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Earth has been divided by ecologists into four areas: the hydrosphere, the lithosphere, the atmosphere, and the biosphere. The hydrosphere refers to water on the planet, the lithosphere consists of soil and rocks, the atmosphere is the air, and the biosphere refers to all of the life on Earth. The biosphere can be visualized as a thin surface layer on the Earth from 11,000 m below sea level to 15,000 m above sea level, even though there are no permanent residents living in the atmosphere.
The first life on Earth was formed in the photic zone of the hydrosphere when organisms with more than one cell evolved in the deep ocean benthic zones. After the ozone layer formed, which protects land organisms from harmful UV rays, life began to evolve on land. After the continents separated and reformed, biodiversity began to increase as life began to adapt to new environments. Biodiversity can be observed at the genetic level, the species level, the population level, and the ecological level.
Abiotic elements like carbon, nitrogen and oxygen are present in great quantities in the biosphere. Phosphorus, calcium, and potassium are also present in smaller amounts. All are elements critical to the existence of life. Every element in the ecosystem transforms from mineral to organic forms and back to minerals and is never destroyed. Life depends on energy from the sun and the organisms that are capable of transforming light into chemical energy form the basis for the food chain. The process of photosynthesis converts light into chemical energy, resulting in the production of glucose and oxygen.
Other organisms depend on glucose produced by photosynthesis for energy to fuel biological processes such as cellular respiration. During cellular respiration, organisms split glucose back into water and carbon dioxide. The breaking down of glucose releases and utilizes energy from the sun stored by photosynthesizing plants. The oxygen level of the Earth’s atmosphere is largely reliant on the amount of photosynthetic activity and respiration going on in the biosphere. A build up of elements in areas with a lot of organisms is prevented by circulation of the atmosphere with global air currents. The Earth is full of cycles simultaneously occurring and interlaced. Water is cycled through the hydrosphere, lithosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere in relatively predictable movements.
The flow of basic elements and the stability of the Earth’s climate and temperature depend on oceanic currents and the vast amount of water stored in the ocean. Ecologists often depend on computer modeling to determine how human activity can influence the intricate cycling of the biosphere. Every organism is influenced somehow by every part of its environment. An ecosystem is any place or time where organisms interact with their environment.
Ecosystems can be divided into the life in the area and the area in which life exists. Biocoenosis is the life in the area and the biotope is the environment by which life is influenced. One form of interaction in the ecosystem is the food chain, a system moving energy and matter through organisms and the environment. A microecosystem is a small system like a fish with parasites. A mesoecosystem could refer to the coral reef in which the fish lives and a macroecosystem might be the area in which the coral reefs are located and how they interact.
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