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Many animals, Many plants

Ecosystems, Biomes, and Habitats

A local ecosystem
Ecosystems vary in size. They can be as small as a puddle or as large as the Earth itself. Any group of living and nonliving things interacting with each other can be considered as an ecosystem.
Organization of Ecosystems
Definition of Ecosystems
Florida Ecosystems
Undersea and Oversee
The World's Biomes
HANDS ON Investigate an Ecosystem
Open the door and step into your ecosystem. Go outside and investigate the closest ecosystem.
Within each ecosystem, there are habitats which may also vary in size. A habitat is the place where a population lives. A population is a group of living organisms of the same kind living in the same place at the same time. All of the populations interact and form a community. The community of living things interacts with the non-living world around it to form the ecosystem. The habitat must supply the needs of organisms, such as food, water, temperature, oxygen, and minerals. If the population's needs are not met, it will move to a better habitat. Two different populations can not occupy the same niche at the same time, however. So the processes of competition, predation, cooperation, and symbiosis occur.

Rocks and Minerals
Like a beehive
Habitats, then, are specific to a population. Each population has its own habitat. For example, a population of ants has its own habitat.
Ant Colonies
Leaf Cutter Ant Habitats
HANDS ON Ant Farming
Observe an ant farm and make comparisons to other populations.
Several populations may share a habitat. For example, in a small pond several aquatic populations may co-exist in the same water at the same time. An aquarium is a good example of a shared habitat.
Aquariums as a Hobby
Secrets of The Ocean Realm
HANDS ON Make an Aquarium
Make your own aquatic ecosystem and observe the interaction between living and non-living things.
A terrarium is another place where several populations will peacefully co-exist in the same habitat. Vivaria are habitats where several plant and animal populations live together. Within any shared habitat, behavior influences the survival of a species. Behavior can be instinctual or learned.
The Magic Terrarium
Vivaria Projects
Hydroponic Greenhouses
Constructing a Terrarium
A Little History of Terrariums

Biomes are ecosystems where several habitats intersect. The Earth itself is one large biome. Smaller biomes include desert, tundra, grasslands, and rainforest.
Six Virtual Biomes
Ecosystems, Biomes, and Watersheds: A Definition
World Biomes
The Great Basin Ecosystem
The High Plains: Land of Extremes
Virtual Rainforest
Night Creatures of The Kalahari
Shades of Green: Earth's Forests
The Living Edens
Animal Habitats
Like the desert
Biomes occur naturally, but people can also create controlled biomes. For example, you can integrate several small populations in a small space and observe what happens. A famous manmade biome is Biosphere 2. Try making your own biome and observing what happens.
Biomes in a Box
Biosphere 2
The energy cycle within biomes, habitats, and ecosystems determines which populations survive and which die. All living things need energy. Ultimately, the sun is the source of all energy in an ecosystem. Different species have different functions: producers, consumers, decomposers, and scavengers.
Energy in Ecosystems
Food Chain
HANDS ON The Energy Cycle
How does energy flow within an ecosystem? Use energy from decaying food samples to grow mold.
Habitats must also supply water for all living things to survive. Their needs are met through the water cycle.
Real-Time Hydrologic Data

Since energy and water are vital to the survival of an ecosystem, a system of conservation is needed. In many ecosystems, the conservation of resources is a natural, almost unnoticeable process. Life substances, for example, are recycled in the ecosystem. The exhange of carbon dioxide (given off by animals) and oxygen (given off by plants) is actually a process of conservation. The waste of one species becomes food for another. When resources become limited, the conservation process becomes more urgent and more visible with an increased need for recycling.
World Conservation Monitoring Centre
Forest Conservation Archives

If conservation efforts fail, species become endangered and extinction can occur. A species becomes endangered when there is not enough habitat available to support all members of the population. When the habitat vanishes, and all members of the population die, then the species is considered extinct.
Endangered Species
Learning From The Fossil Record
Extinctions: Cycles of Life and Death Through Time
Endangered Species of Hawaii

If you didn't find the answers to your habitats questions, try searching Ask A Scientist .
Career Connections:
If you're interested in "Ecosystems, Habitats, and Biomes," consider one of these career possibilities: Environmental Scientists
Keywords and Cross-References:
aquarium, behavior, biome, biosphere, community, competition, conservation, consumers, cooperation, decomposers, desert, ecology, ecosystem, endangered, energy cycle, extinction, food chain, food web, grasslands, habitat, instinct (survival), minerals (nutrients), niche, population, predation, producers, rainforest, recycling, scavengers, symbiosis (pollination), terraria, tundra, vivaria, water cycle

Curriculum Connections:
Unit 17, Lesson 5
Unit 10, Lesson 2
Unit 14, Lessons 1, 2, 3, 4
National Science Education Standards:
K-4 Life Science Content Standard C
K-4 Life Science Content Standard F
5-8 Life Science Content Standard C
K-4 Science as Inquiry Content Standard A
5-8 Science as Inquiry Content Standard A
5-8 Physical Science Content Standard B (transfer of energy)
Willie The Hamster

Living Things