Classification of Ecosystem


The ecosystems are classified into many types and are classified based on a number of factors. We will discuss major types of ecosystems and will try and understand on what basis these classifications are done. It is also essential to know the different factors which differentiate the ecosystems from one another.

Ecosystems can generally be classified into two classes such as natural and artificial. Artificial ecosystems are natural regions affected by man’s interferences. They are artificial lakes, reservoirs, townships, and cities. Natural ecosystems are basically classified into two major types. They are aquatic ecosystem and terrestrial ecosystem.

Types of Natural Ecosystem

An ecosystem is a self-contained unit of living things and their non-living environment. The following chart shows the types of Natural Ecosystem −

Natural Ecosystem

Biotic (Living Components)

Biotic components in ecosystems include organisms such as plants, animals, and microorganisms. The biotic components of ecosystem comprise −

  • Producers or Autotrophs
  • Consumers or Heterotrophs
  • Decomposers or Detritus

Abiotic (Non-living Components)

Abiotic components consist of climate or factors of climate such as temperature, light, humidity, precipitation, gases, wind, water, soil, salinity, substratum, mineral, topography, and habitat. The flow of energy and the cycling of water and nutrients are critical to each ecosystem on the earth. Non-living components set the stage for ecosystem operation.

Aquatic Ecosystem

An ecosystem which is located in a body of water is known as an aquatic ecosystem. The nature and characteristics of the communities of living or biotic organisms and non-living or abiotic factors which interact with and interrelate to one another are determined by the aquatic surroundings of their environment they are dependent upon.

Aquatic ecosystem can be broadly classified into Marine Ecosystem and Freshwater Ecosystem.

Marine Ecosystem

These ecosystems are the biggest of all ecosystems as all oceans and their parts are included in them. They contain salt marshes, intertidal zones, estuaries, lagoons, mangroves, coral reefs, the deep sea, and the sea floor.

Marine ecosystem has a unique flora and fauna, and supports a vast kingdom of species. These ecosystems are essential for the overall health of both marine and terrestrial environments.

Salt marshes, seagrass meadows, and mangrove forests are among the most productive ecosystem. Coral reef provides food and shelter to the highest number of marine inhabitants in the world. Marine ecosystem has a large biodiversity.

Freshwater Ecosystem

Freshwater ecosystem includes lakes, rivers, streams, and ponds. Lakes are large bodies of freshwater surrounded by land.

Plants and algae are important to freshwater ecosystem because they provide oxygen through photosynthesis and food for animals in this ecosystem. Estuaries house plant life with the unique adaptation of being able to survive in fresh and salty environments. Mangroves and pickle weed are examples of estuarine plants.

Many animals live in freshwater ecosystem. Freshwater ecosystem is very important for people as they provide them water for drinking, energy and transportation, recreation, etc.

Terrestrial Ecosystem

Terrestrial ecosystems are those ecosystems that exist on land. Water may be present in a terrestrial ecosystem but these ecosystems are primarily situated on land. These ecosystems are of different types such as forest ecosystem, desert ecosystem, grassland and mountain ecosystems.

Terrestrial ecosystems are distinguished from aquatic ecosystems by the lower availability of water and the consequent importance of water as a limiting factor. These are characterized by greater temperature fluctuations on both diurnal and seasonal basis, than in aquatic ecosystems in similar climates.

Availability of light is greater in terrestrial ecosystems than in aquatic ecosystems because the atmosphere is more transparent on land than in water. Differences in temperature and light in terrestrial ecosystems reflect a completely different flora and fauna.