Eco-Bottles are a great way to observe how ecosystems in an area work and how they interact with other ecosystems. By scaling down three ecosystems into three different bottles, the inner workings of those ecosystems become easier to see. These three ecosystems are also connected, showing how one ecosystem can affect one or more other ecosystems. The three ecosystems are a terrestrial ecosystem, aquatic ecosystem, and a detritus ecosystem.
The topmost ecosystem is the terrestrial ecosystem. Like all ecosystems, this one is made up of abiotic and biotic components. The abiotic components include dirt, rocks, air, and, when added, water. The biotic components include grass, crickets, and earthworms. The grass, which is a producer, takes energy from the sun and nutrients from the soil to turn into glucose for photosynthesis. The crickets then eat the grass to consume the energy that was produced. The worms help recycle nutrients back into the soil for the plants to use. For more information about terrestrial ecosystems, click here.
A sample terrestrial Eco-Bottle
The next level in the column is the detritus ecosystem. This portion's abiotic factors include dirt, air, and water. The biotic factors were pill bugs, earthworms, and dead leaves. Both pill bugs and earthworms are considered decomposers, meaning that they feed on dead material. This organisms are important in recycling energy and nutrients back into this ecosystem and others. For more resources about decomposition and its effects on an ecosystem, click here.
A sample deomposer Eco-Bottle
The final level is the aquatic ecosystem. The biotic factors were elodea, minnows, and snails while the only abiotic factor was the water. This ecosystem is similar to the terrestrial system in how energy flows. The elodea, the producer, produces glucose using the sun's energy and nutrients in the water. The minnows then feed on the elodea, getting their energy from the glucose that the elodea had stored. The snail is an aquatic decomposer, getting energy from dead elodea leaves and helping to keep the water clean. For more on aquatic ecosystems, click here.
A sample aquatic Eco-Bottle
All three of these ecosystems are connected in several ways. The most visual way they are connected is through the water cycle. In the Eco-Bottle model, water enters the system through the terrestrial ecosystem. This water, which simulates rain, is used by the grass to grow and by the crickets and earthworms. The extra water then drains from the soil into the decomposition ecosystem where it provides water for the decomposers. The extra water from the decomposition ecosystem then flows into the aquatic system where it maintains the water level for the ecosystem. While the Eco-Bottle cannot simulate this completely, water that evaporates from the aquatic system goes in the air until it re-enters the terrestrial ecosystem in the form of rain.
Eco-Column Lab-Teaching Real Science, Pillbugs and Sowbugs (Land Isopods)=MDC Discover Nature. Minnow fry-Eliot Lees, Terrestrial Ecosystems-Belize Info Center, Eco-column Lab-The EcoProject