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What is an ecotone: definition and examples

When we read the word ecotone it is easy to ask “what is ecotone?”. And it is not a word that we use regularly or is within our most popular vocabulary.

Therefore, throughout this AgroCorrn article we will answer that question, in addition, the examples that we develop will make you physically locate these areas, you will even become almost experts in their recognition. Read on and learn what an ecotone is with a simple definition and examples .

You may also be interested in: Wind erosion: definition, types and examples
  1. What is an ecotone: definition and characteristics
  2. Ecotones: why they have formed and their importance
  3. Ecotone types
  4. Ecotone Examples

What is an ecotone: definition and characteristics

The ecotone name is given to the natural transition zone between two different and adjacent ecological systems , that is, it is the ecological limit between them and is usually several hundred meters or kilometers. These systems can be:

  • Biomes. This is the name given to the geographical area defined by a series of climatic and geological factors that determine the type of vegetation and fauna.
  • Landscapes.
  • Ecosystems. Find out more about What is an ecosystem in this other AgroCorrn post.
  • Communities or populations.

Ecotones: why they have formed and their importance

These transition zones are formed due to the action of physical-environmental variables such as climate, topography, soil characteristics or the presence of another population, which is called a biotope. In this other AgroCorrn article we will talk about the Biotope: what it is and examples .

Depending on the condition of these, the transition may be more abrupt or more gradual. In addition, it should be noted that this zone of biological confluence is usually in most cases, where there is greater biological richness , more than in the adjacent areas. And because ? The answer is simple, since it is the area with the greatest interaction of individuals. It has even been observed that new species inhabit these areas, specifically adapted to that type of habitat or biotope. This event is called “edge effect” .

Each species or population acts in a certain way depending on the environmental conditions of the ecotone. These conditions or factors can be biotic and abiotic (both interaction with other species such as pH, temperature, luminosity …), taking this into account, they will behave differently and specifically, fulfilling functions within the ecotone, which otherwise It is called an ecological niche ( pollinators , decomposers …). Here you can discover the Difference between habitat and ecological niche , as they are sometimes confused.

Ecotone types

These areas can be divided or categorized in different ways. These are the main types of ecotones , depending on whether they are biomes, landscapes or populations or communities.

  • If we refer to the biome, the ecotones are determined by climatic factors such as water, temperature and topographic factors.
  • Regarding the landscape, ecotones are influenced by climate and topography, but chemical characteristics of the soil such as pH or rock composition are also included.
  • If we speak of population or community ecotone, we must speak of the influence on the interaction of species that will affect their composition and distribution.

Ecotone Examples

Both in Africa and in America, Europe and the rest of the continents there are numerous ecotones. In this section of the AgroCorrn article, we will see the most significant and easy-to-understand examples to finish clarifying what we mean when we call a natural transition area ecotone. Pay attention to the following examples of ecotones :

Tundra and taiga or boreal forest

If we look at America and Europe we can talk about the border between the tundra and the boreal forest. This ecotone is an example in two different biomes characterized by the climate that exists in each of them.

The tundra is found in polar areas in the north of the planet. The climate is very cold, with temperatures that do not exceed 10 ° C and with an average rainfall of 250 mm per year. A feature to highlight in this area is the permanence of permafrost or frozen soil throughout the year.

As for the boreal forest (Canada) or taiga (Russia) it is located south of the tundras. Temperatures here range from minus 30 ° C to 19 ° C, rainfall is more abundant, reaching an average of 450 mm per year.

The ecotone that forms between these two biomes in North America is small, but in Europe it reaches up to 200 km. It is characterized by being a fragmented landscape, observing areas covered by dense forests and others dominated by lichens and heather. The ecotone that we are defining is called the forest-tundra, which has more biological diversity than the defined biomes, since there are species from both areas.

In these other articles of ours you can learn about these two biomes in depth:


Wetlands are ecotones between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems with an important function in environmental sanitation, which is why their conservation is essential.

We refer to the capture of sediments, absorption of nutrients and release of chemical substances, thus improving the quality of the waters. An example of this is their action as regulators of nitrogen concentrations in rivers, which are increased by the presence of toxic agricultural products. This nutrient is captured in its majority, by the vegetation of the wetlands, converting part of it into living biomass.

This has only been two examples of ecotones that are easy to understand to definitively understand the meaning, and there are not only terrestrial ecotones, as we have explained in the example of wetlands, there are also aquatic areas, no less rich in life or with less ecological value. Surely now you have other possible examples in your head that are quite similar to everything explained above. Next, we show you a list of those ecotones that you know separately, but did not relate to the given definition.

  • The oases in the desert.
  • Chad and Sudan (forest – savanna – desert).
  • Forest – páramo (dense wooded forest – low-rise vegetation area).
  • Litoral (beach – forest).

It is necessary to remember the great biological importance of all these geographical areas, which we must conserve and take care of because they are life transitions throughout the planet that do not stop contributing their part to the world.

If you want to read more articles similar to What is an ecotone: definition and examples , we recommend that you enter our category of Other environment .

Maria Anderson

Hello, I am a blogger specialized in environmental, health and scientific dissemination issues in general. The best way to define myself as a blogger is by reading my texts, so I encourage you to do so. Above all, if you are interested in staying up to date and reflecting on these issues, both on a practical and informative level.

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