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Terrestrial Ecosystem

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IVSAT 2024

All of the organisms that interact with the physical environment make up an ecosystem (or ecological system). These biotic and abiotic components are linked via nutrient cycles and energy flows. In 1935, A.G. Tansley coined the term "ecosystem." It comes from the Greek word 'Oikos,' which means "house."

What is the Terrestrial Ecosystem?

A terrestrial ecosystem is a land-based population of species that includes biotic and abiotic interactions in a specific area. While there are various ecosystems on land and in the oceans around the world, terrestrial ecosystems are those that primarily live on land. The temperature range, average quantity of precipitation, soil type, and amount of light received help to determine the type of terrestrial ecosystem present in a particular location.

It is made up of a community of organisms and their surroundings that can be found on continents and islands. In terrestrial communities, there are differences in composition as well as spatial variance. The terrestrial ecosystem covers 144,150,000 km2, or 28% of the Earth's surface. Around 425 million years ago, the first terrestrial ecosystem was developed. 

Terrestrial ecosystems have largely witnessed a significant evolutionary process of plant and animal adaptive radiation in recent years. Adaptive radiation is the evolution of a group of animals or plants into a wide range of species that are adapted to different patterns of life. Closely related groups that have evolved in a short period of time are the best examples of adaptive radiation.

Types of Terrestrial Ecosystem

Terrestrial ecosystems can be divided into five types. Examples of terrestrial ecosystem are mentioned below: 

1. Desert

2. Forest

3. Grassland

4. Taiga

5. Tundra

Desert Ecosystem

Desert ecosystems are those that occur in desert environments. Deserts are dry and windy by nature. A desert ecosystem key abiotic deciding factor is the amount of rainfall. Some have sand dunes, whereas others largely rock. Although desert organisms are not as diverse as those found in forests, they do have adaptations that make them well suited to their surroundings. 

The average annual rainfall in deserts is less than 25 cm (about 10 inches). The terrestrial environment of a desert is characterized by large temperature differences between day and night. The soils are rich in minerals but low in organic matter. Succulents and cactus, as well as trees and shrubs, abound in the Sonoran Desert ecosystem. They've changed the structure of their leaves to reduce water loss. Cacti, for example, are CAM plants that are typically seen in the desert. 

Insects, reptiles, and birds are among the desert fauna. The Creosote shrub, for example, has a thick layer covering its leaves to limit water loss through transpiration. The Sahara desert, which covers the entire top half of the African continent, is one of the most well-known desert ecosystems. It is the world's largest hot desert, with temperatures reaching above 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Its expanse is similar to that of the whole United States.

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Forest Ecosystem

Forests cover around a third of the Earth's surface. Trees are the dominant vegetation in this habitat. Forest habitats are classified according to the kind of trees present and the amount of precipitation received. A forest ecosystem is made up of a variety of plants, mainly trees. This ecosystem is abundant in life due to the profusion of plants that function as producers. 

A forest is alive with not only vegetation but also animals. They are also a good supply of fruits and timber, and they help to keep the Earth's temperature stable. Temperate deciduous, temperate rainforest, tropical rainforest, tropical dry forest, and northern coniferous forests are examples of forests. 

Tropical rain forests have rain all year, while tropical dry forests have wet and dry seasons. Both of these forests are subjected to human pressure, such as the removal of trees to create a way for farmland. Rainforests have a lot of biodiversity because they get a lot of rain and have pleasant temperatures.

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Grassland Ecosystem

About 10% of the Earth's surface is covered by the Grassland Ecosystem. It's found in areas with rainfall of 15–75 cm per year, which isn't enough to support a forest but more than a genuine desert. Grasslands are vegetation formations that are most common in temperate regions. Prairies and steppes are examples of temperate grasslands. Seasonal fluctuations occur, although they do not receive enough rainfall to support big woods.

In other parts of the world, these are known by different names, such as steppes in Europe and Asia, pampas in South America, Veldt in South Africa, and Downs in Australia. They are mostly found in the high Himalayas of India. The Steppes and Savana make up the majority of India's grasslands. Large regions of sandy and saline soils are covered by steppe formations. A grassland ecosystem is one in which grasses as well as other herbaceous (non-woody) plants predominate in the vegetation. 

