Types of ecosystems

An ecosystem is the set of living beings and the environment in which they are established. These are open dynamic systems where communities of organisms interact with each other in a given physical space with common geographic and climatic elements.

The ecosystem is a level of ecological organization where flow of matter and energy occurs. There are as many ecosystems as there are environments on Earth and different classifications. We present the types of ecosystems according to their physical environment and their origin.

Types of ecosystemsCharacteristicExamples
According to physical mediumLandSolid ground for support
  • Desert
  • Sabana
  • Rain forest
  • Paramo
WaterFreshwater development
  • Rivers
  • Fresh water lakes
MarinoSeas and oceans as matrix
  • Coral reefs
  • Kelp forests
MixedThey are formed when the sea, land and / or rivers meet.
  • Swamps
  • Estuaries
  • Coastal regions
According to its originNaturalDetermined by the forces of nature
  • Tundra
  • Mangrove swamp
  • Swamps
  • Estuaries
  • Coral reefs
ArtificialBuilt and operated by man
  • Forest plantations
  • Botanical Garden
  • Agricultural systems
  • Zoos

Types of ecosystems according to their physical environment

Ecosystems develop on a physical medium or substrate that determines the fauna and flora that can inhabit them. The physical environment provides the conditions for life and the type of organisms that can survive in it.

Terrestrial ecosystems

Terrestrial ecosystems develop mainly on land or solid ground on the planet’s surface. The terrain can be rock, soil, sand, or ice. Vegetation in terrestrial ecosystems is the widest and most diverse and the diversity of consuming and predatory organisms depends on it.

Among the terrestrial ecosystems we have:

  • Mountainous or alpine ecosystem: these are the ecosystems that are established above the mountain line where trees no longer grow. For example, the Himalayan mountain range above 6000 m, the Andes mountain range above 3500 m.
  • Xerophytic shrubs: shrubs, succulents and magueys predominate in arid climates. For example, the Cataviña region in Baja California.
  • Tropical forest or jungle : they exist where the rain is moderate to high and the temperatures stay above 24 C most of the year. For example, the Lacandon jungle in Chiapas and Los Tuxtlas in Veracruz.
  • Desert ecosystems : they are characterized by aridity and the lack or very little vegetation. For example, the desert of Chihuahua and Sonora in Mexico.

Marine ecosystems

Marine ecosystems thrive in seas and oceans. They are characterized by having a flora and fauna adapted to obtain their resources from salt water: algae, phytoplankton, zooplankton and fish. They are the most extensive ecosystems on planet Earth. Among these we have:

  • Coral reefs : underwater structures built by invertebrates called corals, where interactions are established between algae, corals, fish, crustaceans, dolphins, among others. For example, the Veracruz Reef System National Park and the Cabo Pulmo National Park.
  • Open ocean : the oceans cover a large part of the Earth and have great variations in their biotic and abiotic components, which depend on the latitude and depth of the water.
  • Macroalgae forests : the algae form a forest that can extend for hectares and that serve as food and shelter for many marine animals.

Aquatic ecosystems

Aquatic ecosystems develop in the fresh water of rivers, streams and lakes. They feature a diversity of aquatic animals, such as fish, invertebrates, and mammals.

  • Rivers : they are fresh water courses that flow from the higher areas to the lower regions. For example, the Papaloapan river and Coatzacoalcos.
  • Freshwater lakes : they are reservoirs of fresh water on the earth’s surface. For example, Lake Arareco and Lake Cuitzeo.

Mixed ecosystems

Mixed ecosystems are at the boundaries between ecosystems of different environments. Thus we have:

  • Marine-aquatic-terrestrial ecosystems: estuaries are ecosystems that are established where sea water and river water are obtained at the mouths of rivers.
  • Marine-terrestrial ecosystem : it is concentrated in the zone of high tide and low tide in rocky terrain.
  • Terrestrial-aquatic ecosystem : they occur in areas where the land is flooded by rivers, for example wetlands and swamps.

You may also be interested in seeing Biotic and Abiotic Factors .

Types of ecosystems according to their origin

Natural ecosystems

Natural ecosystems are those ecosystems that are the product of the physical forces of nature. They are very flexible and dynamic and can be altered by human intervention. Some examples of natural ecosystems are:

  1. Tropical forests.
  2. Xerophytic scrub.
  3. Deserts
  4. Coral reefs.
  5. Estuaries
  6. Swamps
  7. Polar regions.

Artificial ecosystems

Artificial ecosystems are those ecosystems built and managed by humans, generally altering existing natural ecosystems. They are very varied and can be found anywhere in the world. Among artificial ecosystems we have:

  • Botanical gardens: these are gardens where plants come together for a systematic study that seek to imitate one or more natural ecosystems. For example, the botanical garden of Bosque Chapultepec and UNAM in CDMX.
  • Forest plantations : forests planted by humans for industrial purposes or as reforestation plans.
  • Agricultural systems : it is an ecosystem designed by humans to increase the productivity of food for general consumption.
  • Greenhouses : these are limited and closed spaces where stable abiotic conditions are maintained for certain plant and animal species.
  • Recreational parks : these are large public green spaces for entertainment and educational purposes in some cities. Some animals are also introduced into zoos, free or in captivity.

It may interest you to see the difference between flora and fauna .

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