What exactly is an ecosystem? How is it different from a biome? Here is one way to think about it:

  • Individual plants or animals living together are called a population.
  • Several populations are called a community.
  • Several communities form an ecosystem.
  • Ecosystems sharing the same climate make up a biome.
  • All earth's biomes form the biosphere.

What these groups all have in common is interdependence. Living things do not exist in isolation. They constantly interact with each other and with their environment and are dependent upon each other for survival.

The parts that make up an ecosystem are plants, animals, and the environment in which they live, including soil, air, water, sunlight, minerals, and nutrients. All of these parts interact in energy and nutrient cycles.

Enemies to ecosystems are human activity and pollution. How we interact with an ecosystem can have impact thousands of miles away. For example, monarch butterflies that live across the United States migrate to parts of California and Mexico during the winter. In California, many sites historically frequented by monarchs have been destroyed by human development. Destroying habitat in California could potentially bring about monarch butterfly decline throughout North America.

Sample some of the following activities to learn more about ecosystems.


 Places To Go    People To See    Things To Do    Teacher Resources    Bibliography

Places To Go

The following are places to go (some real and some virtual) to find out about ecosystems.

Bonneville Salt Flats
This flat, white, barren destination is very unique and shouldn't be overlooked. If you can't actually visit the flats, then learn about it from the internet.
Explore the Riparian Forest
Visit this virtual forest, find the hidden animals, and click on them for more information.
Great Salt Lake
Visit the Great Salt Lake. Our state's famous lake is a terminal lake. What is that? How much saltier is it than the ocean? Are there any fish in the Great Salt Lake? Why does it sometimes smell so bad.
The Scott Matheson Wetlands Preserve
The Scott M. Matheson Wetlands Preserve is an oasis in the desert - a stark contrast to the surrounding redrock cliffs and arid desert.
Virtual Yosemite
Take a virtual tour of Yosemite by way of the webcams on this site. How many ecosystems are represented in Yosemite Park.

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People To See

Bill Nye
Check out the background of this famous TV Scientist.
Bureau of Land Management
Invite a member of the BLM to speak to your class about ecosystems.
Eugen Warming
Read about the scientist that is credited as the founder of ecology, the study of plants and how they interact with their ecosystem.
Robert E. Ulanowicz
Robert E. Ulanowicz is Professor Emertius of Theoretical Ecology with the University of Maryland's Chesapeake Biological Laboratory.
Smokey Bear
Do you realize that his name is not Smokey THE Bear. It is just Smokey Bear. (The same way that it's not Santa THE Claus). August 9, 1944 is Smokey Bear's official birthday.
These people can help you learn about ecosystems

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Things To Do

Animals of the World Scavenger Hunt
Where in the world do some animals live? Learn about the natural habitats of ten of the world's animals -- including some animals you may have never heard of! There are two versions: one for beginners and one for experienced surfers.
Galveston SurfCam
Check out the photos of what the current surf conditions are on this little part of the ocean.
How to Make a Terrarium
Make a terrarium. It is a self-enclosed, self-contained ecosystem.
Living Things
Learn about the relationship between people and their ecosystem.
National Wildlife Foundation
The National Wildlife Federation is America's largest conservation organization. They work with partners and supporters in communities across the country to protect and restore wildlife habitat, confront global warming and connect with nature.
Utah Cameras
See how many ecosystems are represented or check on the weather around the state. Maybe it's snowing in Logan.
What's It Like Where You Live?
Answer the question: What's It Like Where You Live? Learn about terrestrial biomes and aquatic ecosystems. Follow link to site about plants.

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Teacher Resources

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  • Kalman, Bobbie. What Is a Biome? New York: Crabtree Pub. Co., c1998.
  • Nabhan, Gary Paul. Cultures of Habitat: On Nature, Culture, and Story. Washington, DC: Counterpoint, 1997
  • Savan, Beth.Earthquakes and EcosytemsReading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1992.