An ecosystem is one example of a ‘system’. The concept (idea) of a system is central to this course. A system can be defined as an assemblage of parts and the relationships between these parts, which together constitute an entity or whole.
SO… what does this mean? In simple terms a system is a set of parts that are linked by some kind of relationship. A system is an ‘abstract concept’. This means that it is not a thing in itself, but rather a way of looking at something (a systems approach).
There are many kinds of system but all systems have certain features in common.
- Systems will have INPUTS, OUTPUTS (shown as arrows)
- areas for STORAGE (shown as boxes) + Processes, which transfer (move) or transform (change) energy or matter from one storage to another (shown as labels)
- Systems have FLOWS (shown as arrows) (In natural systems this will be energy or matter; in social systems it can be information)
- Relationships where outputs can affect inputs are called FEEDBACK loops (shown as arrows)
The edge of a system is called the system boundary (often shown as a boundary line)
Here are the class notes – 1.1.1 Systems Characteristics (Student)
QUESTIONS: What is the biosphere, and how is it different to an ecosystem, a biome and a habitat? What do these terms have to do with ‘scale’? Can you rank these natural systems according to size? [refer to ESS glossary for assistance]
Class handout and systems practice/review doc: Systems Task
How can we classify systems?
Click on this link> 1.1.3 Classifying Systems (Student) and to review the three ‘types’ of systems we refer to in ESS and in natural systems.