An ecotone is a transition zone between two adjacent ecosystems where the physical and biological characteristics of the two ecosystems mix and interact. An ecotone can occur between two terrestrial ecosystems, such as a forest and a grassland, or between a terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem, such as a wetlands and a lake.
Ecotones are important because they provide a unique and diverse habitat for a variety of species, including plants, animals, and microorganisms. This biodiversity provides important ecosystem services, such as water filtration, soil retention, and nutrient cycling, which support the health and productivity of both adjacent ecosystems.
Ecotones also play a critical role in the functioning of ecosystems by facilitating the exchange of materials, energy, and organisms between adjacent ecosystems. This exchange can lead to increased biological diversity and the evolution of new species.
Human activities, such as land use change, pollution, and climate change, can have negative impacts on ecotones by reducing their size, altering their composition, and disrupting the interactions between adjacent ecosystems. Conservation efforts aim to protect and preserve ecotones and their important functions, including the conservation of biodiversity, the protection of ecosystem services, and the maintenance of ecosystem health and resilience.