HabitatsBefore we get too far into this business, let’s make sure you understand exactly what an ecosystem is. No, we are not trying to insult your intelligence.
If you have been on this ecology roller coaster with us since the beginning, you learned that populations are groups of interacting organisms of the same species. Then, you learned that communities are groups of interacting populations of different species. This means that a community consists of all the living things, sometimes called biotic factors, in an environment. An ecosystem, the next ecological level above communities, includes all of the living and nonliving things, sometimes called abiotic factors, in an environment.
The abiotic portion of an ecosystem is called a habitat. It consists of all of the chemical resources, like soil, water, air, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, and Twinkies, and physical conditions, like temperature, salinity, moisture, humidity, and sunlight, of an environment. Ecosystem ecologists study how communities interact with their habitats, specifically how things like energy and chemicals get into and out of ecosystems. We will start with energy. Onward and upward, young Shmooper. Next.
Both abiotic and biotic factors in a habitat can affect the evolution of an organism. A great example is sexual selection, where members of one sex drive the creation or maintenance of certain traits in the other. Examples include the following: deer antlers, bird coloration, and giraffe necks.