Microecosystem

Microecosystems can exist in locations which are precisely defined by critical environmental factors within small or tiny spaces.

Such factors may include temperature, pH, chemical milieu, nutrient supply, presence of symbionts or solid substrates, gaseous atmosphere (aerobic or anaerobic) etc.

Some examples

Pond microecosystems

These microecosystems with limited water volume are often only of temporary duration and hence colonized by organisms which possess a drought-resistant spore stage in the lifecycle, or by organisms which do not need to live in water continuously. The ecosystem conditions applying at a typical pond edge can be quite different from those further from shore. Extremely space-limited water ecosystems can be found in, for example, the water collected in bromeliad leaf bases and the "pitchers" of Nepenthes.

Soil microecosystems

A typical soil microecosystem may be restricted to less than a millimeter in its total depth range owing to steep variation in humidity and/or atmospheric gas composition. The soil grain size and physical and chemical properties of the substrate may also play important roles. Because of the predominant solid phase in these systems they are notoriously difficult to study microscopically without simultaneously disrupting the fine spatial distribution of their components.

Terrestrial hot-spring microecosystems

These are defined by gradients of water temperature, nutrients, dissolved gases, salt concentrations etc. Along the path of terrestrial water flow the resulting temperature gradient continuum alone may provide many different minute microecosystems, starting with thermophilic bacteria such as Archaea "Archaebacteria" (100+ °C), followed by conventional thermophiles (60–100 °C), cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) such as the motile filaments of Oscillatoria (30–60 °C), protozoa such as Amoeba, rotifers, then green algae (0–30 °C) etc. Of course other factors than temperature also play important roles. Hot springs can provide classic and straightforward ecosystems for microecology studies as well as providing a haven for hitherto undescribed organisms.

Deep-sea microecosystems

The best known contain rare specialized organisms, found only in the immediate vicinity (sometimes within centimeters) of underwater volcanic vents (or "smokers"). These ecosystems require extremely advanced diving and collection techniques for their scientific exploration.

Closed microecosystem

One that is sealed and completely independent of outside factors, except for temperature and light. A good example would be a plant contained in a sealed jar and submerged under water. No new factors would be able to enter this ecosystem.

Abiotic component

In biology and ecology, abiotic components or abiotic factors are non-living chemical and physical parts of the environment that affect living organisms and the functioning of ecosystems. Abiotic factors and the phenomena associated with them underpin all biology.

Abiotic components include physical conditions and non-living resources that affect living organisms in terms of growth, maintenance, and reproduction. Resources are distinguished as substances or objects in the environment required by one organism and consumed or otherwise made unavailable for use by other organisms.

Component degradation of a substance occurs by chemical or physical processes, e.g. hydrolysis. All non-living components of an ecosystem, such as atmospheric conditions and water resources, are called abiotic components.

Bacterivore

Bacterivores are free-living, generally heterotrophic organisms, exclusively microscopic, which obtain energy and nutrients primarily or entirely from the consumption of bacteria. Many species of amoeba are bacterivores, as well as other types of protozoans. Commonly, all species of bacteria will be prey, but spores of some species, such as Clostridium perfringens, will never be prey, because of their cellular attributes.

Copiotroph

A copiotroph is an organism found in environments rich in nutrients, particularly carbon. They are the opposite to oligotrophs, which survive in much lower carbon concentrations.

Copiotrophic organisms tend to grow in high organic substrate conditions. For example, copiotrophic organisms grow in Sewage lagoons. They grow in organic substrate conditions up to 100x higher than oligotrophs.

Decomposer

Decomposers are organisms that break down dead or decaying organisms, and in doing so, they carry out the natural process of decomposition. Like herbivores and predators, decomposers are heterotrophic, meaning that they use organic substrates to get their energy, carbon and nutrients for growth and development. While the terms decomposer and detritivore are often interchangeably used, detritivores must ingest and digest dead matter via internal processes while decomposers can directly absorb nutrients through chemical and biological processes hence breaking down matter without ingesting it. Thus, invertebrates such as earthworms, woodlice, and sea cucumbers are technically detritivores, not decomposers, since they must ingest nutrients and are unable to absorb them externally.

