What Is the Difference Between a Community and an Ecosystem?

What is the difference between a community and an ecosystem? At their core, it’s what they comprise of, makes all the difference. Community is all about living things. However, an ecosystem is more inclusive and comprises living and non-living things and their interactions. Let’s understand it more.


Since the first moment when life sprouted on Earth, it connected with its environment for survival. Over time as life grew in complexities, connections with its environment and surroundings became more complex too.

Billions of species evolved independently on each other for survival. They developed characteristics and traits well suited for the local surroundings, forming a chain of giving and taking from the same environment they lived in.

So, in essence, nature is a set of connections between species and their environment which allows them to survive and thrive. But how to study these connections and interactions?

That’s where the need arises to define and differentiate communities and ecosystems. Let’s delve deep!

What is an ecosystem?

The Convention on Biological Diversity, an international treaty adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, defines an ecosystem as “a dynamic complex made up of communities of plants, animals and micro-organisms and their non-environment. living (air, Earth, water) which, through their interaction, form a functional ecological unit.”

In simple words, an ecosystem includes all living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) components of a geographic area.

The biotic components of the ecosystem include plants, birds, animals, microorganisms, etc. The abiotic components of an ecosystem involve soil, water, temperature, humidity, rain, etc.

Within an ecosystem, biotic and abiotic components interact. The interactions happen to maintain the energy flow that occurs at different levels of an ecosystem and is essential for the survival of life.

In the course of energy flow, the first level is occupied by producers or autotrophs. For example, plants use sunlight to produce their own food.

At the next level are consumers, also called heterotrophs. They obtain their food directly or indirectly from producers – for example, animals.

Example of an ecosystem – A forest, desert, a pond, etc., with all of its biotic and abiotic components, form an ecosystem.

What is a community?

Community includes only biotic components of the ecosystem. Living organisms form a community in any given ecosystem for the sake of survival. All living things in a community interact with each other in a given ecosystem. But the interactions here only occur between the living things. That’s the reason a community is sometimes also known as a biological community.

Within a community, there are mainly three kinds of interactions. These are mutualism, communalism, and predation.

  • Mutualism is an interaction where all the organisms involved benefit from each other.
  • In commensalism, one party benefits, while the other party neither benefits nor harms.
  • Likewise, in predation, all the benefits go to one party involved. The other party has to bear all the losses and harms.

Example of a community – All the birds, plants, and animals living in a forest forms a community.

Community vs Ecosystem

In ecology, ecosystem and community are two levels distinguished by the interactions happening between their components. An ecosystem includes all the interactions happening between the biotic and abiotic components. Community, on the other hand, involves only biotic components.

The ecosystem includes several communities with all their biotic and abiotic components. However, a community is a set of organisms living in a particular space interacting only with other living organisms.

Difference Between a Community and an Ecosystem

Difference Community Ecosystem
Definition A group of living organisms living and interacting only with each other forms a community. Several communities, with all their living and nonliving components and their interactions, form an ecosystem.
Level A community is a part of an ecosystem; therefore, it’s on a smaller level. The ecosystem comprises several communities; therefore, the ecosystem occupies a larger level.
Components A community is only composed of living or biotic components. An ecosystem includes both living (biotic) and non-living (abiotic) components.
Interactions In a community, interactions happen only between living organisms or biotic components. In an ecosystem, the interactions happen both between living components and living and nonliving components.
Example A pond, a forest, a meadow, etc., are examples of an ecosystem. All birds, animals, plants, micro-organisms, etc., living in a forest form a community.

Conclusion & Summary

Nature is a delicate balance of all that comprise it. From the tiniest of bacteria to the largest of mammals, each contributes to keeping the cycle of life moving. In this grand scheme, organisms group together and form communities. They interact with what nature has made available for them, such as water, air, sunlight, etc. They make connections with everything around them and make ecosystems. Together these ecosystems act as the fuel for life, giving it the power to thrive, evolve and continue.

In the above article, we have discussed the difference between a community and an ecosystem. If you like it, do share it with your family members and friends.

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