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Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
▪ Most threatening of these for the marine ecosystem is the exposure to increased ultra-violet radiation through the depletion of the ozone layer.
▪ Other members of marine ecosystems have also died as a result of red-tide blooms.
▪ Figure 8 illustrates the differences between a natural ecosystem and an urban-industrial ecosystem.
▪ At one extreme are pure, natural ecosystems like an alpine meadow or a mangrove swamp.
▪ Nature's Services: societal dependence on natural ecosystems.
▪ Seen in the right light, a robust industrial ecosystem is an extension of the natural ecosystem of the biosphere.
▪ Yet all of these new ideas threaten that natural desert ecosystem, Evans says.
▪ For example, below-ground resource allocation is driven by nitrogen or water availability in many forest ecosystem models.
▪ Many species of burrowing insects are essential for maintaining a healthy soil ecosystem.
▪ The bay has a very complex and delicate ecosystem.
▪ The rainforest is a self-supporting ecosystem.
▪ By the end of September I seemed to have been the only person in the ecosystem who had not seen a wolf.
▪ If the dynamics of the whole ecosystem fail in this respect, changes will inevitably occur, until finally self-consistency is achieved.
▪ Other members of marine ecosystems have also died as a result of red-tide blooms.
▪ The failure of the dialogue to clarify the effects of population growth on ecosystems and mineral supplies has other causes.
▪ The issue was whether or not the bacteria in his body would contaminate the local ecosystem.
▪ These new plants could regenerate quickly, so they took over the ecosystem.
▪ We need to be aware, however, that the school environment is a delicate ecosystem, highly sensitive to political whim.
▪ Where there is an ecosystem, there are local experts.
Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1935; see eco- + system. Perhaps coined by English ecologist Sir Arthur George Tansley (1871-1955).


n. A system formed by an ecological community and its environment that functions as a unit.


n. a system formed by the interaction of a community of organisms with their physical environment


An ecosystem is a community of living organisms in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment (things like air, water and mineral soil), interacting as a system. These biotic and abiotic components are regarded as linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. As ecosystems are defined by the network of interactions among organisms, and between organisms and their environment, they can be of any size but usually encompass specific, limited spaces (although some scientists say that the entire planet is an ecosystem).

Energy, water, nitrogen and soil minerals are other essential abiotic components of an ecosystem. The energy that flows through ecosystems is obtained primarily from the sun. It generally enters the system through photosynthesis, a process that also captures carbon from the atmosphere. By feeding on plants and on one another, animals play an important role in the movement of matter and energy through the system. They also influence the quantity of plant and microbial biomass present. By breaking down dead organic matter, decomposers release carbon back to the atmosphere and facilitate nutrient cycling by converting nutrients stored in dead biomass back to a form that can be readily used by plants and other microbes.

Ecosystems are controlled both by external and internal factors. External factors such as climate, the parent material that forms the soil, and topography control the overall structure of an ecosystem and the way things work within it, but are not themselves influenced by the ecosystem. Other external factors include time and potential biota. Ecosystems are dynamic entities—invariably, they are subject to periodic disturbances and are in the process of recovering from some past disturbance. Ecosystems in similar environments that are located in different parts of the world can have very different characteristics simply because they contain different species. The introduction of non-native species can cause substantial shifts in ecosystem function. Internal factors not only control ecosystem processes but are also controlled by them and are often subject to feedback loops. While the resource inputs are generally controlled by external processes like climate and parent material, the availability of these resources within the ecosystem is controlled by internal factors like decomposition, root competition or shading. Other internal factors include disturbance, succession and the types of species present. Although humans exist and operate within ecosystems, their cumulative effects are large enough to influence external factors like climate.

Biodiversity affects ecosystem function, as do the processes of disturbance and succession. Ecosystems provide a variety of goods and services upon which people depend; the principles of ecosystem management suggest that rather than managing individual species, natural resources should be managed at the level of the ecosystem itself. Classifying ecosystems into ecologically homogeneous units is an important step towards effective ecosystem management, but there is no single, agreed-upon way to do this.

Usage examples of "ecosystem".

Complex ecosystems flourish in neritic pools and flatlands, sliding on organic scree to the edge of rock shelves and dropping into a zone below light.

Preliminary predictive databasing indicates positive ozonation yields without statistically significant shifts in lateral ecosystem equilibria.

Some polemicists assert that humans are a biological plague on the planet Earth, a danger to the ecosystem, overpopulating and polluting the planet.

New Guinea that lives symbiotically with dozens of plants, growing in the niches and clefts in its carapace, rooted all the way down to its flesh, plus a whole ecosystem of mites, rotifers, nematodes, and bacteria attached to the garden.

The archeological evidence from one area, southern Africa, is that humans lived stably for 130,000 years without overwhelming the ecosystem upon which they depended.

El Salvador is of native tribes who lived stably with their habitat, the forests and other ecosystems of the isthmus.

I dissent not to condone the intrusion of humankind into this ecosystem, but to protest a proceeding which will attempt on the basis of quantitative anthropocentric standards to determine the relative value of a lifeform against the desire of humankind to possess what this world has held until now unique within the rules established by its own genetic heritage.

Open Innovation companies regard the VC community, and the start-ups the community funds, as mutualistic participants in a complex ecosystem of firms that create, recombine, compete, imitate, and interact with each other.

Our work on our watersheds with seeds, permaculture and natural plants could enable us to be of some assistance to the human family and to the earth, as the ecosystems are impacted.

Satellite surveys show changes in the photosynthetic pigments with which phytoplankton, microscopic algae that are the primary producers of most marine ecosystems, turn sunlight into chemical energy, yet there is an overall increase in biomass.

In the termite ecosystem, an arrangement of Byzantine complexity, he stands at the epicenter.

Its fledgling ecosystem was shallow and undiversified, with only a few primitive species, most of them in the cradle of the sea.

Develop the nexus region at the outset, then develop the Anchors in sectors until we have a working ecosystem in each.

Tierra Natal and the grassy plains around it, mapping and exploiting the Amazonia aquifer and getting a toehold on the Brasilia ecosystem.

Taking a lead from our elders in the rainforest we would also be searching for plants that mimic the natural succession toward climax of the riparian habitats in particular and the broadscale ecosystem in general.