This term brings emphasis to both the community of living organisms and to their non-living environment. Examples of an ecosystem are a wood, a meadow, a chalk hillside, a shoreline and a pond. Implicit within this term (unlike the terms habitat, niche, and biome) is the idea of a whole integrated system, involving both the living (biotic) plant and animal species, and the non-living (abiotic) units such as soil and climate, all reacting together within the ecosystem.

Ecosystems can be described in terms of their energy flow, showing how much light is stored (or lost) within the system as plant products such as starch (in the plant) or as organic matter (in the soil). Several other systems such as carbon, nitrogen, and sulphur cycles and water conservation may also be presented as features of the ecosystem in question (see page 324).

A dominant species is a species within a given habitat that exerts its influence on other species to the greatest extent and is usually the largest species member. In mixed oak woodland, the oak is the dominant plant species.


An ecological community, together with its environment, functioning as a unit.

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