What Are the Components of an Ecosystem?

Scott Wylie/CC-BY 2.0

An ecosystem is comprised of abiotic and biotic organisms. Energy cycles through the abiotic and biotic organisms to maintain balance within the ecosystem. The abiotic parts of an ecosystem include the non-living components, such as air, water and the basic compounds of the environment. Climatic and edaphic factors are several abiotic components of an ecosystem.

Climatic factors include the physical characteristics of the environment, such as humidity, light, atmospheric temperature and wind. The physical and chemical properties of the soil that are related to its structure and compositions are considered edaphic factors.

Living organisms comprise the biotic component of the ecosystem. In an ecosystem, a number of species interact with each other to maintain the energy cycle needed to keep the ecosystem balanced.

Biotic organisms are broken up into autotrophs, heterotrophs and saprotrophs. Autotrophs are the producers of the ecosystem. Photosynthetic plants are autotrophs. Heterotrophs are the consumers that feed on the autotrophs or other heterotrophs. Heterotrophs are either herbivores, carnivores or omnivores. The food chain starts with herbivores and moves up to the tertiary carnivore that isn’t consumed by any other heterotroph. Saprotrophs are the decomposers that break down dead plants and animals. Saprotrophs complete the energy cycle in an ecosystem by delivering nutrients to the soil.