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ECOSYSTEMS, YOUR PROPERTY F rom the large forest tracts of the Upper Peninsula to expansive wetlands of Lake St. Clair, Michigan is a wonderful and diverse place. As a Michigan landowner, your property fits into the big picture, as it is a single piece of the large jigsaw puzzle of the state. Each land parcel, regardless of size, fits with other pieces to form a neighborhood. The neighborhoods then come together and form an ecosystem . Ecosystems collect to form a regional landscape , and these together, in turn, link the State of Michigan with surrounding states and provinces. It is important to understand this concept because what happens on your property-- your individual piece of the puzzle--has an impact on your neighborhood, the local landscape, the regional ecosystem, and ultimately the areas surrounding the state. Therefore, the collective set of management practices on a landscape ultimately determines which communities of species will prosper. "Ecosystem" refers to the relationship between a community of plants and animals and its living and non-living environment. This relationship includes the rain, sun, wind and elements of the atmosphere; the plants and animals, including people, on the land and in the waters; and the soil, geology and water that occurs on or in the land. Interacting together, these diverse environmental factors form an ecosystem. Each ecosystem can be defined both as an individual, self-contained complex, and as part of larger ecological systems. Ecosystems can be as small as several square feet around a fallen log in a forest, or as large as the Great Lakes region. Size of the ecosystem is not nearly as important as the interactions within the ecosystem. The bacteria, fungi, and insects on the log help to decompose the log into a soil-enriching humus, which some day will support a new
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tree. The currents and water temperatures of the Great Lakes will impact the growth and location of invertebrates, which will in turn impact the entire food chain, including people. Again, it is the relationships within the ecosystem, and not its size that defines it. Ecosystems change over time. Even habitats that have been badly damaged or destroyed may restore themselves, or new habitats may be created instead. Part of the process of habitat creation or restoration is the succession of plant communities. For example, a once-bare crop field left fallow for years will first support annual weeds and flowers. Later, perennial plants invade, followed by shrubs and trees, which some day may make a forest. Natural disturbances may also cause the succession to move backwards, such as a fire returning a forest to bare ground. As lakes age, over thousands of years, they may fill with sediments and grow warm and shallow. Eventually cattails and other wetland plants may invade, and the lake could become a marsh , or swamp . Someday, it may turn into upland habitat and may later support a forest. Nothing remains static in the world, and that is why the composition
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