Earth is known as the blue planet , and regardless of the expression arising from its appearance from space, it is more than known that in our humble abode there is much more water than land. Specifically, the ecosystems that occupy the most surface area are aquatic, including fresh and salt water.
But how to define them? A general definition of an aquatic ecosystem has to encompass habitats as diverse as those that develop in lakes, rivers and seas, so it will cover any combination of flora and fauna found in these environments. Furthermore, we cannot forget that pollution is a distorting element that seriously damages aquatic ecosystems. So what is an aquatic ecosystem? In the following EcologiaVerde article we clarify what an aquatic ecosystem is, its characteristics, types, flora and fauna .
- What is an aquatic ecosystem and what are its characteristics
- Types of aquatic ecosystems
- Marine or saltwater aquatic ecosystems
- Freshwater aquatic ecosystems
- Flora of the aquatic ecosystem
- Fauna of aquatic ecosystems
What is an aquatic ecosystem and what are its characteristics
When we talk about aquatic ecosystems , as its name indicates, it is precisely the ecosystems or environments composed mainly of water and the biodiversity of flora and fauna, and other organisms, that are in said environment. Although they can be studied jointly or globally, the usual is to distinguish between two types of basic aquatic ecosystems, as we will see below.
What are the main characteristics of aquatic ecosystems
- They can be freshwater or saltwater ecosystems.
- They provide the living space for an unimaginable number of species, both those that can only live in water and those that inhabit both water and land and / or sky.
- They are one of the richest ecosystems in the world, as they have a great biodiversity.
- The flora of aquatic ecosystems is made up of algae and aquatic plants.
- They have vital functions for the planet, such as helping to regulate the water cycle throughout the planet, shaping the environment for a wide variety of species that otherwise would not exist and also acting as a filter for pollution.
Types of aquatic ecosystems
How are aquatic ecosystems classified? This is the first doubt that we have to dispel once we are clear about what an aquatic ecosystem is as we have defined before. As we said, the waters of the planet can be studied together, but to facilitate their knowledge we usually divide them into two large groups of aquatic ecosystems :
- Marine ecosystems.
- The fresh water ones.
However, in both cases the environment is water, and this is essential when determining the interactions that occur between those plants and animals that make up the ecosystem together with the liquid basic and main element of the ecosystem.
Furthermore, these types of ecosystems can also be classified according to whether the water is in motion or whether it is still or with little movement. Here you can discover the lotic ecosystems: what they are and examples and the lentic ecosystems: what they are and examples .
Marine or saltwater aquatic ecosystems
As a definition of marine or saltwater aquatic ecosystem , we can say that it is aquatic systems with a high level of salt , which are found in areas between content and surrounding islands. Oceanic or marine ecosystems represent 70% of the earth’s surface and 99% of its volume. We are talking about salty waters, such as seas and oceans , but not other related ones, such as marshes , which are considered mixed ecosystems , which have both part of water and land and, therefore, air and, in addition, its level. salinity is lower but not as low as that of fresh water, that is, they are brackish water.
In addition, saltwater ecosystems are characterized by having great stability , which does not mean that they do not vary from one to another. For example, variables such as sunlight, temperature and saline concentration, among other factors, do it, especially depending on the depth.
At abyssal distances , most ecosystems are unknown, precisely because of this variation in flora and fauna (from microscopic animals to crustaceans, turtles, fish of all sizes and marine mammals, among other marine creatures) that occurs at different depths. . Even so, it can be argued that coastal areas are more populated , in stark contrast to a practically inhospitable seabed, largely because the food chain begins with plankton, which requires sunlight to grow.
We advise you to expand this topic further by going to this link on What are the saltwater aquatic ecosystems .
Freshwater aquatic ecosystems
As its name suggests, freshwater ecosystems are found in places where we find freshwater, that is, they have a low salt content , such as the following:
Logically, then, the salinity level of fresh aquatic environments will be much lower and they constitute a source of water from which to drink and with which to irrigate crops. Unlike the marine ecosystem, its depth and diversity of fauna and flora is less , although it is also rich.
Various factors, such as the weather (the sum of vectors such as altitude, temperature and humidity) and the relief, determine the characteristics of the habitat. For example, the flora and fauna of a shallow lake in a northern mountain will be very different and incompatible with that of a shallow lake with warm water in a tropical climate zone. In each environment, in each ecosystem, the ideal conditions are created for these life forms to thrive. In fact, each ecosystem is unique.
Although each ecosystem is unique, and undergoes predictable and unpredictable evolutions , the similarities that can be established between many of them allow us to know them better thanks to scientific studies that facilitate the establishment of common conservation guidelines.
Beyond their undoubted beauty, aquatic ecosystems are essential for human survival. Its preservation seeks to minimize the impact produced by human activities through its exploitation and contamination. Caring for freshwater ecosystems, and in general all ecosystems, is taking care of the planet and also ensuring water now and tomorrow, that fundamental resource for life in all its forms, including ours. Although it is so vital for a huge number of species, including ours, it is estimated that fresh water is only about 2.5% of the total water on the planet, the remaining 97.5% is salt water. In addition, of this small percentage of fresh water, it is estimated that around 1% is drinking water for us.
To learn more about this type of system, we encourage you to enter this other article on Examples of freshwater ecosystems .
Flora of the aquatic ecosystem
Regarding the flora of aquatic ecosystems , we can say that there are, mainly, aquatic plants and algae, both in fresh, brackish and salty waters. To discover everything about these, we encourage you to enter these other informative articles from AgroCorrn: 50 aquatic plants: names, characteristics and images and Classification of algae .
These are the names of some species of plants and algae in the sweet and salty aquatic environment:
- Water hyacinth
- Water lily
- Water lettuce
Fauna of aquatic ecosystems
In water ecosystems we can find an endless variety of animals, from fish , amphibians and marine and freshwater mammals , to some aquatic birds and some reptiles that spend a good part of their life in the water, very close to it on the shore or flying over it.
As the animals that live in these systems mostly breathe through gills, we recommend this post about +40 animals that breathe through gills . However, it is not the only way that animals breathe in aquatic environments, so if you want to delve into these characteristics and discover more species, here you can consult How aquatic animals breathe .
These are the names of some species of fauna in sweet and salty aquatic ecosystems :
- River crab
- Marine sponge
- Sea urchins
- Hermit crab
- Mantarraya the giant manta
If you still want to discover more, here you will see 35 freshwater animals . In addition, we recommend you watch the summary video that you will find here below.
If you want to read more articles similar to What is an aquatic ecosystem , we recommend that you enter our Ecosystems category .