What Is a Natural Ecosystem?

By Staff WriterLast Updated Mar 25, 2020 6:53:26 AM ET
katsrcool/CC-BY 2.0

A natural ecosystem is an ecosystem that occurs as it would without the influence of human beings. The term “ecosystem” refers to all of the plants, animals, fungi, protozoans, bacteria and other organisms that live in the same area. All of these distinct species share highly interconnected lives and, in many ways, function as one unit.

Examples of natural ecosystems include virgin rain forests, deserts and the ocean floor, also known as the abysmal plain. These ecosystems have largely avoided the hand of human beings, allowing them to persist in their historically natural state. However, like all ecosystems, these pristine habitats evolve and change over time, regardless of whether human beings inhabit them.

Many habitats are largely natural, but do have some human fingerprints. For example, remote forests in the eastern United States were logged about 100 to 200 years ago, but they are largely returning to their primitive, untouched form. Many grassland habitats of the Midwest have undergone similar destruction and renewal.

Some habitats, such as garbage dumps or suburban areas, represent the opposite of a natural habitat. Rather than being untouched by humans, these types of habitats only exist because humans created them. Nevertheless, they still function as singular units, when viewed in an ecological context.