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Taiga Ecosystem

The taiga, commonly known as northern coniferous forest or boreal forest, is another type of forest environment. It extends across a wide area of land in the northern hemisphere. It has a low level of biodiversity, with only a few species. Short growing seasons, cold temperatures, and poor soil characterize Taiga habitats. The taiga is a cold-climate subarctic woodland. 

In the Northern Hemisphere, the subarctic zone is located slightly south of the Arctic Circle. The taiga is located between the tundra and temperate forests to the north and south, respectively. Summer days are long and winter days are shorter in this terrestrial environment. Lynx, moose, wolves, bears, and burrowing rodents are among the animals that live in the taiga. Animals like foxes and bears in Taiga have always been a threat to traditional hunters for their skin and fur. For thousands of years, their warm fur and tough skin, which has been transformed into leather, have helped people survive in difficult weather.

Permafrost — a layer of permanently frozen soil — is frequently seen beneath the taiga. A layer of bedrock sits just beneath the soil in other places. Direct human activity and climate change pose a threat to taiga ecosystems. Climate change threatens taigas in a variety of ways. The permafrost is partially thawing due to the warming environment. Because this water has nowhere to go, muskegs have taken over more of the taiga. The changing climate affects animal habitats as well. Native species are pushed out while non-native species are drawn in.

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Tundra Ecosystem

The absence of trees is a distinguishing aspect of the tundra. There are several reasons why trees do not grow in this area. The permafrost prevents them from taking root, and those that do succeed have shallow root systems that aren't strong enough to endure heavy winds. Finally, low precipitation indicates that there is insufficient water to sustain trees.


Tundra is divided into two types: arctic and alpine. The Arctic tundra is found north of the boreal woods, in the Arctic Circle. Alpine tundras can be found on mountain peaks. Animals on the tundra are likewise evolved to harsh environments, and they take advantage of the short growing season transient boom of plant and insect life. Small mammals like Norway lemmings (Lemmus lemmus), arctic hares (Lepus arcticus), and arctic ground squirrels (Spermophilus parryii) live on the tundra, as do large mammals like caribou (Rangifer tarandus). 

These animals accumulate fat in order to survive and insulate themselves during the winter. Climate change has the potential to destabilize the cold tundra habitat and its inhabitants, as well as thaw the underlying permafrost, releasing greenhouse gases that will hasten global warming.

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Impact of Terrestrial Ecosystems on Environment

  • Water scarcity (as compared to aquatic environments) and the importance of water as a limiting element as a result. Many of the water systems that keep ecosystems alive and sustain an ever-increasing human population are under strain. Rivers, lakes, and aquifers are drying out or polluted to the point of being unusable. Over half of the world's wetlands have vanished.

  • There are more diurnal and seasonal temperature changes. It's probable that some ecosystem functions will shift as the climate changes and as species are wiped out of an area; this might mean increased soil degradation, changes in agricultural production, and a decline in the quality of water given to human populations.

Characteristics of Terrestrial Ecosystem

Each of the Earth's terrestrial biomes has its own set of temperatures and precipitation patterns. When you compare annual precipitation totals and fluctuations from one biome to the next, you may get a sense of how important abiotic factors are in biome distribution. Temperature variations on a daily and seasonal basis are also crucial for determining the biome's geographic spread and vegetation type. The distribution of these biomes demonstrates that the same biome can be found in geographically separate places with similar weather.

Fun Facts/ Did You Know?

Life is tough in tundra.

Almost all tundras in the Northern Hemisphere are found in the Arctic. Small tundra-like areas do exist in Antarctica, which is located in the Southern Hemisphere. The tundra is a huge, treeless landscape. It covers roughly 20% of the Earth's surface. Because the ground is frequently continuously frozen, trees cannot grow there. Polar bears, foxes, and reindeer live on the Arctic tundra.

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FAQs on Terrestrial Ecosystem

1. What are the advantages of terrestrial ecosystems?

Terrestrial ecosystems provide a variety of benefits, including habitat for fauna and flora, supplying food, fibre, fuel, and shelter. Carbon, water, and other nutrients are stored, transformed, and released.

2. What impact have we had on the world's terrestrial ecosystems?

The shape and function of terrestrial ecosystems are being radically altered by human activity. We are, for example, altering the chemical makeup of the atmosphere, transforming natural landscapes into urban areas, and transferring floral and faunal species far beyond their native ranges.

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