Introduction to ecosystems
Introduction to ecosystems

This free course is available to start right now. Review the full course description and key learning outcomes and create an account and enrol if you want a free statement of participation.

Free course

Introduction to ecosystems

4.2 Analysing ecosystems – a summary

You have now looked at a range of ecosystems and the organisms that comprise them and it should be clear that you can study a system at a number of levels. At the top level is the flow of energy through the system. Sunlight drives photosynthesis and primary production, but also provides a source of heat energy that animals can utilise in raising body temperature or need to avoid in extreme habitats such as deserts.

The links between organisms in an ecosystem are most obvious in food chains, so in addition to describing a system in terms of energy flow, you can describe it in terms of links between plant, animals, fungi or bacteria.

The diversity of life in a particular system provides another level of analysis, where the physical properties of the habitats that make up the ecosystem have an influence on the adaptations that organisms have to survive there and the number of niches available. Some ecosystems encompass diversity hotspots, a term applied to Wicken Fen.

In the next two weeks you will be considering the impact of humans on different ecosystems and you will appreciate that in order to understand and conserve you need to know what life forms are part of the system you are dealing with. In the next activity you will be exploring the identification of animals, plants and fungi and the ecological links between species.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus