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Introduction to Ecotone

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Ecotone is known to be a transitional area, which is present between two ecosystems or two different pleasant communities like forest and grassland. They are known to be of great environmental importance as they often contain those species which are not found in the overlapping communities. They are home to many flora and fauna as they have an area transition between two ecosystems and biomes. They may also exist along a broad belt or in a small pocket, such as a forest clearing, where two local communities blend together. 

Some of the very known examples of ecotones are marshlands (between dry and wet ecosystems), mangrove forests (between terrestrial and marine ecosystems), grasslands (between desert and forest), and estuaries (between saltwater and freshwater). Mountain ranges can also create ecotones due to the changes in the climatic conditions on the slopes. Ecotone can also be seen in the area where one water body meets with another water body like estuaries and lagoons or at the boundary line between water and land like marshes.  

Freshwater and Marine Ecotones

Both of these ecotones are differentiated on the basis of the presence of large plants that rise from the roots attached to the submerged substrate and because of this reason they are found in areas where ample light is available at the bottom of the basin to permit growth.

Characteristics of Ecotones

Some of the major characteristic features of ecotones are discussed below:

A. They can be natural or man-made. Example: agriculture field and forest (it is a man-made one). 

B. They may vary in size from narrow to wide.

C. They are known to be zones of tension as they show conditions intermediate to the bordering ecosystems. 

D. They may also contain those species which are totally different from those found in the bordering systems. 

Importance of Ecotones

Ecotones have so many important roles in the ecosystem, some of them are listed below:

A. Ecotones show greater variation in an organism. 

B. They provide a comfortable habitat for different organisms i.e. by providing space for nesting for those animals who roam here and there in search of food or a place for a nest. 

C. They act as a bridge or mode of transportation of gene flow from one population to another as they show larger genetic diversity.

D. They offer protections to the bordering of an ecosystem from various damages and that's why they are known to be the buffer zone.

E. Ecotones also show sensitivity toward global climate change. Climatic changes take place because of the shifting of boundaries between ecosystems.


The zone in which there is a continuous change from one ecosystem to another in the absence of a sharp boundary between the two in terms of species composition is called an ecoline. 

The flow of an ecoline occurs across the environmental gradient, like gradual change in abiotic factors such as altitude, temperature, salinity, depth, and many more. 

Edge Effect – Edge Species

When there is a change in population size or community structure that occurs at the boundary of two habitats then it is known as the edge effect. It is seen that sometimes the population density of some species in the ecotone is higher than any other community and this effect is known to be an edge effect. And edge species are those which occur primarily or most abundantly in the edge zone. 

In the case of the terrestrial ecosystem, mainly birds show edge effects. For example, the population density of birds is greater in the ecotone between the forest and the desert.

Formation of Ecotones

When there is any kind of change in the physical environment then, in that case, they may produce sharp boundaries, as an example of the interface between areas of forest and cleared land. Mainly mountain ranges are responsible for the formation of such ecotones as they show a wide variety of climatic conditions experienced on their slope ranges. A terrain acts as an obstructive boundary which provides a boundary between species. The most common example of this condition is seen in Mont Ventoux in France as it acts as a boundary between the flora and fauna of northern and southern France. 

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FAQs on Ecotone

1. Why are Ecotones Considered to Be So Special?

Ecotones are also known as transitional lands and they provide valuable insights and information regarding the evolution of the topography. These regions are also considered very susceptible to climate- and human-induced changes and further these changes result in the modification of the biodiversity, structure, and functioning of the thriving flora and fauna.

2. Write One Significance of Ecotones.

As we know ecotones act as a biodiversity hotspot between two ecosystems and because of this such areas are considered to be of more scientific and environmental importance. This is the reason they are able to border two well-defined ecosystems as it enhances the gene flow process from one community to another, thereby giving rise to interesting variation among them. Finally, such types of ecotones lead to evolution among the organisms. 

3. What is the importance of ecotones?

The importance of ecotones can be written as follows:

  • Ecotones have a wide variety of a species

  • Ecotones provide a habitat that is comfortable for different species i.e. it provides space and nesting for many species and even food required by them.

  • Ecotone acts as the mode or bridge of transportation for gene flow from one population of species to another. This helps in genetic diversity. 

  • They give protection to the ecosystem that borders it from various disastrous effects and thus, they are known as the buffer zone.

  • Ecotones occur due to the climate change that occurs. They shift boundaries between ecosystems as they are sensitive to the changes that occur due to climate change globally. 

4. What is the edge effect?

Sometimes, there occurs a change in population size or the structure of a community which occurs between the boundaries of two habitats. This phenomenon is known as the edge effect. It is observed that sometimes the population density in some species in ecotone is larger than any community and this is defined as the edge effect. The edge species are the species that occur abundantly or primarily in the edge zone. For example, in the terrestrial ecosystem, the birds show edge effects and their population density is larger in the ecotone which is the area between the desert and forest. 

5. How are ecotones formed?

Ecotones are formed due to major or drastic changes in the environment. Here, some sharp boundaries are produced. For example, an area between the areas of forest and a cleared land near it. One of the major reasons for the formation of ecotones is the mountain range. They show a wide variety of climatic conditions that are present on the slope ranges. The terrain can act as an obstruction that provides a boundary between the species. For example, Mont Ventoux of France acts as a boundary between the fauna and flora of northern and southern France. 

6. What is ecoline?

Ecoline can be defined as the zone where there is a continuous change from an ecosystem to another ecosystem when there is no proper boundary present between two different species present in that ecosystem. The flow that governs the ecoline is environmental gradients like changes in abiotic factors gradually. For example, factors like height or altitude, salinity, temperature, depth, and so on. 

7. Can I get free notes about the topic ecotone on Vedantu?

Yes, you can get free notes on the topic ecotone. Vedantu provides all the required study materials on the topics that are required by a student. All you have to do is log in or sign up to the Vedantu app or website and download the study materials available in PDF format. The PDF format makes it easier to study from and it can also be used as a reference. All of this is free of cost and has been prepared by our subject experts who have years of experience in it. 

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