Difference Between An Environment And Ecosystem
By Marc Gordon - October 9, 2021

Environment and ecosystem are frequently, and incorrectly, used interchangeably when talking about the natural world and the surroundings in which we and it exist. However, the terms are not synonymous, each having its own distinct meaning relating to a different aspect of the world. The purpose of this article is to describe the definitions of the two terms and the ways in which they differ.

Table Summary

Environment Ecosystem
A surrounding in which an organism livesA community of interrelated biotic and abiotic elements and how they interact
A physical placeA description of relationships
Provides the conditions in which a thing requires to liveDescribes the relationships that exist within the system of living things
Is either macro or microIs either freshwater, terrestrial or oceanic
Changes when an organism movesOrganism won’t be able to survive with its ecosystem


An environment is a physical place in which an organism lives. It’s a physical location that makes up the home of the organism and provides the habitat in which it survives. The environment can either be macro or micro in scope, macro for larger and micro for more specific and smaller.

An ecosystem is a word used to describe the relationships of interrelated biotic and abiotic entities within an environment. An ecosystem describes the ways in which an organism survives and how those ways are directly related to its relationship with other organisms and objects within the environment.

Ecosystem VS Environment

The primary difference between an environment and an ecosystem comes down to the physicality of the concept and how the organism that lives in either relates to the concept. For an environment, an organism exists physically and inhabits space. For an ecosystem, it also exists physically but the word describes its relationship to other objects within the environment. For example, an example of an environment might be a home garden and the ecosystem would be the relationship between the birds, insects, plants, soil, and sun and how they all exist in an interrelated dynamic relationship.