Difference between an Environment and an Ecosystem

By: | Updated: Nov-18, 2017
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When you observe your surroundings closely, you’ll notice various kinds of living organisms and elements all around you. All these things you can see, hear, smell, and feel are part of the environment you live in. Some might think that an environment is the same as an ecosystem and use the terms interchangeably. They are actually different, however! Read this article to determine the differences between an environment and an ecosystem.

Summary Table

Environment Ecosystem
Refers to the surroundings or the dwelling place of living things Refers to a community that functions as a whole
The term does not include the relationship between living things and their surroundings The term connotes the ecological relationship between all organisms and their environment


forest environment
A forest environment

An environment refers to the surroundings or setting in a particular area. The environment has 2 components: biotic and abiotic. The biotic component comprises the plants and animals, as well as the microorganisms in a particular habitat. Abiotic factors involve the topography, soil, atmosphere, sunlight, water, and nutrients, among others. An environment is a place where living things reside together with other non-living things. The earth has an environment, which has the elements of soil, water, air, fire, as well as living and non-living things. The earth’s environment is constantly changing depending on the existing elements. It may also be affected by man-made developments happening all around us. The environment, in a holistic sense, is our surroundings and everything we see, feel, smell, and hear around us.

tundra ecosystem
A tundra ecosystem

An ecosystem refers to a unit that functions as a whole. It involves the environment along with the ecology. The environment consists of biotic and abiotic factors. Ecology refers to the process in which living things interact with one another and their environment. An ecosystem can be as huge as our planet or as tiny as a drop of water (water plus microorganisms). It is a community where living organisms connect with elements in the environment. It is all about managing life within the surroundings and how living things and environmental elements affect one another. In an ecosystem, equilibrium is maintained between the environment and its components depending on their own individual functions. Performing their natural functions helps create stability in the surroundings and, in effect, in an entire ecosystem.

Environment vs Ecosystem

What is the difference between an environment and an ecosystem? An environment refers to the surroundings or dwelling place of all living things while an ecosystem is likened to a community that functions as a single unit. When you talk about the environment, it does not include the relationship between organisms and their surroundings, but only the setting or habitat. An ecosystem, on the other hand, is about the ecological relationship between living things and their environment.

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