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The interactive system formed from all living organisms and their physical and chemical environment within a given area. Ecosystems cover a hierarchy of spatial scales and can comprise the entire globe, biomes at the continental scale or small, well-circumscribed systems such as a small pond.


"Appendix I: Glossary". IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. 2007.

Alternative definition

A functional unit consisting of living organisms, their nonliving environment, and the interactions within and between them. The components included in a given ecosystem and its spatial boundaries depend on the purpose for which the ecosystem is defined. In some cases, ecosystem boundaries are relatively sharp, while in others they are diffuse, and they can change over time. Ecosystems are nested within other ecosystems, and their scale can range from very small to the entire biosphere.