework.
Ecosystem ecology deals with the physical and biological factors and the interaction of
the ecosystem characteristics with each other.
In an ecosystem, organism are linked to the abiotic and biotic components of their
environment to which they are adapted.
Ecosystems are complex systems, are adaptive and have interactions of life processes.
Ecosystem are broadly classified as terrestrial, freshwater, marine, or atmospheric.
Food Web
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Food web is an ecological network, which depicts the connections of feeding in a community.
Solar energy is used by plants to synthesize sugars during the process of
The plants are consumed by herbivorous animals, and the energy id transferred through
a chain of organisms.
Linear food pathways are known as food chains.
Interconnected food chains in a community of the ecosystem creates a food web.
Life forms are broadly classified based on their feeding practices into trophic levels as
autotroph and heterotrophs.
Food webs consist of subgroups in a community which are linked by strong and weak
interactions between the subgroups. Interactions like this increase the stability of the
food webs.

Trophic Level
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Trophic level of an organism is the position of that organism in a food chain. A food chain
represent the organism that prey on others organisms which in turn are preyed upon by
organisms of higher trophic level. Biodiversity in an ecosystem can be organized into trophic
pyramids. In a trophic pyramid the vertical dimension represents feeding relations, which are
consumed from the base of the food chain up to the top predators and the horizontal dimension
represents the abundance at each level. Species of an ecosystem community are categorized
as autotrophs, heterotrophs and detritivores.

Autotrophs are organisms that produce their own food by the process of photosynthesis.
Heteritrophs are consumers which feed on the the producers for nourishment.
Detritivores or decomposers are organisms that feed on the dead matter and convert the
matter in the basic organic compounds.
Human Ecology
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Human ecology is an interdisciplinary branch which deals with the investigation or study of
ecology of our species. It deals with the study of the relationship of between humans and their
natural, built and social environments. It deals with the study of relationship between humans
and the natural environments and the built environment.
Pyramid Calculator
Pyramid Calculator is used to area of base, surface area and volume for triangular and square

Triangular pyramid is one type of three dimensional figure. It has a four vertices. Three vertices
are at the base of pyramid and another vertex is on top. Vertices are nothing, its a corner points
of the pyramid.

Square pyramid is one type of three dimensional figure. Depending upon the base shape of
pyramid, the name of the pyramid will be varied. For example, if the base of the pyramid is a
square shape, that pyramid is know as square pyramid.

Step by Step Calculation
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Step 1 :
Square Pyramid Formula:
Area of Square Base = s

Surface Area of Square Pyramid = s
+ 2sl
Volume of Square Pyramid = 13 b
s (b) = side length
l = slant height

h = height

Triangular Pyramid Formula:

Area of Triangular Base = 12 as

Surface Area of Triangular Pyramid = 12as + 32 sl

Volume of Triangular Pyramid = 16 abh


a = apothem

s = side length

l = slant height

h = height

Step 2 :
Put the values in the formula and calculate it further.

Example Problems
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1. Square pyramid is having side length 5 cm, height 7 cm and slant
height 6 cm. Find the area of base, volume and surface area of
square pyramid.

Step 1 :

s = 5 cm

h = 7 cm

l = 6 cm

Square Pyramid Formula:

Area of Base = s

Surface Area of Square Pyramid = s
+ 2sl

Volume of Square Pyramid = 13 b

Step 2 :
Put the values in the formula and calculate it further.

Area of Square Base = 5

= 25 cm

Surface Area of Square Pyramid = 5
+ 2 * 5 * 6

= 25 + 60

= 85 cm

Volume of Square Pyramid = 13 5
* 7

= 58.33 cm

Answer :
Area of Square Base = 25 cm

Surface Area of Square Pyramid = 85 cm

Volume of Square Pyramid = 58.333 cm

2. Triangular Pyramid has height 8 cm, slant height 6 cm, apothem 7
cm and side length is 5 cm. Calculate Area of base, surface area
and volume of triangular pyramid.

Step 1 :

s = 5 cm

l = 6 cm

a = 7 cm

h = 8 cm

Triangular Pyramid Formula:

Area of Triangular Base = 12 as

Surface Area of Triangular Pyramid = 12as + 32 sl

Volume of Triangular Pyramid = 16 abh

Step 2 :
Put the values in the formula and calculate it further.

Area of Triangular Base = 12 * 5 * 7

= 17.5 cm

Surface Area of Triangular Pyramid = 12 * 5 * 7 + 32 * 5 * 6

= 62.5 cm

Volume of Triangular Pyramid = 16 * 7 * 6 * 8

= 56 cm

Answer :
Area of Triangular Base = 17.5 cm

Surface Area of Triangular Pyramid = 62.5 cm

Volume of Triangular Pyramid = 56 cm

Ecological niche
In ecology, a niche is a term describing the relational position of a species or population in an
More formally, the niche includes how a population responds to the abundance of its resources
and enemies (e. g., by growing when resources are abundant, and predators, parasites and
pathogens are scarce) and how it affects those same factors (e. g., by reducing the abundance
of resources through consumption and contributing to the population growth of enemies by
falling prey to them).
The abiotic or physical environment is also part of the niche because it influences how
populations affect, and are affected by, resources and enemies.
The description of a niche may include descriptions of the organism's life history, habitat, and
place in the food chain.
According to the competitive exclusion principle, no two species can occupy the same niche in
the same environment for a long time.