Dominance (ecology)

Ecological dominance is the degree to which a taxon is more numerous than its competitors in an ecological community, or makes up more of the biomass.

Most ecological communities are defined by their dominant species.

In many examples of wet woodland in western Europe, the dominant tree is alder (Alnus glutinosa).

In temperate bogs, the dominant vegetation is usually species of Sphagnum moss.

Tidal swamps in the tropics are usually dominated by species of mangrove (Rhizophoraceae)

Some sea floor communities are dominated by brittle stars.

Exposed rocky shorelines are dominated by sessile organisms such as barnacles and limpets.

Ecological threshold

Ecological threshold is the point at which a relatively small change or disturbance in external conditions causes a rapid change in an ecosystem. When an ecological threshold has been passed, the ecosystem may no longer be able to return to its state by means of its inherent resilience . Crossing an ecological threshold often leads to rapid change of ecosystem health. Ecological threshold represent a non-linearity of the responses in ecological or biological systems to pressures caused by human activities or natural processes.Critical load, tipping point and regime shift are examples of other closely related terms.

Feeding frenzy

In ecology, a feeding frenzy occurs when predators are overwhelmed by the amount of prey available. For example, a large school of fish can cause nearby sharks, such as the lemon shark, to enter into a feeding frenzy. This can cause the sharks to go wild, biting anything that moves, including each other or anything else within biting range. Another functional explanation for feeding frenzy is competition amongst predators. This term is most often used when referring to sharks or piranhas. It has also been used as a term within journalism.

Inquiline

In zoology, an inquiline (from Latin inquilinus, "lodger" or "tenant") is an animal that lives commensally in the nest, burrow, or dwelling place of an animal of another species. For example, some organisms such as insects may live in the homes of gophers and feed on debris, fungi, roots, etc. The most widely distributed types of inquiline are those found in association with the nests of social insects, especially ants and termites – a single colony may support dozens of different inquiline species. The distinctions between parasites, social parasites, and inquilines are subtle, and many species may fulfill the criteria for more than one of these, as inquilines do exhibit many of the same characteristics as parasites. However, parasites are specifically not inquilines, because by definition they have a deleterious effect on the host species, while inquilines do not.In the specific case of termites, the term "inquiline" is restricted to termite species that inhabit other termite species' nests whereas other arthropods cohabiting termitaria are called "termitophiles".

Inquilines are known especially among the gall wasps (Cynipidae family). In the sub-family Synerginae this mode of life predominates. These insects are similar in structure to the true gall-inducing wasps, but they do not produce galls, instead depositing their eggs within those of other species. They infest certain species of galls, such as those of the blackberry and some oak galls, in large numbers, and sometimes more than one kind occur in a single gall. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of these inquilines is their frequent close resemblance to the insect that produces the gall they infest.The term inquiline has also been applied to aquatic invertebrates that spend all or part of their life cycles in phytotelmata, water-filled structures produced by plants. For example, Wyeomyia smithii, Metriocnemus knabi, and Habrotrocha rosa are three invertebrates that make up part of the microecosystem within the pitchers of Sarracenia purpurea. Some species of pitcher plants like the Nepenthes and Cephalotus produce acidic, toxic or digestive fluids and host a limited diversity of inquilines. Other pitcher plant species like the Sarracenia or Heliamphora host diverse organisms and depend to a large extent on their symbionts for prey utilization.

Landscape epidemiology

Landscape epidemiology draws some of its roots from the field of landscape ecology. Just as the discipline of landscape ecology is concerned with analyzing both pattern and process in ecosystems across time and space, landscape epidemiology can be used to analyze both risk patterns and environmental risk factors. This field emerges from the theory that most vectors, hosts and pathogens are commonly tied to the landscape as environmental determinants control their distribution and abundance. In 1966, Evgeniy Pavlovsky introduced the concept of natural nidality or focality, defined by the idea that microscale disease foci are determined by the entire ecosystem. With the recent availability of new computing technologies such as geographic information systems, remote sensing, statistical methods including spatial statistics and theories of landscape ecology, the concept of landscape epidemiology has been applied analytically to a variety of disease systems, including malaria, hantavirus, Lyme disease and Chagas' disease.

