Ecosystem Diversity: Definition, Types, & Examples

  • Post last modified:September 27, 2021
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Ecosystem Diversity Definition

Ecosystem diversity describes the diversity existing between ecosystems in certain locations. It also studies the interaction of ecosystems with the environment, ecological processes, and their effect on humans.

What is Ecosystem Diversity?

Ecosystem Diversity constitutes a kind of diversity at a broad level, other types include genetic diversity, functional diversity, and species diversity. This type of diversity focuses on both terrestrial well as aquatic ecosystems. It takes into account the variations at the community and niche level and different levels of diversity at the ecosystem level are considered.

Ecosystem diversity includes both species and genetic diversity and forms the largest scale of biodiversity. Ecosystems like tundras, grasslands, deserts, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems are diverse due to their differential geographical location.

Impacts of Ecosystem Diversity

An ecosystem that is more diverse is also most stable and can survive even under environmental disturbances or stresses. These disturbances may be natural or can be created due to human interventions. The complex set of interactions that occur in an ecosystem between the species and the environment will not be significantly altered in a highly diverse ecosystem.

Human Activities in Changing Ecosystem Diversity

Anthropological activities have been altering the structure and function of some ecosystems which have drastically impacted the habitats and lead to an increase in species extinction primarily due to habitat loss and have increased the growth of invasive species at both local and global levels.

As a result, ecosystem diversity is on the decline due to the alteration of the ecological properties of a community. This loss in diversity can be attributed to human interventions or natural disasters or other natural processes.

Species Diversity Loss

The consequence of such drastic decline in species diversity and the alteration in their composition are exhibited through various processes but these impacts vary and depend upon the pathways of community alterations and the type and property of the ecosystem. Species modify the habitats they live in through their interactions with other species and with the environment that also impacts the ecological system of an ecosystem.

As a result different functional characteristics are exhibited in different contexts along with the composition of species like ecological engineers, dominant species, keystone species, etc., the interaction occurring between different species like co petition, mutualism, and predation.

The significance and impact of a species can’t always be inferred by their relative abundance as species like keystone species strongly influence and impact the ecological pathways irrespective of their relatively low abundance.

Alteration of Ecological Communities

Due to invasive species, human interventions and extensive habitat destruction had modified the ecological services and functions of the ecosystem. Many of the damage that has occurred is irreversible and others are relatively expensive to repair using modern technologies. But some certain environmental characteristics remain unaltered even instances of species loss due to:

(a) There might be other organisms that exist at the same trophic level and perform the same services and ecological functions as the species that got extinct.

(b) The extinct species may have a little functional role in their niche and thus do not tremendously impact the environmental properties.

(c) Certain properties are not only influenced by biotic factors but abiotic factors also.

For a stable continuation, a species ensures that the ecosystem services will be available through temporal and spatial variations, this steady supply takes a longer period when a larger area is involved.

Specific Combinations of Species

At a certain species composition, the resource use may be complementary and they also show similar growth, productivity, and retention of nutrients. These structural groups and their complementary relations can be affected by environmental conditions. It may be complicated to understand the what number and what kind of species form a complementary group.

Vulnerability to invasion occurs in a low species-rich ecosystem that has more evenness and is less diverse. But even in a species-rich diverse ecosystem, environmental factors like the disturbance pattern and availability of nutrients may attract invasive species.

A diverse ecosystem will have different distinct species that have different ecological processes and mechanisms to stabilize a disturbed environment and adapt to the various circumstances. The organisms that have a more practical impact and responses should be protected.

Types of Biodiversity

Besides ecosystem diversity, the other diversity includes habitat diversity, species diversity, resource diversity, and differentiation diversity.

i. Species Diversity

The diverse species that exists in a specific area constitutes species richness and is a criterion for analyzing diversity. Species richness index indicates the range of species variety present in a sampling unit. With the increase in sample size, species richness will increase.

Regions may differ with respect to their species composition, their relative abundance, and the species richness index. It is rare for 2 communities to have a similar or identical abundance of species considered. The species may be common, rare, or abundant in different communities. The diversity existing in a particular region is more informative than species count.

ii. Resource Diversity

It refers to the differential use of a variety of resources by organisms of a community. The organisms have adapted ways to reduce competition by utilizing different resources or spatially altering the consumption of resources.

For example, the fishes of the hill-streams utilize an extensive trophic niche and depend on different organisms like algae or diatoms for their food. There are also variations in what an organism feeds during different stages of its lifecycle that reduces competition within the species. The variety of resources utilized by the species determines its niche width.

iii. Habitat Diversity

Different habitats occur within the same geographical region. The structural complexity of habitat depends on the type of trophic and spatial niches that exist within it. Microhabitats may thus, increase the complexity and diversity of habitats if present.

iv. Differentiation Diversity

This refers to the differential species composition in different communities and is also known as beta diversity. For instance, the diversity of fishes varies along with altitude and gradient.

Types of Ecosystem Diversity

An ecosystem system is formed by the biotic and abiotic factors that comprise it that together functions as a unit. Ecosystems can be natural or artificial, marine or freshwater or terrestrial. The ecosystem diversity existing at a particular location can be studied to understand the complex system and its impact on humans and the environment.

It can be understood at either a small scale that is micro-level or at a larger scale of macro-scale. Macro-scale concerns with the diversity of variations existing at the larger scale like in wetlands or forests. Whereas, micro-scale variations are considered at very small geographical scales.

Ecosystem Diversity Examples

Ecosystem diversity is essential as it determines the services and goods produced by an ecosystem. Ecologists are studying the impact of human interventions like changes in land use and natural activities on the ecosystem. Some important factors that are extensively studied are trophic levels, ecological interactions, and niche variations.

An ecosystem is not on;y diverse in respect to the variations in different ecosystems found but also has diversity at the level of species and genetic level. The symbiotic relations and interplay of abiotic and biotic factors comprise a stable ecosystem.

It also increases the level of oxygen available through photosynthesis. The flora diversity can be a source of medicinal plants and in aquatic plants that purify water.

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