What is an ecosystem? Ecosystems are the complex interaction of all the living and nonliving aspects of a particular area. The plants, animals, micro-organisms, water, nutrients, energy and air are all interdependent aspects of the ecosystem and form a balance that sustains itself. An ecosystem can be large, such as a mountain valley, an area like a watershed, or it can be as small as a tree. Ecosystems can become unbalanced when one of the aspects of the ecosystem is destroyed or disappears, such as when the water in a wetland is drained, a body of water is impacted by silt, or the animal predators disappear.
Ecosystems need to be managed for the good of the entire ecosystem to ensure species biodiversity and the health of the ecosystem. Use Project WILD’s “Ecosystem Architects” to explore the restoration of an ecosystem. There are two scenarios developed that could easily be adapted to your location or a location familiar to your students – an island within a river or an abandoned shopping area in town. Students will design their own restoration plan, deciding what organisms and nonliving components they will reintroduce and how they will manage the ecosystem. The purpose of this activity is to demonstrate the interdependence of organisms in an ecosystem.
Contact a local conservation organization (your local conservation board or a local group like a Pheasants Forever Chapter – or other species specific conservation group) to ask about any current restoration projects in their area or to obtain information about any former local restoration projects.
- Iowa’s County Conservation Boards
- Iowa Resources
- Iowa PBS – Iowa’s Habitats
- Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation
Cross-reference to these WILD Resources units for additional resources: