Step softly through a meadow, carefully probe the edges of a pond, venture into a desert or explore a nearby wood, and be treated to something that transcends normal understanding. For each is an example of a complex arrangement called an ecosystem.
Despite all we may know about it scientifically, every ecosystem on earth remains a profound mystery. Each is a three-dimensional, full-color illustration of a glorious truth found in Scripture: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and unfathamable his ways!” (Rom. 11:33, NASB). At the same time, an ecosystem is a beautiful reflection of the mysterious nature of the Trinity.
The term ecosystem was coined by the English botanist A. G. Tansley in 1935. Tansley believed an ecosystem consisted of special relationships between several species of plants and animals—in relative harmony with one another—within a certain geographic area.
The science of ecology investigates these relationships as well as the effects of the environment on plants and animals. These physical (abiotic) influences include temperature, sunshine, precipitation, soil and water conditions, geology and topography, and the pull of the moon. For instance, the ability of a particular species of plant to thrive depends upon climate and length of growing season. An obvious example is the palm tree: it does well in the tropics where there is abundant sunshine, but will not survive in Canada or Siberia because of the cold weather and insufficient sunlight.
Some scientists also like to say plants and animals coexist in an ecosystem. In reality, organisms cannot simply coexist— they are critical to one another. They ...
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