Recognize Your Place in the Web of Life

An ecosystem is made up of all the living animals and plants and the non-living matter in a particular place, like a forest or lake. All the living things in an ecosystem depend on all the other things – living and nonliving for continued survival – for food, shelter, and other needs. 

The idea of the web of life is shown by the interdependence within an ecosystem. In a typical prairie ecosystem, the web might work like this: the sun provides energy for the grass; grasshoppers feed on the grass; birds and frogs eat the grasshoppers; snakes eat birds, frogs and mice; owls and hawks will eat the birds as well as snakes, frogs and mice. When an animal dies, it is decomposed by worms, fungi, and bacteria action and nutrients are released to the soil during the decaying process for the grass to use again.

Today, human activities have a big impact on ecosystems. We can see these changes everywhere. For example, when trees are taken down in a Minnesotan forest, the ecosystems change as species struggle to survive and the local humidity and the climate both change. In many ways, the actions and reactions that take place within an ecosystem are like a spider web – when one strand is broken, the web starts to unravel. What affects one part of an ecosystem, affects the whole in some way.

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