Types of Ecosystems

Compare six types of ecosystems with our Ecosystem Matchcard.

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Botany Unit Study

MatchCard Science 6 Types of Ecosystems

Objective: Compare the ecosystems of the following habitats: MatchCard: Download below.

MatchCard Information Pieces provide pictures of ecosystems, average annual precipitation, and information on the habitats. Students match the information pieces.

Download the Ecosystem Diagrams and MatchCard

Students will match the ecosystem diagrams, type of ecosystem, amount of precipitation, and facts about the different ecosystems.

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This is MatchCard #1 of the Botany Unit Study. Teaching Ideas and Projects below.

What Is An Ecosystem?

Ecosystem Definition

An ecosystem is the relationship between the living and non-living elements in an environment. It particularly refers to the relationship between: In addition to these very important and obvious aspects of an ecosystem, the definition of ecosystem also includes the alterations in the environment caused by: Students should understand that all aspects of the environment impact the ecosystem. For this introduction to ecosystems in the Botany Unit Study, we will focus specifically on 6 types of ecosystems, the precipitation, and plant and animal habitats. They should appreciate how these four elements are inter-related.

6 Different Types of Ecosystems

Ecosystem Desert

Hot, Dry, Low Rainfall in the Desert

desert diagram

Most deserts have less than 8 inches of precipitation - some as little as 3 or 4 inches in a year.

There are very few plants, and the few that are there require very little water. Obviously, the animals there need to be able to:

Tundra Ecosystem

Polar Ecosystem - Tundra is Cold and Dry

tundra diagram

We're all familiar with those cute, cuddly polar bears. However, if you visited the tundra and ran into one you might change your opinion as to their cuddliness real quick.

There is very little precipitation in the tundra; only 6 to 10 inches per year. Therefore there are very few plants. We don't think of the tundra as being dry and hot like the desert. The cold air makes the small amount of precipitation stay around for a long time, mostly as ice.

Very few plants can withstand the cold temperature and lack of rain. You won't find any trees or flowering bushes here.

Not many plants. Not many animals. For that reason (and others) the polar bear doesn't have many friends.

Grassland Ecosystem

Prairie Ecosystems are Flat, Grassy
Deserts and mountains are often near grasslands.

grassland diagram

Prairie and grasslands are the same thing - the term depends on the part of the world you live in.

Often prairies are on the outskirts of desert or mountain areas. Obviously they get more rain; approximately 10 - 20 inches precipitation per year.

Grasslands have lots of...... grass! They also have low bushes, flowering plants, and a few isolated trees. The increased variety of plants provides for a greater number of animals than you find in the desert.

Ecosystem Mountains

High Altitude and Low Temperature in Mountain Ecosystem

mountain diagram

The high altitude of the mountain changes the climate. The temperature is lower, so the clouds release more precipitation in the water cycle than nearby flatlands. Most mountain areas receive 15 to 40 inches of precipitation a year.

The increased precipitation allows for a larger variety of plant life. But the plants have to be able to withstand the gusts of wind and cold temperatures. So do the animals.

Think of how mountain animals are adapted to their hilly habitat.

Woodland Ecosystem

Precipitation Loving Ecosystems of Woods and Forests

woodland diagram

We all know the woods are filled with trees and other plants. The high amount of precipitation - 25 to 50 inches a year - produces the variety of plants.

The trees in turn provide shelter and food for a large variety of animals.

Rainforest Ecosystems

Abundance of Exotic Plants and Animals Fill the Rainforest Ecosystem

rainforest diagram

What's the difference between the woods and the rainforest?

The rain! Rainforests get more than 80 inches of precipitation in a year. That rain produces thick, lush vegetation.

The vast varieties of plant life found in the rainforest produce an equally abudant and exotic animal life. Take your camera for some colorful pics, but look out for some unfriendly creatures.

Pictures of Ecosystems

Type of Ecosystem Quiz

Match the ecosystem diagram to the information below.

desert diagram tundra diagram prairie diagram mountain diagram woodlands diagram rainforest diagram

What is the ecosystem with low temperatures and low precipitation?

What is the ecosystem with high altitude, low temperature, and moderate precipitation?

What is the ecosystem with the highest precipitation and highest variety of plants and animals?

What is the ecosystem with high temperature and low precipitation?

What is the ecosystem with high precipitation and is found on every continent?

What is the ecosystem with flat land and moderate precipitation?

The Ecosystem Matchcard above can be printed and used as a quiz or game. Answers included on the second page.

Ecosystem Projects For Kids

Rain to Animal Chart

You can start your study of all the ecosystems with this project, or do it as each is individually introduced.

Brainstorm all the animals they can think of that belong in a particularly ecosystem. Make a list as animals are called out.

Continue the brainstorm session until they can think of no other living organisms.

Then make a comparison chart of the six types of ecosystems. The amount of precipitation would be the independent variable on the bottom. The number of commonly known species (that they called out) is the dependent variable. It becomes obvious that rainfall and animal life are related.

Plants, Please

While all the elements of the environment are significant, plants can be considered the tie between the non-living environment and the animal population.

Make a poster showing the relationship between plants and all other elements in an ecosystem. Get detailed. Think of rocks, air, clouds, temperature.

Include the animals: food, shelter, reproduction.

Ecosystem Diorama

It's an old project, but after decades of use it still works great to demonstrate an ecosystem. Use a shoe box or other small box to create a diorama of a particular ecosystem. Include rocks, soil, plants, and animals.

The diorama includes pictures of scenery taped to the box, as well as soil and rocks on the bottom. Use 3-D figures for plants and animals. Foil or blue construction paper can represent bodies of water.

Okay, this should be done at the beginning of the study of the ecosystem. As they learn more about the plants and animals, they should include more detail to their diorama.

Finalize this project by having them tell (orally or in writing) the relationship between the geology, weather, plants, and animals.

Mini Ecosystem at Home


Terrarium's are miniature ecosystems you can design, build, and maintain in your own home. A good terrarium takes some planning, but it is worth the effort.

The basic formula for a closed terrarium ecosystem is: container with a lid. Add:


Well, here is a whole new adventure in ecosystems - this one in underwater ecosystems.

This of course is not a science project, but a hobby - or even career. A little more detail than I can include on this page.

However, if you are now or soon will become a happy aquarium owner, point out how an aquarium is an ecosystem. What makes up this ecosystem? What would happen to your fish if you just put them in your bathtub?

Science Fair Experiment: Different Soils

If different plants are found in different eco-systems, will a plant grow better in a particular soil?

Design an experiment to find out. You could choose three or more different types of soil: Now, choose at least three different types of plants. You should have one of each type of plant in each type of soil. This project should take at least four weeks.

MatchCard Science

How To Use MatchCards


MatchCards make science concepts and corresponding vocabulary interactive. As students move the information pieces on the MatchCards they review the material they have already learned.

Download the FREE MatchCard Science Instructor's Guide and see how MatchCards can make building their science knowledge base fun.

Botany Unit Study

Botany Unit Study Cover

Watch their green thumb sprout when kids use the MatchCard Science Botany Unit Study to learn about the plants all around us.

Check out our entire Botany Unit Study with 11 objectives.

12 Science Unit Studies

MatchCard Science Cover

Chemistry is only one of twelve complete unit studies for kids in 3rd to 8th grade.

Comprehensive objectives, hands-on projects, suggested science fair experiments, and the fun game-like MatchCards keep them interested in learning science. See all twelve MatchCard Science Unit Studies.

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