The Difference Between a Natural & Man Made Ecosystem

Ecosystems refer to specific biological environments and all of the organisms in them, including their interactions with the living and nonliving components of the environment.


Deer graze in a mountain valley on a misty morning.Deer graze in a mountain valley on a misty morning.
Some of the living components of an ecosystem include its animals and plants. Nonliving components include its soil, water, climate and precipitation. Ecosystems may be natural or artificial.
A penguin is hand fed a fish at the zoo.

Natural ecosystems are the result of spontaneous natural reactions and interactions between organizations and their environments. For example, an ocean is a marine ecosystem that has primary producers in the form of algae, as well as consumers and decomposers. The algae convert energy from the sun into usable forms through the process of photosynthesis, and then other marine creatures (i.e., consumers) consume the algae to derive their energy. When the consumers die, organisms known as decomposers break them down into organic matter. This natural ecosystem occurs by itself.

An artificial ecosystem, on the other hand, does not occur by itself (i.e., it is the result of a deliberate human act). An example of an artificial ecosystem is a zoo, which consists of plants and animals outside of their natural habitats.


An old abandoned farm truck in a field.

A natural ecosystem is self-sustaining and self-perpetuating. This means that it does not need any outside help to sustain itself. On the other hand, an artificial ecosystem cannot sustain itself without the help of humans. For example, a farm is an artificial ecosystem that cannot sustain itself. If a farm is neglected for a period of time, it will revert back to nature and its ecosystem will be destroyed. The same thing goes for a zoo; if the zookeepers do not care for the animals and plants, all of them will die and its artificial ecosystem will be destroyed.

Lack of Diversity

A coral reef thrives in Polynesia.

Natural ecosystems are more diverse than artificial ecosystems. This is because natural ecosystems contain more biotic and abiotic factors than artificial ecosystems. The organisms and their relationships to each other are more complex than anything that can be found in an artificial ecosystem. A natural ecosystem has many relationships between organisms. These include symbiosis, predation, mutualism and commensalism, to name a few. Such relationships are limited in an artificial ecosystem. The number of species available in an artificial ecosystem pale in comparison to what is available in a natural ecosystem.


A boy watches a peacock in a zoo.

Natural ecosystems exist as a result of natural circumstances, while artificial ecosystems are usually created with an ulterior motive in mind. For example, a zoo is created for purposes such as entertainment, recreation, education, conservation and profit. A farm is created as a business venture or to provide food. A park is a man-made or artificial ecosystem that is created as a relaxation spot for conservation purposes or aesthetics.