LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems
How do organisms interact with the living and nonliving environments to obtain matter and energy?
- Introduction to LS2.A
- K-12 Progression and Grade Band End Points for LS2.A
- Performance Expectations Associated with LS2.A
- Additional Resources for LS2.A
Ecosystems are ever changing because of the interdependence of organisms of the same or different species and the nonliving (physical) elements of the environment. Seeking matter and energy resources to sustain life, organisms in an ecosystem interact with one another in complex feeding hierarchies of producers, consumers, and decomposers, which together represent a food web. Interactions between organisms may be predatory, competitive, or mutually beneficial. Ecosystems have carrying capacities that limit the number of organisms (within populations) they can support. Individual survival and population sizes depend on such factors as predation, disease, availability of resources, and parameters of the physical environment. Organisms rely on physical factors, such as light, temperature, water, soil, and space for shelter and reproduction. Earth’s varied combinations of these factors provide the physical environments in which its ecosystems (e.g., deserts, grasslands, rain forests, and coral reefs) develop and in which the diverse species of the planet live. Within any one ecosystem, the biotic interactions between organisms (e.g., competition, predation, and various types of facilitation, such as pollination) further influence their growth, survival, and reproduction, both individually and in terms of their populations.
Grade Band Endpoints for LS2.A
By the end of grade 2. Animals depend on their surroundings to get what they need, including food, water, shelter, and a favorable temperature. Animals depend on plants or other animals for food. They use their senses to find food and water, and they use their body parts to gather, catch, eat, and chew the food. Plants depend on air, water, minerals (in the soil), and light to grow. Animals can move around, but plants cannot, and they often depend on animals for pollination or to move their seeds around. Different plants survive better in different settings because they have varied needs for water, minerals, and sunlight.
By the end of grade 5. The food of almost any kind of animal can be traced back to plants. Organisms are related in food webs in which some animals eat plants for food and other animals eat the animals that eat plants. Either way, they are “consumers.” Some organisms, such as fungi and bacteria, break down dead organisms (both plants or plants parts and animals) and therefore operate as “decomposers.” Decomposition eventually restores (recycles) some materials back to the soil for plants to use. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their particular needs are met. A healthy ecosystem is one in which multiple species of different types are each able to meet their needs in a relatively stable web of life. Newly introduced species can damage the balance of an ecosystem.
By the end of grade 8. Organisms and populations of organisms are dependent on their environmental interactions both with other living things and with nonliving factors. Growth of organisms and population increases are limited by access to resources. In any ecosystem, organisms and populations with similar requirements for food, water, oxygen, or other resources may compete with each other for limited resources, access to which consequently constrains their growth and reproduction. Similarly, predatory interactions may reduce the number of organisms or eliminate whole populations of organisms. Mutually beneficial interactions, in contrast, may become so interdependent that each organism requires the other for survival. Although the species involved in these competitive, predatory, and mutually beneficial interactions vary across ecosystems, the patterns of interactions of organisms with their environments, both living and nonliving, are shared.
By the end of grade 12. Ecosystems have carrying capacities, which are limits to the numbers of organisms and populations they can support. These limits result from such factors as the availability of living and nonliving resources and from such challenges as predation, competition, and disease. Organisms would have the capacity to produce populations of great size were it not for the fact that environments and resources are finite. This fundamental tension affects the abundance (number of individuals) of species in any given ecosystem.