Levels of ecology

Individual, Species, Organism:

An individual living thing that is made of cells, uses energy, reproduces, responds, grows, and develops. An individual is any living thing or organism. Individuals do not breed with individuals from other groups. Animals, unlike plants, tend to be very definite with this term because some plants can cross-breed with other fertile plants.

In the diagram above, that the goldfish, is interacting with its environment, and will only crossbreed with other gold fishes just like her.


A group of organisms, all of the same species, which interbreed and live in the same place at the same time. It is also a group of individuals of a given species that live in a specific geographic area at a given time. Note that populations include individuals of the same species, but may have different genetic makeup such as hair/eye/skin color and size between themselves and other populations.


All the populations of different species that live in the same place at the same time. This includes all the populations in a specific area at a given time. A community includes populations of organisms of different species. In the diagram above, note how populations of gold fishes, salmons, crabs and herrings coexist in a defined location. A great community usually includes biodiversity.


An ecosystem is a community of living organisms (plants, animals and microbes) in conjunction with the nonliving components of their environment (things like air, water and mineral soil), interacting as a system. Populations of plants and animals that interact with each other in a given area with the abiotic components of that area.  (Terrestrial or aquatic). Ecosystems include more than a community of living organisms interacting with the environment. At this level note how they depend on other abiotic factors such as rocks, water, air and temperature.


A large community of plants and animals that occupies a distinct region. Terrestrial biomes, typically defined by their climate and dominant vegetation, include grassland, tundra, desert, tropical rainforest, and deciduous and coniferous forests. A biome, in simple terms, is a set of ecosystems sharing similar characteristics with their abiotic factors adapted to their environments.


The parts of the land, sea, and atmosphere in which organisms are able to live. The biosphere is an irregularly shaped, relatively thin zone in which life is concentrated on or near the Earth’s surface and throughout its waters. The portion of Earth that supports life. When we consider all the different biomes, each blending into the other, will all humans living in many different geographic areas, we form a huge community of humans, animals and plants, in their defined habitats. A biosphere is the sum of all the ecosystems established on Earth.



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