An environment is the physical and chemical components surrounding an organism, including sunlight, water, nutrients, and air. If one part of this environment becomes damaged or unhealthy, it can have detrimental effects on all living organisms in its vicinity.
Ecosystem is a network of plants, animals and microorganisms that are bound together through their interactions with other elements in the environment. It can range in size from a drop of water to the entirety of our planet.
Ecosystems are intricately connected through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Photoautotrophs, for instance, contribute energy and nutrients into the system through photosynthesis; when these plants or algae die off, heterotrophs consume them to recycle those same resources back into circulation.
Non-native species of plants, animals and fungi can do significant harm to our ecosystems by competing with native species for resources. They may defoliate or devour trees’ leaves, poison other creatures or plant life, or spread diseases. Pests like this make maintaining our forests, croplands and lakes more challenging.
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Many anthropogenic factors, such as climate change and ocean acidification, are creating widespread ecological stress that threatens natural systems and their contribution to human wellbeing. The NOS works to protect some of these vital areas such as coral reefs, national marine sanctuaries, and estuarine research reserves by protecting some key locations like coral reefs.
Environmental resources are vital to our lives, providing essential services like clean drinking water and air, safe beaches and parks, nutrient-rich soils, healthy rivers and lakes, as well as opportunities to appreciate nature, wildlife, and culture. Furthermore, we rely on these resources for spiritual wellbeing too!
Ecosystems are highly sensitive to change and often experience multiple drivers of change that combine to cause abrupt shifts – these occurrences are known as “abrupt ecosystem responses” (ACES). ACES occurs when both biotic and abiotic components of an ecosystem, along with historical context and spatial context, are key influences on ACES.