4. What is an ecosystem and what are its components?
An ecosystem, in ecology, is a unit formed by a set of organisms (biocenosis), whose members share a territory (biotope). This space (environment) offers the community favorable physical and chemical conditions for its survival.
The ecosystem is a system that tries to organize itself to achieve a balance. The objective of ecology is to study ecosystems to know their functioning. Ecologists strive to use this information to assess the degree of organization of a given ecosystem, and from it to develop general laws that allow predicting its behavior.
Eugene Odum (1913-2002), one of the founders of ecology, declared: “Any unit that includes all the organisms (that is to say: the “community”) in a given area, interacting with the physical environment in such a way that a energy flow leads to a clearly defined trophic structure, biotic diversity and material cycles (that is, an exchange of materials between living and non-living parts) within the system is an ecosystem”.
The structure or food chain refers to the link or interrelation that exists between living beings that form a community to obtain the energy necessary to live. In nature, some species feed on others through a process of energy transfer. The concept of chain refers to the fact that one organism ingests another and is in turn ingested by a third party. The exception is the plant kingdom, whose members are classified, almost entirely, as “autotrophs”, that is, organisms that generate their own nutrients through photosynthesis or chemosynthesis.