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© Boardworks Ltd 2009
An ecosystem consists of all the living organisms in a given
area, along with the abiotic factors that influence them.
Ecosystems are dynamic,
continually changing as the
organisms within them interact
with one another, and the ever
changing environment.
Energy and nutrients generally
flow between organisms within
the same ecosystem, and little
is lost to the outside.
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© Boardworks Ltd 2009
Biotic and abiotic factors
An ecosystem is formed of biotic and abiotic components.
Biological organisms are part
of their ecosystem’s biotic
component. The organisms
within an ecosystem all affect
one another, acting as either
an energy source, or a
The abiotic component is the non-biological part of an
ecosystem. This includes the climate, light level and rainfall.
Some abiotic factors, such as the soil, can be altered by the
presence of organisms.
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© Boardworks Ltd 2009
All organisms occupy a specific niche within an ecosystem.
A niche is often described as an organism’s role within its
ecosystem. It encompasses its food source, habitat,
physiology and behaviour.
Natural selection ensures that organisms are adapted to a
specific niche.
How are these
two finches
adapted for
different niches?
Overlap between the niches of two species in the same
ecosystem results in interspecific competition.
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© Boardworks Ltd 2009
Describing niches
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Succession is the
gradual change in a
community over time.
Primary succession occurs when
organisms colonize a lifeless habitat.
During succession
the organisms within
an ecosystem
change its abiotic
This allows better
adapted organisms to
colonize the area,
replacing its current
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Secondary succession occurs
when organisms re-colonize
a devastated
© Boardworks Ltd 2009
Sand dune succession
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Species adaptations during succession
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Succession on a rocky surface
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© Boardworks Ltd 2009
Conservation of habitats
Each seral stage of succession has distinct biotic and abiotic
characteristics. It may be necessary to halt the process of
succession preventing the climax community forming, in order
to conserve unique species.
Unlike other plants, grass leaves
have their meristems at their base,
allowing them to continue growing
even when cut. Thus grasslands can
be maintained by mowing or grazing.
This can help to conserve some rare
wildflower populations which are
endemic to grassland ecosystems.
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© Boardworks Ltd 2009
From pioneer to climax community
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© Boardworks Ltd 2009