Lithoautotroph

A lithoautotroph or chemolithoautotroph is a microbe which derives energy from reduced compounds of mineral origin. Lithoautotrophs are a type of lithotrophs with autotrophic metabolic pathways. Lithoautotrophs are exclusively microbes; macrofauna do not possess the capability to use mineral sources of energy. Most lithoautotrophs belong to the domain Bacteria, while some belong to the domain Archaea. For lithoautotrophic bacteria, only inorganic molecules can be used as energy sources. The term "Lithotroph" is from Greek lithos (λίθος) meaning "rock" and trōphos (τροφοσ) meaning "consumer"; literally, it may be read "eaters of rock". Many lithoautotrophs are extremophiles, but this is not universally so.

Lithoautotrophs are extremely specific in using their energy source. Thus, despite the diversity in using inorganic molecules in order to obtain energy that lithoautotrophs exhibit as a group, one particular lithoautotroph would use only one type of inorganic molecule to get its energy.

Mesotrophic soil

Mesotrophic soils are soils with a moderate inherent fertility. An indicator of soil fertility is its base status, which is expressed as a ratio relating the major nutrient cations (calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium) found there to the soil's clay percentage. This is commonly expressed in hundredths of a mole of cations per kilogram of clay, i.e. cmol (+) kg−1 clay.

Mycotroph

A mycotroph is a plant that gets all or part of its carbon, water, or nutrient supply through symbiotic association with fungi. The term can refer to plants that engage in either of two distinct symbioses with fungi:

Many mycotrophs have a mutualistic association with fungi in any of several forms of mycorrhiza. The majority of plant species are mycotrophic in this sense. Examples include Burmanniaceae.

Some mycotrophs are parasitic upon fungi in an association known as myco-heterotrophy.

Organotroph

An organotroph is an organism that obtains hydrogen or electrons from organic substrates. This term is used in microbiology to classify and describe organisms based on how they obtain electrons for their respiration processes. Some organotrophs such as animals and many bacteria, are also heterotrophs. Organotrophs can be either anaerobic or aerobic.

Antonym: Lithotroph, Adjective: Organotrophic.

Overpopulation

Overpopulation occurs when a species' population exceeds the carrying capacity of its ecological niche. It can result from an increase in births (fertility rate), a decline in the mortality rate, an increase in immigration, or an unsustainable biome and depletion of resources. When overpopulation occurs, individuals limit available resources to survive.

The change in number of individuals per unit area in a given locality is an important variable that has a significant impact on the entire ecosystem.

Planktivore

A planktivore is an aquatic organism that feeds on planktonic food, including zooplankton and phytoplankton.

Population cycle

A population cycle in zoology is a phenomenon where populations rise and fall over a predictable period of time. There are some species where population numbers have reasonably predictable patterns of change although the full reasons for population cycles is one of the major unsolved ecological problems. There are a number of factors which influence population change such as availability of food, predators, diseases and climate.

Recruitment (biology)

In biology, especially marine biology, recruitment occurs when a juvenile organism joins a population, whether by birth or immigration, usually at a stage whereby the organisms are settled and able to be detected by an observer.There are two types of recruitment: closed and open.In the study of fisheries, recruitment is "the number of fish surviving to enter the fishery or to some life history stage such as settlement or maturity".

Relative abundance distribution

In the field of ecology, the relative abundance distribution (RAD) or species abundance distribution describes the relationship between the number of species observed in a field study as a function of their observed abundance. The graphs obtained in this manner are typically fitted to a Zipf–Mandelbrot law, the exponent of which serves as an index of biodiversity in the ecosystem under study.

Species homogeneity

In ecology, species homogeneity is a lack of biodiversity. Species richness is the fundamental unit in which to assess the homogeneity of an environment. Therefore, any reduction in species richness, especially endemic species, could be argued as advocating the production of a homogenous environment.

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