The incredible and fragile Coral reefs.
Also called the “rainforests of the sea”, Coral reefs are complex ecosystems under the sea. Corals are hard calcium carbonate structures built by small polyps, lots of people mistake them for rocks but they are alive! Corals form a base for many other ocean creatures like worms, sponges, jellyfish, sea turtles and lots of fish. Coral reefs are very fragile and complex systems and easily damaged by pollution and global warming.
Tropical rainforests host half of the animal and plant species in the world.
Near the equator where the weather is usually hot and humid, Tropical rainforests prosper. Heat and lots of rain are what make plants and trees grow lushly. Half of all types of living things live in tropical rainforests. This ecosystem is home to many species of plants, animals, fungi and microscopic organisms that find their ideal habitat here and nowhere else on the planet. Remember also that tropical rainforests provide the Earth with 40% of all the world’s oxygen.
Learning to save water is essential to live in the desert.
It doesn’t rain much in the world’s deserts. Here the land is really dry. Animals and plants that live in deserts have creative ways of not wasting any water. Cactuses store water in their trunks and have no leaves, only thorns. They can live for months without any rainfall. One animal that never drinks water is the kangaroo mouse that lives in the Nevada desert. It gets all the water it needs from the seeds it eats.
Grasslands are found all over.
The only continent without grasslands is Antarctica. Grasslands are plains with an average rainfall, where all types of grasses, herbs and flowers grow together. Grasslands can be found in America where they are called prairies and in Africa too. Here they are called savannahs, or in Asia where they are called steppes. Grasslands are home to many different species that live on and under the soil, eat the grass or who prey on the grass-eaters. In the United States these animals are buffalos and wolves, in Africa gazelles and lions.
Freshwater ecosystems have rare species.
There are many species that do not live in salt water. Freshwater ecosystems are wherever there is fresh water. Frogs, fish, crayfish, bivalves, insects and microscopic organisms like amoebas populate ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers. Bigger animals also live in or near fresh water. Some of these are otters and beavers in Europe and America, crocodiles and hippos in Africa, platypuses in Australia and rare river dolphins in Asia and South America.
Life is harsh in the Tundra.
The weather in the tundra is wintery all year round, windy and cold. You can find tundra near the north and south poles of the Earth. They are called Arctic and Antarctic tundra. There is also tundra near the top of the world’s tallest mountains. Life is difficult here, the vegetation is resistant to the cold, there are shrubs, mosses and lichens. Reindeer and rabbits eat these and are prey to foxes, wild lynx and polar bears. The Antarctic tundra is a resting place for seals and penguins.
There are ecosystems at the bottom of the ocean.
The bottom of the ocean receives no light from the sun so how can plants and animals live? It’s so cold and dark! In certain areas at the bottom of oceans there are Hydrothermal Vents. These are small underwater volcanoes that emit very hot water along with gases like methane and chemicals like ammonia. Some animals like clams and shrimp live near these vents. A weird worm also lives here, it’s called giant tube worm and it’s six feet long! It has special bacteria inside that transform the methane and ammonia from the vents into food.
Wetlands are fish nurseries.
Wetlands are found near bodies of fresh and/or salt water. Here we can see bogs, swamps and marshes. They can also be found at a river’s estuary or delta. These are areas where salt or fresh water dominate or even a mixture of the two. Lots of aquatic plants and animals live here. Alligators, crocodiles , frogs and many fish lay their eggs here because it is a safe place to hatch and grow. Insects also like the humidity and mosquitos and dragonflies thrive.
Many trees are found in Boreal forests.
Between the Arctic and the subtropics is a temperate region. Here the climate is neither too hot or too cold and the year is divided into seasons. A large part of North America, Europe, and Asia is in a temperate region. There are lots of big forests of pine, spruce and larch trees. These have needles and most are green all year round. Brown bears, wolves, deer, porcupines and eagles live in these great forests.
There are ecosystems even in big cities.
Since an ecosystem by definition is everything that lives in a particular environment we can say that big cities around the world are peculiar ecosystems. People share their living space with many animals, birds and insects. Raccoons, coyotes, foxes, skunks, boar, mice, rats and deer are only a few. To allow these animals a safe way into and out of cities there are special bridges called wildlife crossings where animals can cross over busy roads in safety from traffic.