What is an Aquatic Ecosystem? – Meaning and Types
An aquatic ecosystem is an ecosystem that exists in water. An ecosystem is defined as a distinct community of organisms (including plants, animals and so on) that exists in a particular environment.
With an aquatic ecosystem, the environment is a watery one. Aquatic ecosystems feature various types of organisms, including:
- Plant life such as seaweeds.
- Fish, whales and other aquatic vertebrates.
- Crustaceans such as shrimp or crayfish.
- Tiny bacteria and other very small organisms.
- Environmental features such as sand and silt.
Amphibians and reptiles can also be key players in an aquatic ecosystem. The particular types of organisms that live in a given aquatic ecosystem will depend on the exact type of ecosystem that we are talking about.
There are various different types of aquatic ecosystems, and this article will explain some of the key types.
Types of aquatic ecosystems.
Aquatic ecosystems can be divided into freshwater ecosystems (such as fresh rivers or freshwater lakes) and marine ecosystems such as the sea and rock pools.
1. Freshwater ecosystems.
Ecosystems that involve fresh, not salty water, such as:
- A pond ecosystem usually features fresh, stagnant (i.e. not flowing) water. However, brine ponds do exist and these can form their own ecosystems. Pond ecosystems usually include water weeds and water plants (such as lily pads) and animals such as frogs and newts. Fish and water flies (such as dragon flies) will also often make a home here.
- River ecosystem: A river can form a distinct ecosystem, as many animals and plants will like to make a river their home. Fish such as salmon, water weeds, crustaceans such as shrimp and many other freshwater organisms can exist in this ecosystem.
- Lake ecosystem: A lake is another distinct ecosystem – it can be either a freshwater or a saltwater lake. Some lakes are stagnant, whilst others are tidal, and these qualities determine the precise types of animals, fish, crustaceans and plants that make the lake their home. Carp, pike and trout may all live in a lake, as may a variety of crustaceans and many different waterbirds who come to feed on fish and plants.
2. Marine ecosystems.
The marine ecosystem is the name for the community of organisms that live in the sea. However, we can also define different types of marine ecosystems. Right at the very depths of the ocean floor, for example, there live communities of animals and plants that never see the light and that derive energy from geysers of sulphur springing from the earth’s core. Closer to the surface, where sunlight penetrates, we have different ecosystems consisting of whales, seals, fish and seaweeds that live in communities that are separate from the deep sea communities just described. On the surface of the sea itself and in the air around it, we can find many different sea birds (including gannets, albatrosses and seagulls) – some of these birds will dive down beneath the surface of the sea whilst others will prefer to float above it.
Aquatic ecosystems come in many shapes and forms. They are blooming with life, and it is very important that we take good care of that life. One interesting fact is that some animals – such as walruses or polar bears – live between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems: sometimes they are in the sea, and sometimes they are on land.