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Glossary of Terms & Definitions
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Ecotone

A transition zone where one plant community changes into another plant community, usually caused by changes in the environment such as changes in elevation or soil characteristics. An ecotone can be wide and gradual or narrow and abrupt.

Example of ecotone between oasis and desert
Example of ecotone between oasis and desert environments. Desert vegetation on left, oasis on right.

Related:

Joshua Tree
Joshua tree is one of the most characteristic plants of the Mohave Desert and extends southward to the Mohave-Sonoran Desert ecotone. This species grows ...

Aspen Wildlife Habitats
The habitat typically has a shrubby ecotone with adjacent meadows. This and the shrub understory within stands provide nesting cover for several species that ...

Chamise-Redshank Chaparral Wildlife Habitats
On some sites, Chamise-Redshank Chaparral may form an ecotone with Ponderosa Pine (PPN), Coastal Oak Woodland (COW), or mixed conifer types. ...

Oasis formation - Oasis of Mara, 29 Palms, Joshua Tree National Park
... the oasis proper, where water is near the surface, but does not form surface pools; and the desert oasis ecotone, the edge where the oasis meets the desert. ...

Oasis formation - Oasis of Mara, 29 Palms, Joshua Tree National Park
Oasis Plant Communities > Most species of the plants found in the oasis today are typical of the desert oasis ecotone. Plants and animals dependant on ...


Ecotone is a term used in ecology to describe a transitional zone between two different ecosystems. It is an area where two distinct ecological communities meet and interact, creating a unique and diverse habitat. Ecotones are characterized by a blend of species and environmental conditions from both adjacent ecosystems, resulting in a rich array of biodiversity.

Ecotones can be found in various natural settings, such as where a forest meets a grassland, a river merges with a lake, or a shoreline transitions into a marsh. These transitional zones often display a gradient of species composition, with certain species being more abundant or specialized at specific points along the ecotone.

The dynamics of an ecotone are influenced by the physical and biological processes occurring in both adjacent ecosystems. Factors such as climate, topography, soil type, and water availability can shape the structure and function of the ecotone. As a result, ecotones can exhibit unique microclimates, hydrological patterns, and nutrient cycling dynamics that differ from the surrounding ecosystems.

Ecotones play an essential role in supporting biodiversity and promoting ecological resilience. They serve as corridors or stepping stones for species migration, allowing for gene flow and enhancing genetic diversity. Ecotones also provide habitat for specialized species that are adapted to the unique conditions found within the transitional zone.

Furthermore, ecotones contribute to ecosystem services by providing valuable resources and ecological functions. They can regulate water flow, filter pollutants, and stabilize soil, thus helping to mitigate the impacts of human activities on surrounding ecosystems. Ecotones also offer recreational and educational opportunities, allowing people to appreciate the beauty and ecological significance of these transitional areas.

In conclusion, ecotones are dynamic and complex zones that bridge the gap between two distinct ecosystems. They are characterized by a unique blend of species and environmental conditions, creating a diverse and valuable habitat. Understanding and conserving ecotones is crucial for maintaining biodiversity, promoting ecological resilience, and ensuring the sustainability of our natural environment.


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