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Biosphere and Surface of the Earth

An Ecological System

The ecosystm of this oasis can be found in the middle of scrub desert The word ecosystem is short for ecological systems. An ecosystem includes all of the living organisms in a specific area. These systems are the plants and animals interacting with their non-living environments (weather, Earth, Sun, soil, atmosphere). An ecosystem's development depends on the energy that moves in and out of that system. As far as the boundaries of an ecosystem, it depends upon how you use the term. You could have an entire ecosystem underneath a big rock. On the other hand, you could be talking about the overall ecosystem of the entire planet (biosphere).

An ecosystem can be as small as a puddle or as large as the Pacific Ocean. That ecosystem includes every living and non-living thing in the area. It is several small communities interacting with each other.

Let's look at a puddle example. You might start by looking at the temperature, depth, turbulence, sunlight, atmospheric pressure, weather patterns, wind, nutrients, etc. Those are just the non-living things in the ecosystem of a puddle. When you add on all the living interactions, you have a good idea how complex an ecosystem can be. Even a puddle is an amazing place.


Scientists discuss some general ecosystem types. They call them biomes. A biome is a large area on the Earth's surface that is defined by the types of animals and plants living there. A biome can be partially defined by the local climate patterns. You may also have more than one type of biome within a larger climate zone. Here is a short list of possible biomes.

- Tropical Rainforest (Think about Brazil)
- Tropical Savanna (Think about Africa)
- Desert (Think about the middle east)
- Mediterranean Woodland (Think about coniferous forests)
- Mid-latitude Grassland (Think about Oklahoma)
- Mid-latitude Deciduous Forest (Think about the east coast of North America)
- Tundra (Think about frozen plains of Alaska)
- Ice Caps (Think about the poles)

an ecotone between a desert and mountain region


Biomes don't just start and stop when they border each other. They all have transition zones that have characteristics of both sides. That zone is like a blending of two biomes. Scientists call it an ecotone. Ecotones can happen at the edges of forests, deserts, and mountain ranges. They are often easy to see because one type of world (many trees) changes quickly into another type (the cliffs of a mountain). While an ecotone on the ground may not cover a large area of land, climate transition zones between biomes are often very large.

Next Stop On Geography4Kids Tour
Next page on the biosphere.
- Overview
- Ecology
> Ecosystems
- Food Chains
- Populations
- Land Biomes
- Erosion
- Deep Erosion
- Weathering
- Soils
- Soil Formation
- Natural Resources
- Energy Resources
- Recycling


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NOAA Ocean Today: 'Restoring Coral Reefs' (NOAA Video)
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Biosphere of Earth Quiz

Land Biome Panoramas

Useful Reference Materials
Encyclopædia Britannica:

- Geography4Kids: Food Chains
- Chem4Kids: Solids
- Chem4Kids: Biochemistry
- Chem4Kids: Environmental Chemistry
- Biology4Kids: Plants
- Biology4Kids: Kingdoms
- Biology4Kids: Microbes
- Biology4Kids: Invertebrates
- Biology4Kids: Vertebrates
- Cosmos4Kids: Earth
- Cosmos4Kids: Sun
- Physics4Kids: Alternating Current

- NASA: Kennedy Space Center
- NASA: Goddard Spaceflight Center

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