It’s going to be a beautiful and warm day today, so it’s a perfect time to get out and explore the different water ecosystems that are in and around your neighborhood and community! Kiddos, this is definitely an adventure that you need to do with “your adult”. It’s exciting, fun and scientific to explore water ecosystems, but you need to make sure that you’re doing it in the safest way possible, so it’s important that they go with you and provide some guidance:) Now, are you ready to get started? Let’s just do a quick review of what an ecosystem is.
An ecosystem is made up of all of the living and nonliving things in an area. This includes all of the plants, animals, and other living things that make up the communities of life in an area. An ecosystem also includes nonliving materials—for example, water, rocks, soil, and sand. A swamp, a prairie, an ocean, and a forest are examples of ecosystems.
What kind of ecosystems have you visited?
Besides the ones listed to the left, some other common ecosystems are meadows, shoreline, and marshes.
As we look at ecosystems, we not only look at what lives and is in each one, but also how all of the organisms and both living and non-living things interact with each other within each ecosystem.
When looking at how the living things interact, the food chain is a very important thing to look at. Basically a food chain issimply answering the question of “Who eats Who?” That’s not the most scientific definition, so try this one 🙂 A food chain describes the order in which organisms, or living things, depend on each other for food. It shows the transfer of energy from one organism to another. Within each ecosystem, there are many different food chains. When you put a bunch of food chains together, you get a food web. The organisms in a food chain/web are categorized as producers, consumers, and decomposers. All food webs start with energy from the sun. The energy from the sun is used by producers (plants) to produce or make their own food. Consumers are organisms that get their energy from consuming or eating other organisms, both producers and other consumers. When an organism dies, the decomposers go to work, breaking down the organism into nutrients that is returned to the soil. From there, the cycle begins over again. A food web from a certain ecosystem simply looks at all of the different possibilities of energy transfer (who eats who) and gives a more realistic picture since all things eat more than just one thing.
In the food web to the left, you can see that although it looks a lot more complicated, it’s really just a bunch of food webs put together. The arrows show the direction in which the energy is following. For example, if you start with the berries, its energy is following into the greenfly, meaning that the greenfly is eating the berries. Look at the Titmouse. It gets its energy (eats) from the berries and the Titmouse gives its energy to (gets eaten by) the fox. It still starts with producers (berries & plantain) that get their energy from the sun. Then, all of the consumers eat a combination of the producers and consumers. What this food web doesn’t show is the decomposers that will ultimately consume the energy of all of the consumers.
Experiment Time: Explore Freshwater Ecosystems
Now that we’ve reviewed the basics of ecosystems, let’s get outside and explore the freshwater ecosystems in your neighborhood and community. Freshwater ecosystems included lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. Most of you probably have at least one or two of these around where you live. Watch the video to join me on my walk through different water eco systems and then head out on your own!