An ecological system or ecosystem is essentially a self-regulating natural community of plants and animals interacting with each other and with their non-living environment. In other words, an ecosystem consists of all the organisms and the abiotic pools with which they interact. The term ecosystem was coined by the British ecologist Arthur Tansley in 1935. An ecosystem may be large as an ocean or small as a pond, but it is usually self-sustaining with materials being recycled through a series of food chains and food webs with the exception of sunlight that is added externally. An ecological factor is any element that may act on the living organisms during any part of their development.
According to Leveque, while the components of an ecosystem can be defined in varying degrees of detail, there can be classified into two elementary kinds – living organisms or biotic and the non-living or abiotic. The living parts of the environment includes flora, fauna and microorganisms. The non-living or physical components of the ecosystem include things such as soil, air, water and sunlight etc.
Impact of Consumption – Acquisition of food resources represents one of the strongest interaction among the different components of the ecological system. The ecosystem can actually be altered by predators either directly by altering their interaction with prey or indirectly by altering how prey interacts with other members of the ecosystem. The ecosystem can also be changed when the number of predator rises as a result of better natural selection.
Impact of Greenhouse gases – The greenhouse effect is crucial to life on earth. According to Hoegh-Guldberg, without this effect the earth would have a global temperature of about -18ºC and carbon-based life forms would be unable to exist. The gases actually responsible for the greenhouse effect exist in every small quantities in the atmosphere. While N2O is the most effective greenhouse gas, the comparatively larger presence of CO2 in the atmosphere means that CO2 actually plays a much larger role in trapping the incoming energy from the sunlight and increasing the temperature of earth to levels that make life possible on the planet. Hence controlling the levels of these gases in the atmosphere is extremely essential to sustaining the ecosystem.
Impact of industrial design – Until recently there was a propensity by industries to aggressively exploit the resources within a system without giving adequate care to replenishment and recycling. This type of activity causes instability in many ecosystems. Chronic instability creates vulnerability to outside physical forces and can result in severe damage of collapse of an ecosystem. Continued and unchecked exploitation can lead to dramatic ecological effects. Persistent damaging conditions like smog has changed at least the perception of the auto industry to radically adjust its manufacturing processes.
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