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What is a terrestrial ecosystem and its characteristics

Forests, jungles, deserts, grasslands … These are some examples of the great variety of terrestrial ecosystems that exist on planet Earth. Surely they are obvious to you but, in addition to being on the earth’s surface, what characteristics do you know about them? Can you tell what differentiates one from the other? Surely you have an idea in mind, but in case you are not clear, in AgroCorrn we present a little more these ecosystems so that you can answer these questions and share your knowledge with others about what a terrestrial ecosystem is and its characteristics .

You may also be interested in: Types of terrestrial ecosystems and examples

What is an ecosystem – definition

Ecosystems are biological systems that are formed by all the variety of living beings that interact and reside in a community and are also formed by the physical environment that these living beings inhabit. Our planet, the Earth, has three main types of ecosystems : terrestrial, aquatic and transitional or mixed ecosystems .

Learn more about What is an ecosystem with this other article in which we explain it in detail. Next, we will explain in detail what terrestrial ecosystems are .

What are terrestrial ecosystems – simple definition

The terrestrial encompass a wide variety of habitats distributed around the globe and are those whose bodies, flora and fauna, develop on the ground or underground. Some also include air-dwelling organisms in these, and others consider it separately as a mixed or transition ecosystem, although it would not be independent of the terrestrial environment.

These ecosystems have the greatest biological wealth due to the great variety of factors that condition them. The characteristics of the flora and fauna that live in each of these terrestrial ecosystems are different as they are adapted to their respective habitats with specific conditions, such as the availability of water (of vital importance for hydration), solar radiation or the availability of food and nutrients. It is when sudden changes occur in them when these species begin to present difficulties to survive in these habitats, having to migrate, dying and even becoming extinct.

Characteristics of terrestrial ecosystems

As we have commented in the previous section, the specific characteristics of these biological systems depend on the different types of terrestrial ecosystems , which differ from each other based on two types of factors that influence them: abiotic factors, physical factors and chemicals that determine the ecosystem; and biotic factors , related to the living beings that inhabit it.

Among the abiotic factors , which will determine the forms of plant and animal life that will be found in a certain ecosystem, the following stand out:

  • The climate: rainfall, temperature, luminosity, pressure, etc.
  • The soil: fertility, filtration capacity, salinity.
  • The humidity and the availability of water.
  • The relief.
  • The altitude.
  • Latitude.
  • The availability of nutrients.

As for biotic factors, we can find a great variety of living beings that range from unicellular organisms to large animals and plants. The main characteristic of living things found in these ecosystems is that they need oxygen to live.

The morphology of the bodies of animals in terrestrial ecosystems is adapted to be able to move in the specific environment in which they are found (crawling, running, flying …). Within the animals, we can find both vertebrate animals, such as large mammals, birds or reptiles; as invertebrate animals, with important ecosystem functions. In turn, these animals, depending on their diet, can be herbivores (if they feed exclusively on plants), carnivores (if they eat meat from the prey they hunt) or omnivores (animals that consume both meat and plants and other products vegetables, such as pigs or bears).

Types of terrestrial ecosystems

There is a great variety of terrestrial ecosystems , which are classified according to how the abiotic factors that dominate them are and, therefore, how is the predominant type of vegetation, which is fundamental for ecosystems since it constitutes the basis of trophic relationships, serves as a shelter for numerous species and contributes to climate regulation, among other functions.

The flora and fauna of each type of terrestrial ecosystem have different characteristics, since they are adapted to the habitat in which they are found. Broadly speaking, the greatest biodiversity is found in forests, and it decreases until it reaches the level of deserts.

  • Forests: Forests are the main ecosystem found in the biosphere and are defined as areas with a large number of trees, shrubs and bushes. In turn, there is a great variety of ecosystems made up of forests, such as the jungle, the Mediterranean forest or the subtropical forest. Both the flora and the fauna is very varied and depending on the density of the vegetation they can be classified into open or closed forests. Learn more about these types of terrestrial ecosystems in this other post about the Types of forests .
  • Shrubs: shrub ecosystems are those in which low growth vegetation such as shrubs or small bushes predominates.
  • Grasslands: as their name suggests, they are predominantly made up of herbs, such as grasses, and are found in areas where the climate provides semi-arid conditions. Within this group of ecosystems we find prairies or savannas.
  • Tundra: it is characterized by the absence of trees, being instead mosses and lichens, as well as herbs and small shrubs. The subsoil is frozen, so it is found in areas with very cold climates.
  • Deserts: in these ecosystems flora and fauna are scarce due to their harsh conditions. We can differentiate the warm deserts typical of subtropical areas where rainfall is scarce, or the polar deserts, also called “indlandsis”, in which the greatest ecosystem development occurs at the limits of these frozen areas.

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