Complete information on various Functional Components of An Ecosystem


Coming to the functional aspect of an ecosystem, we may study it in terms of the following:

  • Energy flow,
  • Food chain,
  • Diversity pattern in time and space,
  • Nutrient of biogeochemical cycles,
  • Development and evolution,
  • Control or cybernetics.

With the help of the following flow chart, we can interpret the functional aspect, an ecosystem, or the interactions between various components, which involve the flow of energy, and cycling of materials.

Implicit in the system, such as autotroph -> heterotrophy, producer -> consumer, or producer -> herbivore -> carnivore relationship, is the direction of energy movement through the ecosystem. In the process, solar energy is converted into chemical energy through photosynthesis by plants, which also incorporate into their protoplasm a number of inorganic elements and compounds. These green plants are grazed subsequently by heterotrophs. A these mean that not only is the chemical energy in the form of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are transferred into herbivores but a host of other nutrients as well. This process continues upto the decomposer level through the carnivores. Another feature of the process is that the energy trapped by green plants when transferred from one food level or tropic level to another also depicts energy losses at each transfer along the chain.


I. Energy movement is unidirectional unlike the nutrients/materials in an ecosystem, that is, the initial energy trapped by an autotroph does not revert back to solar input.

II. Energy that passes from herbivore to carnivore does not pass back to herbivore from carnivore. As a consequence of this unidirectional and continuous energy flow, the ecosystem maintains its entity and prevents collapse of the system.

However, transfer of nutrients along with chemical energy does not indicate loss of nutrients like that of energy. This is because the fecal matter, excretory products and dead bodies of all plants and animals are broken down into inorganic materials by decomposers and eventually returned to the ecosystem for reuse by the autotroph.

An ecosystem is, therefore, a system of regularly interacting and interdependent components forming a unified whole. The interaction of its components involves the flow of energy and cycling of materials.


In the functioning of ecosystem the transfer of energy from one tropic level to another, i.e., sun to autotroph, and from autotroph to heterotrophs means accumulation of new organic materials into the system. These accumulated new organic materials are broken down by the microorganisms or decomposers. This may be subscribed as a process in the recycling sequence. During this process, the biomass is broken into its components, which become the raw material for the autotroph.

The three living components, i.e. producers, consumers, and micro consumers (decomposers) form the three functional kingdom of nature since they are based on the type of nutrition and the energy sources they use.

Thus, for a balanced condition, an ecosystem must have self sufficient and self-regulating structural systems. So far as, the abiotic and biotic components are concerned, they invariably indicate a natural tendency to maintain the functional balance within a certain range of environmental fluctuation. In all ecosystems, there is a self-regulatory mechanism or control to check and balance the system.

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