Difference Between Ecosystem and Community

Ecosystem vs Community

Two of the most important entities in Ecology are the ecosystem and community, as those play significant roles in maintaining the composure of the environment. In order to make it convenient to study ecosystems, communities are important. However, when the components are observed in both these entities, it appears that they are similar; hence, the difference between those are important to consider as in this article.


Ecosystem is the whole unit of biological and physical entities of a certain defined area or a volume. The size of an ecosystem could vary from a bark of a dead tree up to a great rain forest or the ocean. A small fish tank is an ecosystem, but it is an artificial ecosystem. That means an ecosystem could be either natural or manmade. However, the natural ecosystems last forever as there are self-sustaining mechanisms. Ecosystem is mainly composed of communities, which are combinations of populations.

Usually, a typical ecosystem contains producers, primary consumers (herbivores), secondary and tertiary consumers (mostly omnivores and carnivores), scavengers, and decomposers. Ecosystem is formed if these components, which encompass the energy cycling, are present in a particular place. Organisms will fit into the available niches by finding proper habitats and living in a preferred environment, and if that particular place could sustain the life without being diminished, the place eventually becomes an ecosystem. A collection of ecosystems makes a biome, and all the biomes collectively form the biosphere of the Earth.


According to the definition, community is the ecological unit that is composed of a group of organisms in different populations of different species that occupy a particular place at a particular period while interacting with both biotic and abiotic environment. It would be easy to understand when it is introduced as a collection of populations living in a particular place at a given time. A community may consist of different species of animals, plants, and microorganisms. The composition of species in a community differs in different ecosystems; a particular community in a tropical rainforest has much more species than in a desert. Since it consists of many different populations, there are many habitats as well as many ecological niches.

One particular community is composed of thousands of interactions and relationships within and among populations. When two populations live together in a relationship, it could be mutualism, commensalism, parasitism, or synergism. Those basic ecological relationships or associations result in many ways such as both populations are benefitted, one benefitted and other suffered, or one benefits while other has no effect. Predation is another very important ecological relationship taken place in a community that results in a death for one party (prey) while the other party (predator) gets food. There are many food chains functioning inside a community those are important for the energy flow inside the entire ecosystem, which is formed as a collection of communities.

What is the difference between Ecosystem and Community?

• Ecosystem is a collection of communities, but community is a collection of populations.

• Ecosystems could be either manmade or natural, but communities are always natural; or at least, communities are mended naturally inside a manmade ecosystem.

• Ecosystem is larger in all parameters than the community is.

• Community is not defined with particular characteristics, whereas a particular ecosystem is defined for its characteristics based on environmental and biological parameters.

• Communities are subjected to change with the affecting conditions, but a particular ecosystem does not change with those factors as it becomes another ecosystem with varying conditions.

• Ecosystem is always a saturated system but not the community.