Species Composition: Definition, Lesson & Quiz
Species composition is the identity of all the different organisms that make up a community. This is important when trying to discover how an ecosystem works, and how important different organisms are to an environment.
We also recommend watching Species Richness: Definition & Determining Factors and What Is an Invasive Species? - Definition, List & Effects
A Good Day for a Walk
You decide to go out for a walk at your neighborhood park. You've got to take advantage of this wonderful weather, right? As you're walking, you notice the wild flowers are in bloom, and they are just covered in bees and butterflies. Birds are singing in the trees, which come in all shapes and sizes. You spy a rabbit running across the trail, and think you identify some wild cat footprints in the mud. Sounds like a wonderful afternoon! But it was much more than that--you spent your afternoon engaging in one of the most fundamental aspects of ecological study: the observation of species composition.
What is Species Composition?
Species composition refers to all of the living things with in a specific ecosystem, or area. Species composition is important when trying to understand the community structure of a particular area. Think about it...if you wanted to have a beautiful vegetable garden this summer, you'd need to know what bugs are in your yard that might eat your tomatoes. You'd also want to know if you had nightly visitors of deer or gophers to eat your lettuce, and if those cute rabbits you see sometimes will decimate your carrots. And what about the weeds? Should you expect to be pulling dandelions and crabgrass all summer? Will there be enough bees to pollinate your strawberries? Wow, that simple backyard garden just became a complex study in species composition.
Species Composition Makes Ecosystems Unique
There's a reason your backyard is different from your neighborhood park, and your park is different from Death Valley or Mt. Everest. An ecosystem is complex, and all the non-living parts of a particular area (weather, heat, rainfall, soil, etc.) affect the organisms that live there. The organisms that live there, in turn, affect both the living and some of the non-living parts. Different types of organisms will affect the ecosystem in different ways. An understanding of what organisms are in an area allows us to predict what will happen in that area.
Let's revisit your backyard garden. If you knew the species composition of your backyard, you could plant things you know would grow well. If you have a large rabbit population, then you should probably avoid carrots. If you have lots of bees, then flowering plants would do very well. If your soil is full of earth worms, any plants in your garden will be very happy. See how that works? Different species interact within an ecosystem, and those interactions dictate how the ecosystem behaves.
Species composition is the identification of all the different living things within a given area. This identification allows us to determine how these species with interact with each other, and with the non-living things in the environment. This understanding allows us to predict how the ecosystem will work under various conditions.
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