An ecosystem together represents a community of organisms and living beings and the environment in which they exist and interact.
An ecosystem is affected by and simultaneously influences the relationships that occur within it among all the organisms that comprise it. There are in fact two major types of relationships in ecosystems:
- Intraspecific relationships, which are those that take place between members of the same species;
- Interspecific relationships, that is, those involving specimens of different species.
Interspecific relationships are defined differently depending on the outcome of the interaction, which can be positive, neutral or negative for one or both specimens of different species.
Thus, relationships can be described as:
- Neutral: when they do not benefit either of the participants in the relationship;
- Mutualistic: when the relationship creates a benefit for both participants;
- Antagonistic: when one participant benefits from the relationship while the other is harmed by it or does not benefit from the interaction at all but nevertheless suffers harm.
But why are we explaining this to you?
Interspecific integration underlies the functioning of any natural ecosystem, and is the a key part of our project dedicated to protecting biodiversity.
Read on to learn more.
The main types of interspecific relationships
Among the best-known interspecific relationships is certainly predation, in which a living being of one species (the predator) kills a being of a different species (the prey) in order to feed on it. This is the classic dynamic that occurs between lion and gazelle (and indeed every morning is a tragedy for the poor gazelles…).
It might seem to many that the dynamics of predation also partly mirror the behavior of humans who feed on animals, killing both livestock and other species in order to feed on them.
However, there is a big difference between predation and hunting.
In fact, predation is not cruelty, but an interaction aimed at maintaining the natural balance.
This has nothing to do with the brutality of humans on animals.
Through predation, the ecosystem controls the number of individuals in the ecosystem and, in addition, promotes evolutionary drive, leading animals-prey to gradually develop attributes that enable them to escape predators.
Moreover, animals do not accumulate prey just for the sake of killing, as the hunter does, who displays his violent conquests as trophies. Predators in nature do not kill more than they need for the sole purpose of feeding themselves-a big difference with human beings.
By killing animals for food but not only for food, the human plays no positive role in maintaining the balance of an ecosystem. On the contrary, he damages it by exploiting its resources and takes away animals that are crucial to its balance and functioning.
The practice of hunting, in addition to causing fear and suffering even in the animals that survive in it, damages the ecosystem by eliminating animals that are part of it, even to the point of causing the total disappearance of some species.
What will be the impact of this extinction on the damaged ecosystem? What role do the endangered species that hunters mercilessly eliminate play?
Reduced biodiversity leaves the ecosystem poorer, taking away a key resource to regulate its own survival.
Interspecific competition consists of a form of competition that occurs between living things of different species in order to gain a limited resource, such as food or a certain space.
Thus, the living beings that make up an ecosystem compete in order to be the first to obtain a limited resource, or a form of animal-prey competition may be established in order to escape from predators (in this case we speak of apparent competition).
An extreme form of interspecific competition is mutual exclusion, in which it is not possible for a specimen of one species to live in an ecosystem where a different species is also present.
Competition also plays an important role in ecosystems. In fact, it promotes the evolution of living beings in order to develop those characters that will allow them to win the competition and prevail over their opponents.
Symbiosis indicates a type of interaction between organisms of the same or different species, which live together in some way.
This term can denote different types of integration. In fact, it is referred to as:
- Mutualism, when coexistence is beneficial to both organisms;
- Parasitism, when it is beneficial to one organism and disadvantageous to the other;
- Commensalism, when it involves benefits for one organism and neither benefits nor harms the other involved in the relationship.
An example of mutualism is pollination, which occurs through the contribution of bees. Through bee pollination, in fact, plants derive nourishment while at the same time enabling their own reproduction. There is, therefore, a common benefit.
For projects like ours, which we will explain later, this dynamic of common benefit is extremely important, because it allows both sides to gain something positive while at the same time making the ecosystem thrive.
Commensalism, on the other hand, is different, because only one party gains a benefit from the relationship, while the other gains no benefit, as is the case in the relationship between remora and manta ray.
The remora, in fact, is used to attach itself to the body of the manta in order to “get a ride,” that is, to be transported into the sea without swimming. However, the manta does not derive any benefit from this interaction.
Interspecific integrations: why they are important for the ecosystem
All interspecific relationships, as they occur in nature, play a fundamental role in the proper functioning of the ecosystem in which they take place.
Everything in nature finds its balance, and it is only the intervention of human beings that inserts an element of disruption and disturbance within this perfect mechanism.
Interspecific integrations allow the ecosystem not only to survive, but to evolve and thrive in a completely natural way.
A very simple example to understand this concept is the agrarian ecosystem that is achieved through regenerative agriculture.
Regenerative agriculture is a form of farming that considers the health and well-being of the soil to be paramount: it therefore does not use artificial chemicals to work the land and minimizes mechanical intervention.
This type of agriculture relies deeply on interspecific relationships to care for the health of the soil and, consequently, the entire agro-ecosystem.
For example, so-called cover crops are used to better regenerate and nourish the soil.
Cover crops cover the soil throughout the period of the year that it is left uncultivated in order to preserve and improve its fertility. Cover crops feed the biodiversity in the soil, made up of millions of microorganisms that in turn make the soil fertile and alive.
Another example of interspecific integration in agriculture is the use of plant consociations, which is the joining of different plant species that develop a symbiotic relationship that benefits the entire ecosystem.
Consociations between different plant species, or between plants and trees, in agriculture can help keep pests away and promote the increased fertility of the land.
For example, cruciferous plants such as cabbage can be consociated with broad beans. Their symbiosis enriches the soil with nitrogen, making it more fertile and stimulating the growth of both species.
The herbaceous species with which the soil is covered can also become animal feed, in a virtuous circle in which animals feed on the crops and in turn produce organic matter useful for fertilizing it.
This interaction between animals and plants can also be considered an interspecific integration that contributes to the well-being of the ecosystem.
Animal Social Club: interspecific integration in our first oasis
Animal Social Club is our project dedicated to the protection of animal and plant biodiversity.
The goal of our project is to create oases around the world where animals that are victims of violence and at risk of extinction can find a new home. In addition, regenerative agriculture and biodiversity-supporting initiatives will be carried out in the oases.
Interspecific integration between the animal and plant kingdoms will be essential to create a balanced ecosystem that is peaceful, free from violence and human exploitation, and that grows…to the beat of music!
Yes, you read that right, precisely to the beat of music. No, this does not mean that we make the chickens listen to Mozart….
It means that one of the fundraising tools we will use will be parties, like real party animals!
There will be lots of parties and they will take Animal Social Club around the world. All the proceeds from the parties will help build the first oasis and bring to life all the wonderful projects we have in mind for this very special place.