An ecosystem is a complex network of living and non-living things interacting with one another in a specific environment. It includes all the living organisms, such as plants, animals, and microorganisms, as well as the non-living components, such as air, water, soil, and climate. These living components are adapted to the non-living components in an interdependent system, with each relying on the others. We see ecosystem design everywhere we look on planet Earth.
Ecosystems exist in water environments, from ponds to streams to rivers to the oceans. They exist on land in forests, mountains, and deserts. They vary from tropical rainforests to frozen tundra. Each ecosystem has a unique balance of species, with each species playing a specific role. This balance is maintained through various mechanisms, including competition, predation, and mutualism.
Ecosystem design provides many vital services affecting human life, such as water filtration, air purification, and food. At the same time, humans have a profound impact on ecosystem management through deforestation, destruction, and pollution. Careless actions of humans can disrupt the delicate balance of ecosystems, leading to a decline in biodiversity, the extinction of essential species, and climate change.
Conservation and management efforts aim to protect and restore ecosystems and maintain their resilience. This involves protecting habitats, reducing pollution, and managing human activities to minimize ecosystem harm. It also requires monitoring and understanding environmental change and taking steps to reduce or correct human-caused impacts. As we protect ecosystems, they provide services critical to life on this planet. That is part of ecosystem design.
An ecosystem is an ecological system. As we think about the multitude of ecosystems, large and small, localized and widespread, we must realize that they are systems. Do systems happen by accident, or do they require intelligent planning? Can complex things come together to form an efficiently-functioning ecosystem on their own? Every living thing consists of many complex systems within the cells, organs, and whole bodies. Ecosystem design involves systems within systems within systems working together in balance.
Can efficient, balanced systems happen without a system designer? If there is a Designer of Earth’s ecosystems, as I believe there is, we owe it to Him to take care of what He has given for our existence and enjoyment. Genesis tells us that God gave humans the job of managing the creatures and ecosystems of planet Earth. (See Genesis 1:28.) We must avoid the rebuke the rich man gave to his unworthy steward in a parable Jesus told. “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, because you can no longer be my steward” (Luke 16:2).
— Roland Earnst © 2023